When you speak with marketing and distribution executives these days, everyone seems obsessed with increasing direct bookings and reducing the costs of customer acquisition. Yet when the phone rings in many reservations departments and hotel front desks, the faces of the colleagues answering the calls seem to convey annoyance more than excitement.
I see this first hand when I’m on-site conducting pre-training assessments. Likewise, when our KTN team conducts reservations and front desk mystery shopping for those who have not yet been trained, the attitude we hear on the phone typically conveys that the call was more of an interruption than opportunity. On one hand, I can understand where the front desk and reservations agents are coming from. At too many hotels, leaders underestimate the amount of administrative work required these days for tasks such as processing groups, entering third party bookings, and/or proofing and editing so-called seamless reservations from external channels.
On top of that, many reservations offices are flooded with emails from guests regarding new bookings, questions on existing reservations, and emails relating to those same seamless OTA bookings such as disputes, requests, etc. Indeed, most hotels and especially resorts could benefit from reassessing their staffing levels to ensure that colleagues have the time needed to keep the side-work flowing smoothly, while also having the talk-time needed to convert caller’s questions into confirmations.
Yet, even in properly staffed operations, I find that colleagues can always use a reminder regarding the importance of converting phone inquiries into bookings. That’s why during our KTN Reservations Sales QUEST workshops we have a new mantra that goes like this:
If you’re looking to increase direct bookings in 2019, perhaps it’s to share this same mantra with your own reservations and front desk colleagues. Here are the steps.
First, help colleagues envision the costs to make the reservations line ring in the first place. Start by calculating the marketing costs for ad agency support, website development and maintenance, organic and paid SEO optimisation, email blasts, banner ads, and social media campaigns. One easy way is to use the annual budget for the above, divided by the estimated number of actual or net reservations inquiry calls (throwing out those calls to service an existing booking). Chances are there are some significant dollars spent per inquiry call received that will show up.
Next, have colleagues calculate the potential revenue that can result from every phone call. Just take your transient ADR (Average Daily Rate) multiplied by your transient ALS (Average Length of Stay). For example, a hotel with a US$159 transient ADR and a 1.5 night ALS would have a potential of US$238.50. Full-service hotels and especially resorts should also factor revenue per guest into the equation.
Then calculate the potential revenue if every colleague could convert just 1 more booking per workday (about 250 work days per year.) You might also attempt to calculate the savings in commissions your hotel experiences when selling rooms directly to callers who are simultaneously shopping on OTAs. (Example: Estimate the commission saved from one booking per agent per shift, multiplied by 250 workdays).
Finally, to convey the cha-ching analogy, you might have to explain to younger colleagues the sound of an old-fashioned cash register when a cashier hits the total sale button. (Or just search online there are plenty of sample sound bites).
Once you have explained the concept, you can have a lot of fun with this mantra as a manager every day by periodically calling out a ring-ring and prompting your colleagues to reply with a hearty cha-ching! If you really want to run with the concept, provide agents with an actual bell to ring when they get a new booking. (A quiet bell of course!) Then post daily the total transient revenue sold both by the agent and by the department, making sure to ring an actual bell when the daily revenue is posted. Further, consider a revenue-based incentive to reward your team; it will cost a lot less than paying those third-party commissions.
Most of us will recall the story of Ivan Pavlov’s Dog and how the Russian Physiologist inserted a tube into the mouths of his dogs to redirect and measure the saliva they produced in anticipation of receiving food. Then over time, right before his dogs were fed, they would ring a bell so that the dogs would associate the bell with the food. Eventually, the sound of the bell alone was enough stimulus to cause the dogs to salivate in anticipation, even in the absence of the actual food. This became known as Classical Conditioning.
Likewise, over time, your team can become conditioned to associate the ringing sound of incoming reservation phone calls with revenue opportunities, and no longer think of them as interruptions to their administrative tasks. So, at your next departmental meeting, let’s get started with a hearty ring-ring, cha-ching! And generate more revenue from direct bookings in 2019 and beyond.
Doug Kennedy is the President of the Kennedy Training Network, Inc. – a leading provider of hotel sales, guest service, reservations, and front desk training programmes and telephone mystery shopping services for the lodging and hospitality industry. The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hotelier Maldives and its affiliated companies. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.