04 May 2017

Today’s Reservations Agents Need To “Narrate The Pictures”

When I first started conducting reservations sales training workshops in the 1990’s, guests had very little information prior to making a phone call.  Perhaps they  called in advance for a copy of the hotel’s brochure, or in the case of a vacation home rental company, a copy of the annual catalogue of properties.  Still others had tourism guide books or perhaps a recommendation from a friend or colleague.

During that era it was important for reservations agents to do what we called “painting the picture” of the overall guest experience as well as the accommodation.  I trained participants to use what I called a positioning statement to provide an overview of the key selling points.

Nowadays, it is extremely rare to speak with a caller who has not been online at some point. Most have done extensive research, and many are online while they are on the phone.  At the same time, lodging companies have invested heavily in expanding the number of images they have at their website. Most include several photos of the accommodations, while some have virtual room tours and even 3D floor plans.  Many guests research beyond your own brand.com website on websites like TripAdvisor and ResortsandLodges.com.

Callers have seen more images than ever before, yet reservations agents still field questions such as: “What’s it like?” or “Is this one a good choice?”

Unless otherwise trained, most agents respond by listing standardized features of the room, suite or vacation home.  Scripted descriptions like these do little to reassure the caller or help them decide.  When you think about it, most resorts and companies offer the same basic features, so this does little to differentiate your options from all of the others.

Instead, today’s reservations agents need to “narrate the pictures” the caller has already seen online, telling the story of the guest enjoying and taking advantage of the features they are seeing in the online images. Here are some training tips for narrating the pictures:

  • Begin benefit statements with “You will enjoy….” or “Your family will love…” instead of “We have…” and “We offer.”  
  • Help guests picture themselves enjoying what it is you are describing: “Imagine yourself…”
  • Use words that allure and entice, versus those that simply inform and notify. Train your team to go beyond using comfort words such as “Beautiful…” “Nice…” “Great…” and “Awesome.”  
  • Share descriptive words from your website copy, advertising campaigns, and email blasts that have been wordsmithed by marketing and copy writers.  Challenge them to pick a new “favorite” or go-to words to describe your key selling points.
  • Work to expand your agents’ use of emotionally descriptive words so they can say more than “fun” and “enjoyable.” Instead, help them use words that cause callers to think about the lifetime memories they will be making with their family, friends and loved ones.  

Doug Kennedy