What’s the right channel mix for driving hotel wealth and long-term success? This question dominates hospitality marketing strategy – and it becomes increasingly complex with the multitude of online channels (hotel websites and OTAs) and the traditional offline voice channel that comprise the mix.
To gain a viable advantage, tactically minded hoteliers are examining their business pipelines and reallocating resources to what’s really working for them. They “lift” – evaluating channel performance in order to optimize efforts – and then “shift” – moving business from high-cost, low-margin channels to more lucrative ones – to achieve significant financial success.
Competition in hospitality is fierce, so it’s crucial for hoteliers to leverage each channel’s profitability potential. Move away from the mindset that the volume of clicks to a website is worth more than the margins earned through the voice channel. Here are five reasons why the time is right for hoteliers to lift and shift their channel mix now.
#1 – Web Bookings Are Not Always The Major Revenue-Driver
Focusing on quantity instead of margins can be detrimental to the bottom line. OTA and hotel website bookings are real – but although they may push more volume that the number of phone calls into a reservation center or a hotel direct, they are not always the major driver of profit.
Consider this – call center and direct-to-property channels account for 55% of hotel bookings and generate more significant revenue. And, according to NAVIS client data, the offline voice channel generates $3 in revenue for every $1 of online revenue.
These numbers suggest a time for powerful transition. Hoteliers can take charge of their property’s marketing channel mix by starting with an honest, thorough examination of what yields the best profit margins, not just the highest volume. The trusted voice channel helps customize experiences and brings them to life in ways unlike the web or OTAs, supporting a human and personal experience that fosters guest loyalty. Embrace “the voice,” reduce OTA commissions, and get a higher ADR and more conversions as a result.
#2 – Implement A Sales Culture & Reap The Rewards
Leveraging the voice channel’s tremendous potential starts with a distinct change in mindset – by training reservation agents as an extension of the sales team to become profit-driving revenue makers. Transitioning to a sales culture is a transition to profitability.
Treat reservation agents as sales professionals, instruct them on how to upsell to maximize revenue, and give them the resources and incentives that befit a sales organization. The pay-off is worthwhile. Revenue generated by a trained reservation sales team increases 30% when a company culture shifts to trust reservationists as sales people.
Hotels can create the culture through smart recruiting of sales-minded individuals, training on how to collect crucial customer data and ask for the booking, implementing performance metrics and agent accountability, coaching team members, and establishing a fun environment where reservation agents are encouraged to succeed and are rewarded for it. Establishing a sales culture yields a trifecta of increases – in booking conversions, nightly rates and occupancy levels, making it an integral step on the path to profitability.
#3 – Phone Inquiries ARE Sales Leads
Booking a travel experience is not akin to purchasing a pair of socks online. Statistics show that more than half of hotel reservations are still made via phone. Why? Travel is not a simple commodity, so while consumers use their smartphones for destination and property research, they still call direct to book, usually when they are ready to make their purchase.
Not treating phone inquiries as viable leads is effectively handing business to the competition. Make it easy for guests to contact a hotel from their mobile phone with seamless, trackable click-to-call capabilities. NAVIS clients who added a unique phone number to their mobile website reported that call volume increases have led to revenue gains of as much as nearly 147%.
Instruct reservationists on collecting caller information to build a prospect database, which becomes invaluable for future remarketing. The more detail a reservations agent captures, the more personal and effective the remarketing will be. And, don’t ignore the potential of outbound sales. Encourage reservation agents to use their downtime to reach out to those who called, but didn’t book during the first phone conversation.
#4 – Technology + Human Connection = A Compelling Profit-Earning Force
The re-imagined voice channel’s potential can be strengthened by incorporating powerful technology to bolster the sales process.
The right technology allows companies to assess when and why reservationists aren’t performing (or why potential guests aren’t booking) so they can craft a solution that moves the profit needle forward. NAVIS’ Narrowcast software provides agents with real-time intelligence so they can better convert bookings, incorporates proper training tools for improving performance (like call-monitoring technology and a call-scoring module for executing conversation flow), enables follow-up calls, and measures and reports marketing ROI.
The goal is for revenue performance technology platforms to boost, capture and convert more direct bookings coming through voice, plus track engagement. Unquestionably, when a reservations team is optimized, hotels can shift away from high-cost channels and focus on cultivating higher margins through more cost-effective ones.
#5 – Tap The Burgeoning ‘Bleisure’ Market
The ‘bleisure’ segment is growing – and it offers tremendous potential for hotels that have re-energized the voice channel. More and more travelers are bypassing corporate booking entities and instead contacting hotels directly to make reservations. They are extending their business travel by several days, tagging on time for much-needed fun and relaxation, and bring family members along for the experience. The revenue potential is impressive.
This blurring of separate business and leisure trips presents an excellent opportunity for shifting to a sales culture, one that views reservations agents as sales agents and provides them with the training and tools to succeed.
When reservationists have been reimagined as dream-makers, not order-takers, they can skillfully tap the bleisure market, upsell accordingly, and close a sale. Compensating reservation agents like sales managers doesn’t have to negatively impact the bottom line because of the bolstered incremental revenue earned by leveraging bleisure bookings.
When hotels recognize that the voice channel is still ripe with profit-earning potential, and they elevate reservationists to sales agents by training, empowering and incentivizing their team members, properties have effectively multiplied their sales team and strengthened the marketing operation. A shift to a sales culture and “pumping up the voice” is a proven way for hotels to enjoy profits in the digital age, build customer loyalty, and gain a significant advantage over the competition.