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How to deal with the Bargain Hunters

In last weeks Blog we looked at just how important telephone sales are to our business and this week I thought it would be appropriate to look at how we should train our Reservation Team to deal with the infuriating ‘Is that the best rate you have’ question…

We all know that our online presence is currently the key to our business’s success – perhaps never more so than now but at the risk of sounding behind the trend, telephone sales are still important. This may be more prevalent in resort hotels or luxury properties where customers feel the need to ask questions and clarify every part of their reservation but no matter what type of hotel you are involved in, telephone sales are here to stay. I guess one way to confirm just how relevant they are to your business is to insert unique telephone numbers on your website or offline marketing collatoral that can be tracked to certain campaigns. These unique numbers are easy to set-up and can be a great way of getting to grips with an overall trend and are of course a fantastic way of measuring just how effective certain campaigns have been. Although saying that, we don’t know for sure if someone checked online first and then called or perhaps called and then booked online but it would be the first step in measuring just how relevant direct calls are to your property.

Starting with a quote

We all know that callers now are often ‘over-informed’ and are usually multi-tasking on several websites while actually on the call to your hotel (and perhaps time to re-iterate that you should ALWAYS have the best rate on your own website) and what we have nowadays is the growth in the ‘deal-seaker’ trend.

As I mentioned in last weeks column, my advice is to actually take some time and sit with your Reservation Team and listen to the calls. What you will probably find is that callers usually start by just giving the date that they want to stay so as a Manager, you need to advise your Reservation Team of your strategy.

So for example: if the caller gives the date and a rate is quoted, what should your team say if the next question is, ‘That is the same rate as I see online, should I book it online or book it with you?’.  My advice is to ALWAYS take the booking over the phone as a) even if you have rate parity you can’t always be sure that they are looking at your brand website (even if your customer thinks they are!) and that reservation could cost you an average of 18% commission.  Even if the booking does come through your brand site, there most likely is a commission or cost per booking to take into consideration.  Your customer could also easily move around the web and come back to your site which at the very least may cost you another Cost Per Click if you have a Google Adword campaign running. So my advice is to always take the reservation over the phone if asked.  That way you guarantee a direct booking and reduce those commission fees.

An effective way to stop those best rate questions is to always mark the rate you plan to quote against your Rack Rate.  For those that know me, you will know that I am not a fan of scripts but as an example, how about trying this: ‘Yes Madam, we do have rooms available on the 10th of November and our normal rate for a Standard Double is £220.00 including breakfast and VAT. However, as I have additional rooms available on that day, I would be delighted to offer you a reduced rate of £180.00’.  This is of course your BAR rate or selling rate of the day but by marking this rate against your full rate, you have advised your client what your normal selling rate is and that you are also happy to offer her a better rate.  What this immediately does is show your customer that you are willing to offer a discount and stops them asking for one.

The second part of this sale should also be: ‘the £180.00 rate also includes breakfast and again is for our Standard Room.  We do however have a few Superior Rooms available on the 10th and I could offer that for just a £20.00 upgrade’.

The tip here is always just to quote the upgrade cost i.e. £20.00 and not quote £200.00 total cost as the customers attention is drawn only to the supplement and this will make the upgrade sale a lot easier.

By asking your team to say a version of this script, you immediately stop the bargain hunters pushing for a lower rate as you have been seen to offer it willingly and you also give your team the ability to upsell.

As I mentioned last week, please make sure that a) you have superior rooms available b) your team knows exactly what both standard and superior rooms consist off and what the selling points are on both and c) that they see upselling as an opportunity to tailor-make the customers stay, rather than trying to push something they don’t want down their throat 🙂

Make sure you know the Back Story

Your Reservations Team must be allowed the time to get to know the caller and know exactly why they are coming to your area and therefore your hotel. Only by knowing your customers needs will your team be able to sell them the right product.

Is it a couple coming for a well deserved break?  If so, then they probably will want dinner, or maybe a late check-out. Perhaps there is an opportunity to make the stay more memorable by offering an upgrade or perhaps wine or flowers in the room?  Is it a special occasion? Champagne anyone?  Is it a group of girls travelling?  Spa treatments or house cocktails delivered to their room?  Are your guests on an International flight with an early arrival?  Perhaps they would like to avail of an early check-in? Perhaps you already have packages built that would fit perfectly with your guests needs but you won’t know that until you find out why they are staying. Ask – and give your team the time to ask.  You are after-all providing a booking service. You are not a call centre and should never, ever think of yourselves as one…

Give your team time to qualify that call. Let them tell the caller that they are ‘checking further for you to ensure we offer you the best rate / package we can for that date’. If you have promotional rates on, then make sure your guest feels that you are searching for something to suit their needs and not just dropping the rate.

Dealing with Corporates

I have heard stories about corporates who travel a lot and go to the effort of seeing which large businesses are located in the areas they want to travel to and then have the audacity to call the hotel pretending to be from one of those large corporates just so that they get access to heavily discounted corporate rates.  The person in question has yet to be ever asked for ID or confirmation that he actually does work there!  Now I am not saying that this is a regular practice and probably less so now that so many corporates are locked into strict booking policies but it does still happen. Perhaps having a policy of only sending confirmations to company email addresses might help or asking for ID on check-in?  Your decision of course…

What about competitors?

If a caller mentions that one of your competitors is selling for less than you, please train your team to sell the virtues of your hotel and what distinguishes you from the competition rather than criticising your competitors.

Be honest

If you have rooms that are last lets – perhaps are smaller or have an obstructed view as examples, then please tell your customer before they get here.  Be honest and let them know that they are just as beautifully furnished and decorated with all the amenities they would expect but that they are slightly smaller than the rooms in the rest of the hotel. Do you sell these rooms for less? If so, tell your guest.

The best advice that I can give, is to keep investing in training your team.  Make sure that their conversations aren’t too scripted and that they flow with the natural movements of conversation. Sell the experience and that experience often starts with your Reservation Team.

(and for all things Revenue, just ask@rightrevenue.wpengine.com)