Front Desk Upsell Training Can Increase RevPAR

By. Doug Kennedy 29th Mar 2014

Although 2011 has provided a quicker rebound in terms of hotel occupancy and overall RevPAR, most hotels are still looking for ways to further increase their ADR. One great place to start looking is your hotel’s front desk. Depending on your hotel’s inventory of accommodation types, the potential impact of a comprehensive, focused upselling program will vary greatly. However when you sit down to do the math on the potential additional revenue to be generated even for hotels with minimal upsell opportunities, it becomes instantly clear that the effort can easily generate a significant ROI. Potential upsell opportunities include:

  • Special room types, such as junior or one bedroom suites,
  • Rooms or suites with special features such as whirlpool baths and kitchens.
  • Preferred views or hotel locations.
  • Special “exclusive” floors such concierge or executive level floors.
  • Packages that include additional amenities, services, or activities.
  • Adding on a second room at registration for a significantly reduced rate. (Such as offering the family of four a second room at 30% off.)

Of course one opportunity to upsell is when callers contact the reservations department or call center. Yet with so many guests booking online these days, the front desk registration experience might present the best opportunity of all.

  • Guests may not be aware of upgraded options, especially when the reservation was made by third party such as a travel agent, administrative assistant, or function planner.
  • Voice reservations agents may have failed to convey the value of the upgraded options, or worse yet, failed to mention them at all.
  • The guest’s needs might change while en route. Business travelers, for example, might have pop-up meetings or projects to work on, requiring additional workspace in their rom.
  • The impulse of the moment might cause guests to be more receptive to upgraded options, especially after a stressful day of travel. For example, when mom and dad were planning the trip it seemed like a good idea to share a room with the two kids, since “all we’re going to do is sleep there anyway.” Yet after 8 hours in the minivan the adjoining room or suite starts looking like a great option.

Another great advantage of upselling at registration is that it’s possible to be very specific about what is offered by particular rooms or suites, since the front desk knows exact inventory.

Front Desk Upselling Training Techniques

  • Reconfirm the pre-reserved accommodation; reassure the guest that they already have a nice room. Avoid making the options they’ve already selected sound undesirable with statements like “Right now we’ve just got you in a standard room.” Instead say “Mr. Johnson, we have you confirmed in one of our traditional rooms, which I’m sure you will find quite comfortable…”
  • Probe to find out if the guest is aware of available upgrades with statements such as: “Did your (travel agent or assistant) have a chance to tell you about our ____ rooms?” or “When you booked online did you happen to notice our suite options?”
  • Present the availability of upgrades as a unique opportunity by saying: “We’ve had some of our ____ rooms open up this evening…” or “We’re offering a special rate to help familiarize our (repeat or first time) guests with our business suites. Does that sound like something you’d be interested in?”
  • Utilize incremental sales techniques, especially since in their minds the original room rate has already been paid. “For only $25 more, I can offer you one of our _____ rooms.”
  • Demonstrate the value received. Be as specific as possible. Rather than saying “Deluxe rooms have a view,” say “In this room you can look out your window and see…” Rather than saying “The concierge floor has a lounge,” say “As a guest on this floor you’ll have 24-hour access to our executive lounge, which includes…” Rather than saying “This is a 600 square foot suite with a fully equipped kitchen,” say “Since you’re traveling with your family, you’ll love having all the extra space this suite provides. And the kitchen will be nice if you want to make breakfast or bring back take-out one evening.”
  • Mention higher rates as a reference point to position lower rates as being a good value: “These rooms usually run _____, but because of (special circumstance) I can offer you a special rate of _____.”
  • When quoting rates to walk-ins, always offer a menu of options. Without training, front desk associates tend to offer only one room type to walk-ins, which is typically the least expensive. Instead, offer walk-in guests a range of accommodation types and rates. Offer to show the rooms where possible.
  • Provide Front Desk Associates With Visual Aids. Many hotels are finding it helpful to display digital picture frames showing photos (from the website) of actual rooms and suites. You can also drop-in a slide with copy reading “Ask us about suite upgrades” or similar.

Structuring Rates So That An Upgrade Is A Reasonable Value

Most properties market a range of rates to various market segments. However, groups, high-volume accounts, or guests participating in special discount programs, are only offered their special rate for the least expensive room type. Upgraded accommodations, if offered at all, are at rack rates. The end result is that the additional cost to upgrade does not justify the value received.

For example, if the rack rates are $100 for a regular room and $135 for deluxe, a $35 difference seems reasonable. However, when a special corporate rate of $79 is offered for the regular room only, the upgrade fee, which is now $56, is effectively out of reach.

To work around this, many properties are implementing a “flat rate” for upgrading. In this scenario, the guest always has the option of upgrading for the same fee, regardless of what rate they qualify for. So whether it’s a corporate, group, government, or promotional rate, the investment for the upgrade is reasonable. Best of all, additional revenue is created from rooms which might have been given away at lower rates anyway!

Recognition And Incentive Programs.

A key ingredient in any upsell program is to measure the results and to implement a recognition and/or incentive program. Front desk upsell incentives are especially easy to justify, as the upsell can be documented. (Associates simply do a print-out to document the change.)

Most incentives reward the individual associate for each upsell, with either a predetermined cash amount, with points that can be redeemed for prizes, or perhaps with days off with pay. (Cash incentives should be paid separately to help differentiate rewards from base salary.) Alternatives are team incentives where everyone who works during a given time period (i.e. shift, day, or week) is rewarded equally for upsells which occurred during that period.

Regardless of which incentive program is selected, it is important to post the results in a prominent area on a regular basis. This helps spark the competitive spirit, and reminds all associates of the potential to achieve the same rewards being earned by the top performers.

By focusing your front desk team’s attention on upselling, by providing training tips for doing so, and by measuring and rewarding the results, your property can turn-on the faucet to this extra revenue stream. Along the way, your guests will enjoy utilizing the extra space, upgraded room features, and special services they might not have otherwise considered.

About Doug Kennedy

Doug Kennedy is President of the Kennedy Training Network, Inc. a leading provider of hotel sales, guest service, reservations, and front desk training programs and telephone mystery shopping services for the lodging and hospitality industry. Doug continues to be a fixture on the industry’s conference circuit for hotel companies, brands and associations, as he been for over

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