Summer is Coming! How Hoteliers Can Start Preparing Now

The temperature is rising here in the Northern Hemisphere, and summertime is finally in our sights. Hoteliers far and wide are heading into their busiest season as people look forward to enjoying the great weather, longer days, and their children’s time off school. It’s an exciting time for any business, but there are also greater pressures that accompany increased occupancy. Make sure your peak season is smooth and successful by starting to prepare for it now.

Review data

Looking at last year’s data is extremely important for seasonal planning. Understanding historical occupancy and revenue will help you determine how to price inventory and restrict lengths of stay in order to maximize profit. And a breakdown of bookings from each distribution channel can help you determine how to allocate inventory for the season.

Spruce up your property

Peak season is the best time to land new returning guests and generate positive word of mouth—as long as you make a good impression of course. Put your best foot forward by making the little touch-ups to your property that you’ve been putting off. Guests notice the little things. Are the curtains showing some wear and tear? Do the bathtubs need re-grouting? Do the walls need a new coat of paint? These small improvements can make a world of difference in the eyes of your guests and can be the difference between lukewarm reception and a rave review.

On top of minor touch-ups, hoteliers can also impress their guests with a few seasonal additions to their property. Potted flowers add a fresh splash of color (and may even reap the benefits of biophilic design). And creating useful outdoor spaces (think picnic tables, patios, volleyball courts, etc.) will make your property the perfect place for guests to enjoy the season. Have an on-site restaurant? You can give your menu a summery spruce as well. Fresh salads, fruity drinks, grilled meats, and seafood are excellent seasonal options to include.

Know what’s happening in your community

Summertime is prime season for festivals and other community events. Whether it’s a July 4th celebration, an annual musical festival, or a car show, there is always something going on around town. And knowing what events are happening in your community can not only help you determine the best yield management strategies but the best marketing strategies as well. Consider creating packages catered to guests interested in these local events and activities and include information about them on your various online platforms.

Plan events and activities

Consider going a step further and planning your own events and activities. While you probably won’t be organizing something as extravagant as a music festival, there are many simple things you can do to make your property stand out from the competition. Pool parties, barbecues, garden yoga classes, and outdoor movie nights are a few relatively inexpensive and easy to pull off ideas that add value for customers.

Prepare your staff

Preparation for peak season should always include a formal briefing with staff. Not only is it a good idea to go over what’s new for the season (both on-property and in the community), but it’s beneficial to include a quick refresher of local attractions and activities as well. The recommendations staff make to guests should be up-to-date and seasonally relevant. Customers looking for a restaurant in the summertime will likely be more interested in a venue with a patio than a cozy atmosphere. And families in search of to-do suggestions might be more excited by walking trails than an art museum.

It is also essential to iron out operational wrinkles now.  Any inefficiencies or uncertainties felt by your staff should be addressed long before peak season, when the ramifications will be maximally felt.

 

The peak season is an exciting (but stressful!) time. It offers incredible potential to maximize profit and earn loyal guests. Ensure a successful summer season by beginning preparations now.

Hold The Phone! 6 Tips for Converting Hotel Calls to Bookings

For hotels today, there is so much focus on online conversions that the traditional voice channel is in danger of being overlooked. But call inquiries are still a key direct sales channel, especially as travelers rely more and more on mobile devices. A Google study found that 58% of mobile searchers would be very likely to call a hotel if click-to-call functionality was available in smartphone search.

In this digital era of OTAs and online bookings, front desk agents can’t be blamed for assuming that customers who pick up the phone and call have already done their research online — in many cases this assumption is correct. However, not all customers who call are ready to make a booking; they may have questions about amenities, policies or rates and want to be reassured they are making the right choice. Furthermore, customers are asking tougher questions, armed with more knowledge than ever gleaned from a multitude of online sources.

Even in our digital-oriented world, answering phone calls is not just about taking reservations; it’s about making them. A phone call from a potential guest is a prime opportunity to make a direct booking and a valuable chance to grow the customer relationship, so front desk staff need to be prepared to handle phone enquiries with finesse.

