Category Archives: Front Desk Reservation Tips

Upselling for Guest Satisfaction and Revenue

Front desk Interalpen Hotel in Tyrol

With occupancy rates returning to pre-recession levels in many parts of the world, many property owners and hoteliers expect that revenue per available room (RevPAR) and average daily rates (ADR) will continue to grow with an increased number of heads in the beds.  However, without an effective upselling program, it will be difficult for properties to increase revenue in 2014 and beyond.

We discussed implementing a front desk upselling program in a previous blog post, which dealt specifically with how training companies are attempting to teach employees to effectively upsell when guests check in.

Upselling provides an important revenue stream for managers and hoteliers, but the idea is still underutilized across the industry.  Let us look at why your upselling program will not only increase your revenue, but may also increase the satisfaction of the guests who choose to stay with you.
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Smart Hotels are No Longer an Idea of the Future

iBeacon

Smart phones appear to be on the forefront as far as the future of the hospitality industry goes, but are hoteliers ready to take the next step forward? In 1999, Disney released a television show called “Smart House”. This show was centered around a teenager winning a fully automated dream house in a competition. Now, iBeacon is attempting to make the “Smart Hotel Room” a very real possibility.

Hotels are always looking to give guests the feeling and comfort of being at home. One way to achieve this is by replicating the feeling of being at home. Smart homes are the future and hotels should embrace change and be at the forefront of this technological innovation.

The Concept of the Smart Hotel

The concept of the smart hotel is to automate everything you want to forget about, allowing you to have more time to enjoy the great aspects of traveling. Here are a few of the things the hotel app, in addition to the iBeacon technology, will take care of:

  • Find your room - Having trouble navigating the winding halls of an expansive luxury hotel? Beacons are great for determining your position in large hotels, helping to guide you to your room.
  • Room Service - Check out the menu for the evening and order a movie all from the comfort of your bed.
  • Messaging - Communicate quickly and efficiently with the front desk in a WhatsApp-like messaging style.
  • Lights - This system will help save energy by automatically turning on and off room lights when you enter or leave your room.
  • Check In - If I have said it once, I have said it 1,000 times: people want to avoid a check-in wait at all costs. Your information is entered when you book the room and you are provided with your electric room key because of the beacon at the entrance.
  • Room Cleaning - When a guest has checked out of their room, the beacons can notify the cleaners ensuring they never have to knock on a door again.
  • In-Room Entertainment - Playing your own music straight from your phone and watching your favorite series on the television is just the beginning.

There are more perks to using the iBeacon system, but all of them lend to the idea of making the travel experience easier and more convenient. Smart housing has been a concept of the future for quite some time, but now it is becoming mainstream. The next step will be to determine whether this technology is cost-efficient for hoteliers to incorporate into their revenue strategy.

Priceline Looks to Enhance Mobile Offerings

pricelinemobile

OTA’s and mobile technology are two themes you see a lot on the ResortsandLodges.com Business Blog, and a recent interview with the company’s chief marketing officer regarding Priceline entering the on-property services market may be a signal of things to come throughout the travel industry.

Priceline’s goal is to play a larger roles throughout the travel experience, such as enabling hotel check-ins or on-site purchases, and views mobile as essential to realizing these goals.

The idea of mobile check-ins is not a new theory in the travel industry, but most of this discussion focused on individual brands like Starwood, Marriott and Loews leading the way with new mobile innovations.

Often times, once the initial booking of the hotel room through the OTA has been completed, these companies have played no further role in the travel experience.  As Brett Keller, CMO of Priceline put it, “We are primarily a transaction service.  We want to help you find and book that hotel as quickly as possible, but we have expanded beyond that a little bit.”

How is Priceline Expanding?

Newly-enhanced app features will now allow Priceline travelers the opportunity to explore the area to which they are traveling, in a map-based environment, to quickly find and explore where they can fly and purchase products at a discounted price.

Going forward, Priceline would like to have a hand in day-to-day tasks when a travelers arrives at their destination with features like checking in at a hotel, making purchases at the property, unlocking room doors and even unlocking rental car doors.  This may seem futuristic, but these types of things are offered on a limited basis right now.

Why This Matters to You

Although this is a great opportunity for OTA’s to play a more impactful role on the travel industry, it could have a negative impact on these services at your property.

Expediting the check-in process continues to be an important improvement for any type of lodging, whether you are running a brand-name hotel, or a small boutique hotel.  Travelers are happy to get away from long lines and waiting just to get a key to your room.

On-property services and purchases, however, are a priority revenue stream for hoteliers, and losing this money to OTA’s could create a more fragmented industry.  Property managers/owners may have to consider price changes in order to keep their services attractive to travelers.

