Although most hotels are experiencing a rebound in demand right now, smart revenue managers will be helping their hotel’s operations leaders focus on generating even more revenue from the transient segments.
NB: This is an article from the Kennedy Training Network
Here are some opportunities and corresponding action steps.
Focus on Voice
Too many traditional revenue managers buy into the fallacies that voice is a dying distribution channel, that only older guests who are not tech-savvy call anymore, and that millennials and Gen-Z travelers who grew up with smartphones hate having to talk to a customer service representative. Yet smart revenue managers recognize that the decision to call versus book online is situationally driven.
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In other words, the higher the rate, the longer the stay, the more complicated the travel plans, and in essence, the more emotionally connected they are to their travel plans, the more likely they are to call.
That being said, when you talk with the front-desk staff even at branded, moderate and economy lodging properties, they will tell you they frequently receive direct inquiry calls that start with some version of: “Hi, are you actually at the hotel? Oh good. I’m thinking of staying there and I have a question…” Similarly, there is an interplay of voice and online channels. In other words, a significant number of guests call prior to booking online, while others book online and then call.
- Post your phone number prominently on both desktop and mobile website versions.
- If you field reservations calls on-site, add copy that reads “Call us directly now” or “Call our local area experts.”
- Provide a small incentive, such as “a buck for a booking,” ideally paid in cash, to encourage front desk and reservations staff to see themselves as order-makers versus order-takers. The amount spent will be far less than what you would pay out to online travel agency commissions or call-center servicing fees.
- Use a phone provider that offers unique numbers with call tracking to determine how many calls are being generated by various digital sources such as email blasts, social media campaigns and pay-per-click searches.
- Use a system to “tag” calls with a “disposition” or “resolution” code, according to whether it is a “sales opportunity” or “service call.” Some phone providers offer call tagging by pressing a number at the end. Alternatively, some PMS systems allow staff to track date/rate searches. Define any call from someone who is calling about rates or who has a specific question, such as about parking, amenities or services, as an inquiry, because no one calls “just to check a rate” or to find out how much parking is unless they are considering a stay.
- Retarget voice leads. Of course, you want to train your team to offer to secure the sale, and if resisted, to create urgency (“Availability is limited… the rate could change…”) and to remove barriers (“You can always cancel until…”). However, some callers are simply not ready to book for whatever reason. Perhaps they need to book flights or share the details with traveling companions. Staff should then say, “OK, well then let me grab your email address so I can shoot you over an email with my direct contact information. What’s your email?”
All it takes from there is about one minute for them to pull down a template, drop in a personalized introductory sentence or two, and then click send to capitalize on the connection.
If you really want to do it right, have your staff track these leads even if just on an Excel form and then to either send a follow-up email or make a quick call a few days later to say, “I’m just checking to see what else we can do on our end to win the opportunity to host your visit.”
OTA Questions Are Leads
Most hotels experience a significant attrition or “wash” of OTA bookings. To encourage guests who book online to keep and not cancel, train your team to personalize their responses to questions that come through OTAs after booking but prior to arrival.
Start by taking a look at the reply messages currently being sent by your team. For example, if a sender says “Can we park a motorcycle trailer (or RV)?” chances are your team’s standard reply is “yes.”
Instead, they should be recognizing this as a chance to make a personal connection such as this: “Hello Douglas! I’m Chris at the front desk (or reservations.) It is wonderful to hear from you and absolutely yes! We can definitely accommodate your motorcycle trailer during your stay. If you have any other questions or requests, just reply or call us directly here on-site. We look forward to hosting you.”
Now, this might seem like a lot of typing, but the only part that is personalized is in italics, whereas the rest can be copied from a template.
Of course, revenue managers know direct-booking channels are the most profitable because the property saves in commissions and “owns” the guest contact record for future promotions.
- Add copy to your website that says “Call directly for the lowest rates and phone-only specials.”
- As most OTAs only restrict hotels from underselling them by way of digital channels, a workable solution is to offer slightly lower “phone-only” rates, an upgrade, a guaranteed room type/location or an extra amenity.
- Train front-desk staff to obtain email addresses at registration by saying why they want an email, such as “To send you a receipt for any incidental charges” or “To notify you in the event of any lost and found items.”
- At hotels catering to frequent business travelers, encourage front-desk staff to offer to rebook guests at departure. “Douglas, since I have all of your info right here, can I rebook your next visit and block a specific room for you?”
If you need help convincing your operational associates of how important action steps such as these are, conduct this simple exercise. Look up your total transient revenue for last year, then divide that by the total number of transient stays. Then calculate the potential ROI if the team secures even just one more booking per each of 365 calendar days. In reality, the potential ROI is much higher, but even this number should get everyone’s attention.