Here are some tips for making the most of every phone call to increase conversions…

  1. Display your property’s phone number prominently on your website to encourage direct bookings.

When a property’s phone number is easily accessible, website viewers are more inclined to call with any questions they may have (or to make a booking), rather than continue their search elsewhere. Make sure both toll-free and local numbers are on every page of the website — not just on the “Contact Us” page — and online booking process, readily available to customers at every stage of their planning, from browsing to booking. The click-to-call feature is popular on mobile sites as Google research shows.

  1. Empower front desk staff.

Knowledge inspires confidence, so keep the front desk team up to speed with policies, rate restrictions and tiers, packages and specials — and, equally importantly, the reasons behind them. This article by Doug Kennedy of the Kennedy Training Network offers excellent advice about how to quote rates effectively, including some tips for handling rate objections.

  1. Brush up on basic sales tactics.

Proven reservation sales techniques turn reservation takers into reservation makers.

  • Receive callers with a professional, friendly greeting. Note or ask for the caller’s name and use it during the conversation to establish rapport. Look the customer up in your property management system or CRM so that you are able to welcome back repeat customers.
  • Listen to the caller’s request. If they ask for information about the property or location, describe features enthusiastically — don’t just list off amenities.
  • Try to find out the purpose of their trip or their specific needs by politely asking questions like: “May I ask what brings you to New York?” or “Is there something special you are looking for?” This information helps reservation clerks to promote relevant amenities and packages. For example, if the caller is traveling with kids, they would probably like to know about your indoor water slide, free breakfast or family package deals. Customer details that come up during the conversation, like interests, preferred amenities, anniversaries, etc., should be recorded in guest profiles too, to aid in personalizing the guest experience and future marketing campaigns.
  • When callers resist booking, try to find out why. If they object to the price, reiterating the value of what’s included (parking, Wi-Fi, breakfast etc.) or offering a cheaper room can help. If the caller is looking for a specific amenity your property doesn’t have, like an outdoor pool, promote alternatives and highlight the benefits of what you do have. For example, “We don’t have a pool, but we are an easy stroll from the beach and provide free beach towels.”
  • Ask for the booking. A sense of urgency can be created by letting the customer know the discount is only available for a short time, or rooms are filling up fast. Offer to secure the reservation and lock in the rate by booking them in now. Customers are likely to book if they are aware that the cancellation policy allows them to cancel free of charge within a certain time frame.
  • Tone of voice is important too. Phone inquiries are often the first personal touchpoint a customer has with a property, and as such are a golden opportunity to make the potential guest feel welcome. A clear, friendly voice suggests much better customer service than an indifferent or inconvenienced one.
  1. Prepare for difficult questions.

Ask front desk staff about the kinds of questions they are fielding, both common and challenging, and review answers with them. Brainstorm possible responses together and draft up a list of best responses for reference. It may help to role play phone enquiries too. This is another way to empower staff with the confidence to handle challenging phone sales.

  1. Record customer details.

Even if a customer does not go through with a booking, consider recording their information (name, contact details and any relevant notes) in a customer profile within your property management system or CRM. That way, if they call back at a later date, you can look them up in the system and personalize customer service by welcoming them back and finding a solution that meets their needs more efficiently. Offering to put callers on a wait list if no availability matched their dates, or to let them know of future deals and discounts, may encourage them to give you their email address.

  1. Evaluate and reward.

Putting yourself in your customers’ shoes and making a reservation yourself (or asking a friend to) is a great way to evaluate your property’s reservation process. Share feedback with your team, discuss concerns and implement goals. Good performance should be rewarded with positive feedback. Consider staff pizza nights or extra time off to show appreciation and provide incentive.

While online bookings are central to hotel sales today, the voice channel has the potential to deliver your highest conversion rates and should not be overlooked. A call inquiry is often the first truly personal touchpoint between the customer and the property. As such, every phone call should be treated as a critical opportunity to establish a positive customer relationship that results in a booking and, ultimately, a repeat guest.