Want direct bookings? Train your team to ask for them
Want direct bookings? Train your team to ask for them
26 JUNE 2019 7:31 AM

If you are looking to increase your front-desk team’s focus on securing return reservations while guests are in-house, here are some training tips.

As I skim through at least a half-dozen industry newsfeeds and blogs each day, I often see headlines focusing on how to increase direct bookings. Being in the hotel sales and revenue optimization training business, I am always enticed to click such links.

Yet when I do, the themes seem to always focus on increasing website traffic and web conversions, which are no doubt important topics. Hotels are spending huge sums to focus on these opportunities, seemingly fishing for new bookings in a deep blue ocean of virtual opportunity.

Meantime, one often-overlooked opportunity is to simply train your front-desk colleagues to encourage in-house guests to rebook. This initiative is easy to implement, has a very low cost, and when you do the math, has a potentially huge upside.

There is no doubt the potential for securing return reservations varies according to each hotel’s primary market segment. Certainly, hotels serving the business traveler who returns on a regular basis will have more opportunities to rebook in-house guests than will a resort located in an exotic location reached only after arduous travel. However, virtually every property has at lease some “regulars” who return again and again. For example, even the resort located in an exotic, remote location might have a few business travelers such as account representatives from service companies, account executives from vendors, traveling salespeople or people in the leisure real estate business passing through regularly.

First, take a moment to do the math on the potential return on investment when guests book directly. The most obvious opportunity is to convert guests who book through OTAs to book directly. If your hotel is part of a brand, the OTA commission is much less than it might be at an independent hotel, yet it is still significant. Here is a very basic example of how this might look for an “average” hotel in Anytown, USA:

  • $139 average daily rate x 1.5 average length of stay = $208.50.
  • 15% OTA commission = $31.27

Keep in mind that the total amount flows directly to the bottom line, with the only cost being a small incentive to entice the front-desk colleagues.

When doing the math, also consider the cost savings versus even an online booking, where a CRS booking fee applies. These booking fees are much less than OTA costs, but still significant.

There are other upside advantages to encouraging guests to rebook while they are in-house. This practice:

  • Ensures that the guest does not decide to try out the competition.
  • Ensures we have space for our regular guest and that we are not already sold out, thus forcing them to try out the competition.
  • Expresses the hotel’s genuine recognition of the guest’s loyalty.

If you are looking to increase your front-desk team’s focus on securing return reservations, here are some training tips:

First, schedule a front-desk staff meeting and ask colleagues how many repeat guests they can already identify by name. Do they recognize other regular guests by face?

Use the above mentioned formula to calculate the potential revenue opportunity from booking a return reservation directly at the desk vs. an OTA, website booking or call center fee.

Encourage your front-desk colleagues to engage guests in authentic conversations to discover their reason for travel and to notice when guests’ mention they will be returning regularly for a project or a series of events.

Share with them sample dialogue they might use in a real conversation to uncover a re-booking opportunity:

  • “So, Ms. Hernandez, I noticed this is your second stay with us in just a few weeks. Are we going to have the pleasure of seeing you regularly?”
  • “Mr. Shiller, we’ve enjoyed hosting you again this time. May I ask if you are planning to return anytime soon?”

Also share sample phrasing on how to present the benefits of rebooking now for the guest:

  • “Since I have all of your information right here in the system, may I go ahead and secure a return reservation for you? That way we can even block your same room.”
  • “May I go ahead and put in a reservation for you now? I know next month is going to be busy and this way we have your room reserved. If plans fall through you can always cancel up until three days out.”

In addition to training the team, it is also important to measure and post results on an individual and team basis to challenge the competitive spirit in us all.

Finally, I also suggest adding a small cash incentive. Even as little as a dollar or two per return booking will get everyone’s attention while only costing a small fraction of an OTA commission or CRS booking fee.

Doug Kennedy is president of the Kennedy Training Network, Inc. a leading provider of hotel sales, guest service, reservations and front desk training programs and telephone mystery shopping services for the lodging and hospitality industry. Kennedy has been a fixture on the industry’s conference circuit for hotel companies, brands and associations for more than two decades. Since 1996, Kennedy’s monthly training articles have been published worldwide, making him one of the most widely read hospitality industry authorities. Visit KTN at www.kennedytrainingnetwork.com or email him directly at doug@kennedytrainingnetwork.com. He is the author of “So You REALLY Like Working With People? - Five Principles for Hospitality Excellence.”

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