Ultimately, travelers are looking for the best value with the most convenience.  Creating an easy-to-use marketplace these bundled packages and services can be found serves the traveler on a very personal level, but could lead to problems down the road between hoteliers and OTA’s.

To read the entire interview with Brett Keller, click here.

Hotels Expand Mobile Check-In Options

PHone

As you have seen in many of our recent posts, a number of key trends and tips in the hospitality and travel industry focus on the expansion of multi-channel travelers.  Everyone is traveling with a smartphone or tablet, and hoteliers need to recognize how important a tool these devices can be throughout the travel process.

The recent boom of mobile websites and applications allows travelers to book rooms with the click of a button.  Now, because of a growing demand from tech savvy travelers, properties need to incorporate mobile check-in options to help guests avoid the front desk lines.

A recent Business Travel News article took a deeper look at what some brands and individual hotels are doing to make checking in an easier and faster process for travelers worldwide.

While check-in kiosks and other methods of avoiding the front desk line in recent years have become the commonplace at hotels, there has been a slow integration of mobile technology into this sometimes tedious process.  There has been a greater adoption of mobile technology across some major hotel brands.

At the same time, some third-party technology suppliers are providing tools for hotels and distributors to offer mobile check-in.

Major Brands Getting Involved

Marriott Hotels will offer mobile check-in at all 500 of its hotels globally during the first half of 2014.  Guests who are members can check in via the Marriott Mobile App from 4 p.m. on the day before arrival.  When these guests arrive, their key card is waiting for them at a designated mobile check-in desk.

Hyatt Hotels and Resorts has a similar process at select hotels, with kiosks available for incoming guests to retrieve keys.

Another big name, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, has taken a slightly different approach with nine properties currently piloting the Smart Check-In program.  Guests receive a Starwood Preferred Guest Card and, on the day of their arrival, receive a text message telling them their room number.  From this point, they can head straight to their room and use the SPG card as their key.

To learn more about third party technology suppliers that are providing mobile check-in options, and to read the full Business Travel News article, click here.

How to Implement a Front Desk Upselling Program

Front desk Interalpen Hotel in Tyrol

 

The idea of “getting the heads in the beds” to generate a revenue stream is something that every hotel needs to work to get beyond.  Now the focus must turn to regaining ground on your average daily rate.  Implementing a comprehensive program for upselling guests at registration is a great way to increase your ADR.

Doug Kennedy, President of the Kennedy Training Network, recently wrote an article discussing ideas to help you create your own program and turn-on the faucet to this extra revenue stream.  Because so many guests book online these days, and too many agents quote only one price – the lowest – the front desk registration experience might present the best opportunity of all.

Many guests may not be aware of upgraded options, possible due to reservations being made by a travel agent or over the phone.  Often times, guests are unaware of the value in the upgraded options.  Perhaps a guest’s needs have changed while en route to your property, or the impulse of the moment may cause them to be more receptive to upgraded options, specifically after a stressful day of travel.

A great advantage to upselling at registration is that your staff can be very specific about the offerings of particular rooms or suites, since the front desk knows the exact inventory of any particular day.  The potential impact of this focused upselling program will vary greatly depending on your hotel’s inventory of accommodations.  Some potential upsell opportunities include:

  • Special room types, such as junior or one-bedroom suites
  • Rooms or suites with special features like a whirlpool bath or kitchen
  • Preferred views or hotel locations
  • Special “exclusive” floors such as concierge or executive level floors
  • Packages that include additional amenities, services or activities
  • Adding on a second room at registration for a significantly reduced rate

Successful upselling programs commonly have three components:  a rate structure that makes upgrades a reasonable value, staff training to educate them on various techniques and tactics and a recognition and incentive program.

Structuring Rates to Make Upgrades a Reasonable Value

Most properties market a range of rates to various market segments including groups and high volume accounts.  But these travelers, as well as guests participating in special discount programs, are typically offered this rate for the least expensive room type.  The additional cost to upgrade simply does not justify the received value.

To combat this issue, properties are now implementing a “flat rate” for upgrading.  This allows guests to upgrade for the same fee, regardless of the rate for which they qualify.  The additional revenue is created from rooms which might have been given away at lower rates if your hotel was over-selling the lowest room type.

Recognition and Incentive Programs

A recognition and/or incentive program is a key ingredient in any upsell program.  Front desk upsell incentives are especially easy to justify, as the incremental upsell revenue can be documented.  Rewards for an individual associate can include a predetermined cash amount, points that can be redeemed for prizes or perhaps days off with pay.  You can build team chemistry by rewarding everyone in a team who works during a given time period equally for upsells.

Whatever incentive program you choose, it is important to post results in a prominent area for everyone to see on a regular basis.  Sparking the competitive fire among your staff and reminding all associates of the potential to achieve the same rewards will help focus your front desk team’s attention on upselling.

