The Heart of Hospitality Starts with the Reservation Sales Team
Smart hoteliers have continued to recognize the unique role that a voice reservations team plays, even in the last decade as digital distribution channels have taken over contribution margins. In the pre-COVID-19 word, and in the post-COVID-19 era (yes, there WILL eventually be one), smart leaders know:
- The more emotionally engaged that guests are in their travel plans, the more likely they are to call prior to or following booking online.
- Voice agents can re-humanize the “digital” travel planning experience, as they can also do via chat and in-app messaging (when responding in Expedia, Booking.com, AirBnB, or VRBO.
- Only voice agents can help guests who are experiencing “choice overload” while shopping online.
However, in the current COVID-19 pandemic era, voice reservations agents are truly the superheroes of the industry. It’s the transient channels that are responding fastest, and transient guests are the most likely to call. The “deal-seekers” who are shopping at OTA’s these days are also calling to see if the hotel is offering any special rates or packages due to the pandemic’s disruption of travel. Finally, even those who typically book online are calling with questions about what’s open or closed in the hotel and the area.
As a result, now is a wonderful time to remind our reservation superstars that the true Heart of Hospitality is human kindness, especially to the strangers we call guests. In this month’s TNS sponsored webcast, I shared a few key concepts from KTN’s “Heart of Hospitality” Certification program, which our team delivers worldwide as a private, live webcam training. Here are a few highlights.
- Bringing out the best in others, brings out the best in ourselves. Before you log-in to your phone system, make it your job to initiate pro-active hospitality. Remember that our parents taught us to “Treat others they way you want to be treated,” and not “Treat others the way they are treating you.”
- Accept that some callers will present as rude and offensive at the start, but just as many others will start conversations with kindness. “I’ve been hold forever” (and it was actually 75 seconds) vs. “Gosh, I’ve been on hold 11 minutes. You poor thing! It must be crazy busy there today!”
- Remember that human beings are first and foremost emotional creatures in a physical world.
Sometimes conflict happens during conversations, such as when you have to explain cancellation penalties, rate restrictions, or uphold policies. At other times, callers start off on the offensive. Either way, here are some tips for deescalating conflict.
- Before apologizing, and before attempting to resolve the issue, show empathy for the caller’s situation or circumstance.
- When you show empathy, the caller receives a sense of validation. In essence, you are giving them permission to be upset or frustrated.
- Typically, this will immediately deescalate their emotional response. Example:
- First, show empathy: “I understand how you must feel. I’m sure I would feel the same given these circumstances.”
- THEN apologize. “I apologize for the situation/circumstance.”
To the extent possible, try to give the caller options and invoice them in the resolution. By welcoming guest complaints, we can often end the conversation with the guest being even more impressed than they would have otherwise been had service not derailed.
Although every guest interaction is important to a guest’s overall positive experience, the reservations team plays a uniquely important role as they tend to speak with guests who are early on in their “Circle of Life” cycle. With fewer guests traveling, converting calls is more important than ever before, and the positive first impressions created will have a lasting impact on repeat business and social media buzz.