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How To Implement A Front Desk Upselling Program
By Feature Writer Doug Kennedy
As the industry looks ahead to what is hoped to be a continued rebound in demand in 2014, most hotel revenue and marketing executives are ready to move beyond a "let's get the heads in the beds" era and to focus on continuing to regain ground on ADR. One significant opportunity is to implement a comprehensive program for upselling guests at registration.
Of course a related opportunity to upsell is when callers contact the reservations department or call center. Based on my experiences in the reservations mystery shopping business, there are still too many agents that only quote one rate - the lowest. So it is also a good time to remind your reservations team to quote a variety of room types, typically two or three, to all callers.
Yet with so many guests booking online these days, the front desk registration experience might present the best opportunity of all.
Guests may not be aware of upgraded options, especially when the reservation was made by third party such as a travel agent or administrative assistant.
Voice reservations agents may have failed to convey the value of the upgraded options, or worse yet, failed to mention them at all.
The guest's needs might change while en route. Business travelers, for example, might have pop-up meetings or projects to work on, requiring additional workspace in their room.
The impulse of the moment might cause guests to be more receptive to upgraded options, especially after a stressful day of travel. For example, when mom and dad were planning the trip it seemed like a good idea to share a room with the two kids, since "all we're going to do is sleep there anyway." Yet after 8 hours in the minivan or SUV the adjoining room or suite starts looking like a great option.
Another great advantage of upselling at registration is that it's possible to be very specific about what is offered by particular rooms or suites, since the front desk knows exact inventory that day.
Depending on your hotel's inventory of accommodation types, the potential impact of a comprehensive, focused upselling program will vary greatly. However when you sit down to do the math on the potential additional revenue even for hotels with minimal upsell opportunities due to their inventory of room types, it becomes instantly clear that the effort can easily generate a significant ROI. Potential upsell opportunities include:
Successful upselling programs have three components: a rate structure that makes upgrades a reasonable value, a staff training experience to expose them to the various techniques and tactics, and a recognition and incentive program. Here is an overview of the components we at the Kennedy Training Network recommend for our training clients.
Structuring Rates So That An Upgrade Is A Reasonable Value
Most properties market a range of rates to various market segments. However, groups, high-volume accounts, or guests participating in special discount programs are typically only offered their special rate for the least expensive room type. Upgraded accommodations, if offered at all, are at rack rates. The end result is that the additional cost to upgrade does not justify the value received.
For example, if the rack rates are $200 for a regular room and $235 for deluxe, a $35 difference seems reasonable. However, when a special corporate rate of $179 is offered for the regular room only, the upgrade fee, which is now $56, is effectively out of reach.
To work around this, many properties are implementing a "flat rate" for upgrading. In this scenario, the guest always has the option of upgrading for the same fee, regardless of what rate they qualify for. So whether it's a corporate, group, government, or promotional rate, the investment for the upgrade is reasonable. Best of all, additional revenue is created from rooms which might have been given away at lower rates anyway if the hotel instead over-sells the lowest room types.
Front Desk Upselling Training Techniques
Here is a menu of upselling techniques your front desk team can use depending on the type of guest standing before them, the time of day, and also the availability of inventory at that time,
Recognition And Incentive Programs.
A key ingredient in any upsell program is to measure the results and to implement a recognition and/or incentive program. Front desk upsell incentives are especially easy to justify, as the incremental upsell revenue can be documented. (Associates simply do a print-out to document the change.)
Most incentives reward the individual associate for each upsell, with either a predetermined cash amount, with points that can be redeemed for prizes, or perhaps with days off with pay. (Cash incentives should be paid separately to help differentiate rewards from base salary.) Alternatives are team incentives where everyone who works during a given time period (i.e. shift, day, or week) is rewarded equally for upsells which occurred during that period.
Regardless of which incentive program is selected, it is important to post the results in a prominent area on a regular basis. This helps spark the competitive spirit, and reminds all associates of the potential to achieve the same rewards being earned by the top performers.
By focusing your front desk team's attention on upselling, by providing training tips for doing so, and by measuring and rewarding the results, your property can turn-on the faucet to this extra revenue stream. Along the way, your guests will enjoy utilizing the extra space, upgraded room features, and special services they might not have otherwise considered.
About the Author
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 authors in the world. He is the author of Still On The Road to Sales and Guest Service Excellence.
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