To read Kennedy’s tips and techniques for training your front desk staff on upselling techniques, or to read the rest of this article, click here.

Social Media, Concierge: A Natural Merger

concierge-guest-experience

The hotel concierge was once a position that exemplified luxury.  These individuals offered their supreme knowledge of the local area and attractions as well as the ability to help plan activities, make dinner reservations or just to assist you along the way.

In recent years, the various electronic communications on a property’s social media platforms have replaced many of the tasks formerly attended to by the onsite concierge.  Past, present and future guests are able to send their digital queries and it is the hotel’s responsibility to respond with helpful information.

Larry Mogelonsky, President and Founder of LMA Communications, recently wrote a feature article about a natural merger that should take place at efficient hotels in the modern travel space: Concierge and Social Media.

Why the Merge?

In the past, helping guests was the primary duty of the concierge, but now that this role is being usurped by social media managers.  Wouldn’t it make sense to merge the two departments?

Even before the advent of the internet, guests were able to find key information about a property, but it could be a straining and time consuming process.  Enter the onsite concierge and guests’ stress levels were alleviated with immediate and specific advice that better helped travelers to enjoy their stay.

Today, guests have more resources to choose from in searching for hotel information, but the preference is to have a local expert who will be able to give a customized response tailored exclusively to them.  You are doing the leg work so that they don’t become fatigued from research, and the interactions build rapport and trust with potential guests.

The only real difference between these roles is the face-to-face communication with a concierge, a more emotionally driven form of communication that is more likely to spur guests to develop an actual bond with the hotel.

Social media has scattered communication across multiple channels and personnel, making it difficult to track in some cases.  Now, everyone is carrying around a cell phone or tablet and can contact a property wherever they happen to be situated at the moment.  Consequently, if true rapport is to be gained, there needs to be a coordination and integration between online and onsite staff-to-guest communication.

Inbound Versus Outbound Social Media

Mogelonsky is quick to differentiate between the two types of social media handled by a given property.  Outbound social media includes the advertising, marketing and public relations materials that disseminated to potential guests.  Inbound social media, on the other hand, concerns the communications received from consumers and your response efforts.  Developing a sound connection between your inbound social media manager and on-site concierge will help guarantee there is no breakdown in guest-to-staff communication.

The Guest Relations Department

Social media efforts can be divided across your PR and marketing departments, alleviating the pressure on your social media manager to dedicate his or her time to inbound consumer demands.  In order to build positive and genuine relationships with guests, there should be constant contact between the inbound social media team and the concierge staff, or the aptly named joined department:  the Guest Relations Department.

In this respect, you are not simply combining responsibilities, but you are also pooling your resources.  Given that the future of the concierge and all communications with guests are heavily dependent on technology, it is crucial that you give guests the most straightforward methods of reaching you.  There needs to be a base proficiency in both social media and dealing with guests face-to-face, in addition to a working familiarity with the area and access to the resources that can improve this foundation.

Take advantage of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.  Live chatting has become a great way to receive real-time feedback from guests.  You can also encourage people to post their own pictures, comments and reviews of your location.

Mogelonsky summarizes his argument by explaining that the core of social media is two-way communication.  In the hospitality world this involves telling your audience about news, events and upcoming promotions, while also remaining accountable to them when they send a digital request, question, picture or anecdote.  Companies that cannot respond effectively simply are not using the medium properly.  The convergence of the concierge staff and social media will ensure a seamless guest experience for future travelers.

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From Desktop to Mobile: The 2013 Shift in Hotel Bookings

cross-device_app_ecosystem-desktop-tablet-phone

As technology continues to shift the way people acquire information, travel sites have observed a shift in the way potential travelers are accessing and booking hotel reservations.  A HeBSdigital case study has quantified this data, and shows how dramatic this shift has been in the past 12 months.

Some of the Key Developments found in Q3 2013 include:

*Over 35% of web visitors and nearly 32% of page views were generated from non-desktop devices including mobile and tablets.  Within this statistic, the iPad outperformed all other tablet devices and was responsible for 88.2% of page views and nearly 97% of tablet revenue.

*Over 12% of bookings, room nights and revenue came from tables and mobile devices.  This does not include voice reservations originating from the mobile websites of HeBSdigital clients.

*Tables generated 210% more room nights and 603% more revenue than “pure” mobile devices.

Notable Developments from Q3 2012 to Q3 2013 include:

*Page views, visits, bookings, room nights and revenue have all declined through the desktop channel.

*Website visitors to desktop websites declined by 17%, while increasing by nearly 85% via mobile channels.

*Revenue from mobile devices nearly doubled as travel consumers become more comfortable conducting transactions through their smartphones and as smartphone penetration reaches an all-time high – nearly 50% in the U.S.

