Hotels not taking a sales-minded perspective when receiving inbound call inquiries are leaving money on the table.
The main issue is too many properties have a silo mentality. Sales and reservations departments sometimes operate on their own, without thinking about supporting each other properly. Fortunately, there are simple ways for hotel operators to turn what was once traditionally thought of as a department of order takers, into a profit generating sales team.
Recognize a call is a serious lead:
Competition is fierce, so when a call comes into the reservations department, train staff to realize opportunity.
“We have agents that specialize in different areas of our resort. We provide a specific branded greeting and the agent asks why they are calling. We treat every guest who calls in that has a desire to stay as a sales inquiry,” says Elizabeth Benson, who handles revenue management at the renowned Mohonk Mountain House. She realizes all inquiries are connected to an initial intent to stay, and recommends asking leading questions to find out what are the most appealing amenities and reasons to stay for the traveler.
So she has her team ask open ended questions. That allows for more meaningful conversation, and a better understanding as to why someone is interested in a stay. Some questions could be, “What are you looking forward to doing?” or, “Is there something you are looking forward to doing, or something new you would like to try?
Also, be sure to ask if it’s a special occasion, anniversary or something else to connect their potential stay to a specific room type. And make sure you write it all down and ask permission to contact him or her again.
Mark it as a non-booked lead:
“Non-booked leads are a great opportunity for us. If we haven’t been able to covert the call into a reservation, we gather information that allows us to connect with those potential guests in other ways,” says Russ Cronberg, general manager for Callaway Gardens.
Companies such as NAVIS have a platform in which to help hotels such as Callaway Gardens create systems and processes to capture the right information. So be sure to find out names, phone numbers and email addresses when possible. This will allow for future follow-up, typically with a phone call or email.
Earn outbound revenue:
Don’t have reservation agents sit around, have them make follow up phone calls. Many times people call in to ask about pricing and amenities, but must share that information with others before deciding to stay. They may wind up getting distracted and not think to call back, even if they intend to stay.
Another alternative is having reservations agents follow up with an email emphasizing the benefits and amenities of the property the caller shared most interest in. But be sure to do it relatively quickly. This is a great way to stay top of mind and close the deal.
“Our agents follow up after three days, as we consider that a hot lead,” says Cronberg, who notes his agents get a 78% capture rate of emails and phone numbers, by promising not to spam.
Generated leads are shared with marketing after three days for inclusion in future offers and opportunities to be shared with guests. Companies like NAVIS can assist in properly filtering data and sending personalized messages, such as saying a room became available last minute, reserve yours today.
Train, Train, Train
Benson says because of the unusual nature of the property, they train new reservation associates for a month with help from companies such as NAVIS. “We conduct a lot of outbound call training and provide our agents with the tools they to need to be set for success,” says Benson.
Cronberg says his strategy is to listen to several actual guest calls per agent, per month. This allows them to teach or reinforce best practice scenarios that keep profits rolling in.
Enjoy the extra profits:
By taking a more sales minded approach to calls coming in through the reservations lines, Callaway Gardens is seeing more than $600,000 per year in additional income from its outbound calling program alone. Mohonk Mountain House is seeing 10 percent of its call revenue from outbound call programs.
Think about empowering your reservations team to find success with an outbound call program today.