To drive revenue, shift the hotel front-desk mindset

Your limited-service hotel does not have to be a four or five-star property to be ranked at the top of your market.

Driving revenue at a hotel starts with the heart of the property: the front line. The front desk can be a hotel’s weakest link or strongest source of sales generation. But it can be difficult to turn front-desk associates from order takers to sales makers in a position that often has high turnover.

That’s why Tammy Gillis, CEO and founder of Gillis Consulting & Training, thinks it’s time to approach the front desk in a different way and look to ways to optimize associates to create revenue and sales opportunities.

“It starts with the mindset,” she said. “If you were to ask your front-desk agents, ‘what do you do,’ what do you think their answer will be?”

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She said many GMs and owners she works with more often than not tell her the answer is always: “I check people in and out.”

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That mindset can be dangerous when it comes to driving revenue, Gillis said. “You are putting your most valuable asset, your client, in front of these people. They hold the key to customer service and uncovering why people are coming into your hotel and market.”

She offered a few ways to shift the mindset of “just doing a job” to one that focuses on revenue success:

Consider the Sales Opportunities

The front-desk team comes face to face with guests every day. Thus, they have a great opportunity to sell to guests. Gillis said they can do that by:

  • upselling a room type;
  • converting a reservation to a booking;
  • rebooking a client at check-in or check-out; and
  • reviewing arrivals lists to identify online travel agency clients, clients booked with no corporate rate plan and elite members of loyalty programs.

“It’s front-desk 101, but it can turn it into a sales machine,” Gillis said.

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She said the front-desk team can flag reservations that were perhaps booked via an OTA and ask the following questions:

  • What company are you with?
  • Are there other people in your company who also travel?
  • Would you be interested in establishing a corporate rate with us?
  • Who should I speak with at your company regarding corporate rates?
  • When will you be returning?
  • Can I sign you up for our loyalty program?

Front-desk associates can generate sales leads by utilizing free time on slow nights as well, Gillis said. Instead of letting these team members be idle when there aren’t many guests, management can require that the team take on additional tasks, such as: researching companies, locations, contacts and rates for the comp set; performing parking lot checks; reviewing OTA clients to see what companies they are with, if applicable; and pulling corporate production and compare year-over-year results.

“If they aren’t busy, what are they doing?” Gillis said. “Train them and enable them.”

Focus on Training and Rewards

A great onboarding program and incentives are critical to a sales-oriented mindset from the front-desk team, Gillis said. An onboarding program should include: a focus on processes and procedures; a tour of your hotel as well as the comp set; scripts for reservation calls with qualifying questions and overcoming objections; and standard greetings. Meanwhile, rewarding performance can come via gift cards or money per booked room.

Knowing your hotel and the competition is especially key, Gillis said. “How can you expect them to close a sale, upsell a room type or combat someone who says the rate is too high if they don’t know what they are comparing it to?”

She suggested the front-desk staff get a thorough tour of the hotel so that they fully understand what they are selling. Additionally, the team should tour hotels in the comp set to truly know the competition.

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Scripts are also important and should cover key questions and top objections that front-desk associates have a difficult time overcoming, providing best practices for responding as well as standard greetings and how to transfer calls.

“It’s the heart of your hotel,” Gillis said. “Onboarding training sets that benchmark to build a sales culture.”

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