With this dynamic shift from desktop to mobile/tablet options, what can you do to ensure your content is properly accessed?  Try to treat the desktop, mobile and tablet as three separate channels:

Desktop Channel:  Always make sure your desktop website is in good health, and complies with best practices in hotel distribution, design, site architecture and SEO.

Mobile Channel:  A mobile website generates incremental revenue through mobile and voice reservations.

Tablet Channel:   Present tablet users with an enhanced, highly-visual version of the desktop website enabled for the touch-screen tablet environment.

Make sure the correct website content is being served in the right device category while ensuring the maximum user experience, relevancy of information and conversions.  All three channels (desktop, mobile, tablet) must be integrated in the hotel’s multi-channel marketing strategy. Use analytics to determine contributions from and the dynamics of each of the three channels.

For more information on this study or to see additional studies regarding the Three Screen Shift, click here.

7 Ways to Build Customer Loyalty

Mississauga-Hotel-Amenities

 

Online hospitality is transforming into an industry defined by personalization, relevant content and the social experience travelers influence everyday. As this trend continues to unfold, it is becoming increasingly difficult to build brand loyalty. How do you win a customer over and keep them coming back time and time again, when the travel process starts earlier than it ever has, and is not over, even after booking and stay?

This is a dilemma that has been creeping up the alley of online hospitality marketers everywhere. Finding the right combination of social interaction, email marketing, promotional activities, etc. can be a fine line to walk. At the core of any successful business (or hotel in this case) is a loyal customer base. Customers are the primary factor in shaping the success of your hotel, resort, or lodge.

The question now becomes; how do we, as hotel marketers, build a customer base that is loyal, and remains that way for an amount of time that will prove to be profitable for our business? In a recent white paper released by Maxymiser, 7 primary ways to build a loyal customer base were revealed. Let’s take a look at each one, and explain the significance of each as it pertains to your business.

1. Ensure a Quality Experience - It is important to recognize that customers attitudes are shifting. What was once a market dominated by the best value, or lowest price, is (and really, already has) shifted to a market in which buyers are looking for an experience that will set one resort apart from another. When you are attempting to lay the foundation for a loyal customer base, keep in mind that travelers are looking for that once in a lifetime experience, that little something that makes their stay different from anywhere else.

2. Increased Ancillary Sales - Depending on the size of your hotel, ancillary revenue will obviously shift one way or the other. The tricky intersection of when and how to offer ancillary value to the traveler is one that hotel owners and GM’s have played with for years. When you are thinking of how to adopt a loyal customer base, think “Timing and Description.” It is important to offer an ancillary opportunity to the traveler at the right moment, as well as very clearly depict what exactly is being offered.

3. Personalization – According to data from Google, 83% of leisure travelers, and another 76% of business travelers now plan their travel online. The planning process includes anything from reviews, to price points, social media to video and visual assets. Because the road to selection is so clouted with variables, personalization becomes extremely important. The key to personalization is ensuring that the process begins in the earliest phases (research) and continues through the travel journey, concluding with personalized follow up, post trip.

4. Transform the Experience - Personalization can be thought of as points similar to what is explained above. However it can also be thought of as transforming an online experience to make the message more personal to the traveler, and enhancing the likelihood of purchasing. For example, a common message on several hotel sites is a “no availability” pop up of sorts, often times on the event calendar or booking engine. A simple way to improve this message, and make it a positive for the traveler is to add in something like “here are some other available dates that you may find helpful,” or something equating to a message of that nature in an attempt to squash any discouragement.

5. Ratings & Reviews – The always important and heavily relied on online reviews are a sure shot way to build a loyal customer base. Hotels with reviews are viewed as more credible in the eyes of the consumer. More credible sources typically have a higher rate of conversion and a more loyal customer base.

6. Leverage Social Media - According to independent research, one out of every four travelers uses social media to research and plan their vacation. Furthermore, a Forbes study of Facebook users revealed that 50% of travelers were “influenced” by seeing friends pictures of travel on Facebook. So what does this mean for your social media efforts? Billions of users scroll the pages of Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and more, everyday. It is important to have an understanding of your customer base and reach out to them in ways that connect to them on a personal level – if you are a family resort and your Facebook audience is comprised of families who have stayed with you before, put out relevant offers, offer special savings to your fans, etc.

7. The Mobile World – Development across the mobile platform has reached new heights in the previous months. Smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices have become more widely used than the everyday computer. Consumers are on the go. Plain and simple. In fact, tablet use is projected to spike by 180% in the next year alone. If you are a hotel marketer, this is big news. It is extremely important that your website is responsive – fits to exact screen sizes across multiple devices. Why is this so important? Failure to run a responsive site means that your messages, visuals and representation of your hotel are distorted when they are not viewed on a computer screen. The masses are moving to mobile and tablet. Your website must do the same!