Some hoteliers silo revenue management in the “revenue management” department.

NB: This is an article from Revenue Team by Franco Grasso, one of our Expert Partners

Instead of recognizing the revenue impact everyone has…including front desk staff. Take early check-ins and late checkouts. Your hotel reception staff are often the ones asked – and who grant – these requests. Of course, it’s not done arbitrarily.

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Each request is a special case scenario, and your hotel reception needs to be able to balance the hotel’s needs while keeping the guest happy.

Happy guests can mean positive reviews, which affect your hotel’s reputation, which in turn impacts revenue.

For example, consider this recent hotel review:

“… we were disappointed by the lack of clarity of the reception that at first had allowed us to keep the room until 16 x then change everything saying that it was booked.”

This disappointed guest felt they’d been the victim of a bait and switch. They believed they had a late checkout and planned accordingly. Then, they didn’t.

We don’t know the particulars, nor do any potential guests read this review.

What we know is if this is the most recent review, it’s quite visible to anyone searching for hotels in your area and can propel them to move along and book a different hotel. A hotel with more positive reviews.

A positive hotel reputation is key to your hotel’s online reputation and visibility. In turn, this visibility drives bookings which drives revenue.

That’s not to say your reception staff should offer early check-ins and late checkouts to all who ask. They have to use good judgment.

Let’s compare common situations your front desk staff will encounter and the behind-the-scenes hotel needs they’ll need to consider to ensure the best guest experience while balancing the hotel’s business goals.

Early Check In Requests

When a guest requests an early check in, there are a few considerations. From the reception staff’s perspective, it’s good practice to be non-committal. You can say you’ll make a note and do what you can, but you can’t make any promises because you don’t know what your occupancy will be. That’s true.

Here are three ways to handle such requests.

1- The guest requests the early check in well in advance.

If you state that you’ll make a note but can’t make guarantees, and they are insistent, you’ll have to charge them for the previous night.

The reason? You’re blocking the room from the night before to ensure it’s available for them.

2- The customer arrives and requests an early check in.

This one is a little trickier, even if you have available rooms. For example, if you have only your best rooms available and these are not high-spending guests, you can politely let them know their room isn’t yet ready. It’s not.

However, if their room is ready, then it’s easy to let them have early access and emphasize the hospitality. That creates positive feelings toward leaving a stellar review.

3- Exhausted, jet-lagged guests

When the exhausted guest appears at the front desk fresh off a long flight and a comfortable bed beckons, what do you do?

If you have courtesy rooms available, it’s good practice to accommodate them at no charge, even if it means housekeeping has to clean the room an additional time. It’s the hospitable thing to do and encourages the weary traveler to leave a positive review (once they’ve caught up on their sleep.)

Each situation requires an empathetic listener who can be firm yet, polite when needed. Additionally, it’s essential that you remember to block the room availability online and off.

What  About Late Check Outs?

When the guest is a few minutes late with check out, that’s usually not a concern. A half hour or even an hour late can be considered a courtesy and not worth mentioning.

When it’s later, though, that’s when it can pose a problem.

For example, if your hotel has a standard 3 p.m. checkin and the guest requests a 5 p.m. checkout, your reception staff has to assess whether that will pose a problem.

Like the early check in situation, these are in-the-moment decisions. Your staff can’t guarantee a late checkout is available days or weeks in advance because you don’t know your hotel’s occupancy. But on the day of, you do.

You can consider the following to balance the guest’s request with the hotel’s needs.

1) You have available rooms.

However, your staff must consider the logistics if the hotel is fully booked. When do you expect the next guests to arrive? Do you have maid service available and enough time to clean the room? If there’s not enough time or staff to clean, then there’s your answer. It’s not possible.

Now, there can be times when you can grant a late checkout but charge the guest.

For example, if the guest wants a late checkout and you have availability but no maid service, then you can’t resell the room that night, and you’ll have to charge the guest for a full night.

2) You have availability both in rooms and maid service.

Once you’ve verified you have both available, it makes sense to charge the guest at least 50% of the rate. That’s because the room is worth less as the afternoon and night wear on, and selling it at the full rate is tougher.

3) An unhappy guest wants a late checkout.

You have availability, and normally, you’d charge a fee. Yet, this guest had multiple problems they can attribute to the hotel. In such cases, it’s better to consider this a chance to salvage the relationship and offer a no-fee late checkout as compensation. This way, you reduce the chances of a negative review.

4) The guest requests the late checkout months in advance.

Like the early check in scenario, you can’t make any promises but can say you’ll do what you can depending on availability. However, if the guest is adamant, you can offer the following solution. They either pay for an additional night if you’re unsure if you can retain maid service or 50% if you think you can retain maid service after regular cleaning hours.

Of course, the hotel staff must always remember to block online and offline sales of the rooms in question until they’re clean and ready for use.

Further considerations:

Based on Revenue Team by Franco Grasso’s experience, your revenue manager reviews historical data and makes recommendations. For example, if it’s low demand and the chances are good the rooms will sit empty, then it may make sense to offer a free late checkout. If you do, then ask for a positive review. If yours is a new property or you have old reviews, this is a great way to boost your reputation score.

As you can see, many considerations exist for early check ins and late checkouts. Your staff needs to be able to balance pleasing the guests with the hotel’s needs, and it often requires good judgment or common sense.

While software can automate many tasks such as inventory, rates, and initial guest communication, it can’t handle the nuances of in-person communication with a demanding guest standing at your reception counter.

Training your hotel reception on the best practices for early check ins and late checkouts can help them recognize the hotel’s business goals and encourage guests to leave positive reviews.

Ultimately, those positive reviews boost the property’s visibility and brand reputation, boosting profits. That’s the goal of revenue management.

To discover additional insights about revenue management download the free ebook: 10 things to know about revenue management.

Read more articles from Revenue Team by Franco Grasso