How to implement a rooms upselling program
21 JULY 2014 7:32 AM
Use these best practices when it comes to creating a rooms upselling program to maximize profits.
As the hotel industry continues to rebound, most hoteliers have found it easier to gain back occupancy than rate. One common reason is the lack of a formalized program for upselling of accommodation types for all hotel departments. All too often group sales staff provides group rates based only on “run of the house” rather than offering the participants a choice of options.
Similarly, hotel reservations agents all too often quote only the lowest priced accommodation, or if they do offer two options, they fail to provide descriptions and instead only state the room type and rate.
Additionally, many guests who book online typically grab the lowest-rated category. While this might be due in part to the concept that those who book online are seeking discounts, it might also be caused by the lack of effective room descriptions and outdated, unappealing photos.
Finally, few hoteliers have properly trained and incentivized their front-desk staff to upsell at registration. Here are some ideas for getting all departments involved in upselling. These will apply to most hotels, as the vast majority have multiple room types differentiated by size, location and/or view. If your hotel has only one or two room categories, consider creating upsell opportunities by adding special room amenities or services such as early check-in or late check-out.
- Ensure hotel sales staff offer room blocks with multiple room categories for groups where participants book directly (typically conventions, associations, and social groups such as weddings).
- Encourage the sales team to include upgraded accommodation types as an option in proposals and to position the rates quoted as being a good value by mentioning the “normal” (peak demand) rates.
- Where arrival and departure patterns allow, encourage sales to offer groups early check-ins or late check-outs at an additional fee. (For example, city-center business hotels that have few Sunday arrivals could routinely offer wedding groups the option of booking a guaranteed late check-out, or for the rare groups arriving on Sundays a guaranteed early check-in.)
- Provide room descriptions in the central reservations system and the global distribution system that adequately differentiate each category. Maximize the HOD character limits; remember that besides travel agents these descriptions power many online booking sites seen by the direct consumer via onward distribution. Take advantage of the longer character limits available in CRS.
- Use words that are alluring and enticing in nature instead of just listing the facts. If there is a view, describe what you will see. If there is extra space, don’t just list square footage but use words like “spacious, comfortable, accommodating.” Use “you will receive” descriptions instead of “these rooms offer.”
- Make sure the photos that accompany the room descriptions are attractive, appealing and up to date. Too many hotels have a significant gap between renovations and posting of online photos. Use photos that show guests’ belongings in the photos.
- If reservations is on-site, ensure the team frequently tours rooms and suites to stay familiar with them. If outsourced, it is even more important to make sure you have updated room descriptions and photos; conduct agent familiarization training or webinars.
- Make sure call monitoring and mystery shopping criteria focus on upselling.
Hotel front desk:
- Train the team to understand they have the best opportunity to upsell for a number of reasons. For example, guests might not have been made aware of upgrades by their reservations agent or salesperson; they might not have noticed the rooms if they booked online; or their needs might have changed en route. Plus, the impulse of the moment and the fact that it is now only a small incremental upcharge for the better room might help convince them.
- Ensure walk-ins are being quoted a menu of room types, not just the lowest rate.
- Provide the team with rates for upselling early check-ins to a slightly higher-rated category. “Check-in is officially 4 p.m.; we’re going to try to get you into the Superior room you have reserved earlier than that. However, right now I have a Deluxe room available for only $30 more.”
- Similarly, provide rate options for guaranteed late check-outs. “Late checkout? We do take those requests on the same day, so you can call tomorrow morning to see if it is possible for us to extend you until 1 p.m. However, we also offer a guaranteed late check-out time of 3 p.m. for only an additional $30.”
- Conduct roleplaying so the team can practice the best verbiage for upselling guests without diminishing the room already reserved, such as: “Right now we have you in our Superior room, which I am sure you will find quite comfortable…”
- Similarly, let them practice various ways to present the upsell opportunity, such as: “We have had one of our suites open up tonight…” or “Since this is a special occasion, I wanted to make sure you were aware that we also offer our suites/view rooms…” or “For only $X more…”
Besides training, it is important to measure the results of your upselling program, especially for the front desk and room reservations. Here are best practices for upselling training plans:
- measure the results on a “by agent” basis for the front desk and reservations;
- post the results prominently to create a friendly competition;
- challenge a sister property with a similar inventory to an upselling contest; and
- consider monetary rewards, which can easily be justified as you can directly measure the additional upsells.
Doug Kennedy is president of the Kennedy Training Network, Inc. a leading provider of customized training programs and telephone mystery shopping services for the lodging and hospitality industry. Doug continues to be a fixture on the industry’s conference circuit for hotel companies, brands and associations, as he been for over two decades. Since 1996, Doug’s monthly hotel industry training articles have been published worldwide, making him one of the most widely read hotel industry training writers. Visit KTN at www.kennedytrainingnetwork.com or email him directly.
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