We spend a lot of time focusing on online channels, distribution and promotions, but sometimes we forget the importance of our own reservations team. They are panting the first picture of our property. Whether it is outsourced reservations central services, part of our front desk staff or in-house department, those hidden gems are our main sellers.
When is the last time that you made a test call to your own hotel, pretending to be a customer? How many probing questions would your reservations specialist ask and what kind of value for money would they create before they just offer the rate? What kind of resources is your reservations staff given, are they up to industry standard and what kind of rating would each individual reservations staff member get if they were being evaluated by a training company? Those are just some of the questions that you need to ask yourself.
Before a potential guest calls your hotel, be sure that they looked up on average 13 websites that are rating or selling your business, including your hotel’s website. So why are they calling you after all? They want to get the feel for your property. They want to get the value for money, a deal and a personal touch. Everything we do in life is personal and the expression that hotel is “your home away from home” comes from the need of creating a personable experience when traveling.
Making sure that your reservations specialist is painting an amazing, real picture of your hotel, as well as “becoming a friend” over the phone and really convincing the guest that “this is really what they want for this trip” before they give out the rate is the key. There are, of course, those phone calls where the secretary needs to book the cheapest room for their boss in two minutes, but a good reservations specialist will know how to recognize that.
There are many ways to evaluate the level of your reservations phone call. Make sure to familiarize yourself with industry standards, such as Forbes or LHW offer. If you realize that your team needs training, either do it through your management training team, if they qualify, or outsource the training. Many companies offer one day training program, with 10 or more customized shops. Any reservations specialist that knows that any call can be the “shop call”, which will influence their incentive plan, will make sure to “hit” the standards. If your reservations are made by an outsourced team, make sure to talk to that company at least once a month. Are the photos and content that this reservations specialist, often from different part of the world, is looking at up to date? Maybe you need to have someone from your property make a trip to that call center, do a presentation of your property and train them how to sell your product.
FOLLOW THROUGH AND BE CONSISTENT
Once you know that you brought your reservations staff to a needed service level, make sure to keep it there. Reservations staff tends to “know it all” or “have a bad day when this call happened”, but you need to make sure that they truly understand how thousands and often millions of dollars are going through their hands, while they are surrounded with friends and family pictures in their cubicles. Pull the data on how much did they book last year, put all reservations staff in the same room and show it to them. This will create the healthy competition amongst the team. Incentivize them and don’t put the cap on it. When people are motivated to make their own buck, they will be working very hard on making yours.