Archive for August, 2012

Ask For The Sale To Increase Bookings By 440%

August 1st, 2012 by Mariah

The study which is entitled “The Factors That Lead to More Reservations: A Statistical Analysis of Scored Phone Calls and Bookings,” is a collaborative effort between ContactPoint LLC and Dr. Kyle Wells, PHD, MBA, of the Udvar-Hazy School of Business at Dixie State College.

ContactPoint and Dr. Wells analyzed 4400 recorded actual phone calls from 30 hotels in 14 states. The population included hotels from market segments including economy through upscale. The calls analyzed were not “staged” mystery shopping calls, but rather real calls from real hotel prospects recorded using ContactPoint’s LogMyCalls call tracking and monitoring tool. The researcher’s objective was to find out what specific actions, words, and tactics increased the likelihood of the caller committing to a reservation.

As a hotel sales trainer, what stands out the most for me is that the simple act of offering to secure the reservation made the caller 4.4 times more likely to book the reservation. Put another way, that means the hotel or call center has a 440% greater chance to get the sale if the agent just asks. Yet the study also found that hotel Guest Services Agents (GSR’s) in the study only asked for the sale 52% of the time; call centers ask even less frequently at just 42%. With a sales tactic as important as this, it makes one wonder why this is not used 100% of the time.

The results also found another huge area of opportunity, which is to train the staff to overcome resistance to booking. The study found that in 610 of the 4400 calls analyzed, the potential guest exhibited some resistance to reserving a room. This resistance ranged from the price being too high, to the property not being centrally located, to the potential guest just calling for “information.” Regardless of the reason for the caller’s resistance, the findings show that persistence pays off more than any other single thing a GSR or reservations agent could do. When agents refuse to give up and instead use any number of methods, such as reiterating the value, creating urgency, or removing barriers to booking now, callers who initially resist are 12.6 times more likely to book the room.

It goes without saying that simply asking for the sale and overcoming resistance alone will not alone increase call conversation rates, and the study confirmed the influence of other factors as well. As a trainer I’ve often said that closing the sale starts with the opening greeting and a positive first impression. The study seems to support this philosophy.

The results revealed advantages to using other sales basics, such as using the caller’s name, which made it 2.5 times more likely that the caller would want to secure the reservation. The findings also suggested that rather than simply reading a list of features, using vivid adjectives when describing the rooms, the grounds, the views, and the room attributes, results in the caller being 1.6 times more likely to book the room.

Taken collectively, if all of these sales essentials are used consistently by all GSR’s or reservations agents, the potential impact on call conversion can be very significant.

Even if your hotel, resort, vacation rental, or call center is not within the demographics of the survey’s mainstream population, the results seem to prove a direct correlation between the use of basic sales tactics and increased call capture rates.

It is a great reminder of the importance of training and coaching every associate who is staffing “The Storefront Window” of your hotel or resort. Take a moment to calculate the potential ROI on even a small increase in call conversion.

First calculate the potential value of every transient phone call you receive:

- Transient average rate x transient average stay.

- Add “Average revenue per guest” if you are a full service hotel or resort with numerous revenue generating outlets. (i.e. Spa, golf, F&B, gaming, retail.)

Then take that potential revenue per booking and calculate the potential revenue if every GSR or reservations agent got just one more sale per shift. Although the resulting number should be enough to catch the attention of the executive management team, this study now shows that the ROI could be significantly more than one more booking per day.

Here are some training tips for your next in-house meeting:

- Always ask for the caller’s name and use it conversationally throughout the call.

- Determine whether the caller has stayed previously, and if they haven’t then paint a picture of the hotel experience using vivid language, rather than listing available features.

- Remind your staff that closing the sale benefits everyone, including the caller as it ensures availability and locks-in the rate.

- When caller’s resist an initial attempt to secure the sale, ask questions such as “Is there something special you’re looking for that I’ve not mentioned?” to find out if the caller has a “product” or price objection.

- For “product” objections, offer alternatives and reiterate benefits of what you “do” have and what “is” available.

- For price objections, reiterate value. If low to moderate demand, offer lower-rated room options or specials.

- Create urgency and remove barriers to booking right now and ask for the sale again.

By training your GSRs and Reservations Agents to use sales techniques such as these, your hotel will not only convert more inquiry calls into bookings, and along the way provide a positive first impression of your hotel’s overall levels of guest service excellence.

Note: To download a free copy of the study for your hotel, management company, or call center, just click on the following link: http://logmycalls.com/hotel-study

Doug Kennedy

July, 2012

Doug Kennedy is President of the Kennedy Training Network, Inc. a leading provider of customized training programs and telephone mystery shopping services for the lodging and hospitality industry. Doug continues to be a fixture on the industry’s conference circuit for hotel companies, brands and associations, as he been for over two decades.

Visit KTN at: www.kennedytrainingnetwork.com

The Rising Mobile Tide Five Trends for 2012-2013

August 1st, 2012 by Mariah

One thing is certain: the mobile channel is here to stay. The research – from a number of different sources – backs this up. IDC predicts that by 2015 smartphone sales will reach 982 million and according to Morgan Stanley, by 2014, mobile web users will surpass ‘traditional’ desktop Internet users. Travel firms, it seems are taking this seriously too; a recent Airline IT Trends survey finds that nine out of ten airlines are planning to sell tickets via mobile by 2015.

Unsurprisingly emerging trends and opportunities in mobile will be a central theme at EyeforTravel’s fast-approaching Travel Distribution Summit, North America which takes place in Las Vegas from September 13–14.So what are the emerging trends and opportunities? EyeforTravel.com goes in search of answers and identifies five central themes for mobile.

1. Smartphones are here to stay; not just for the last minute!

For online hotel booking firm, HotelTonight, the single biggest trend to emerge in 2012 will be the continued penetration of smartphones and the resulting shift of everyday activities from PC-based websites to the device in the customers’ pocket. “We believe the smartphone will become the new laptop and the resulting opportunities and challenges for businesses will be extreme,” says Jared Simon chief operating officer of HotelTonight.com. So which platforms is HotelTonight focusing its energy: on iOS and Android, of course although Simon says “we are always ready to move on a dime to take advantage of trends in this fast-paced mobile environment”.

Chris Blakely, vice-president of client services at comScore seems to be singing from the same hymn sheet. For him the biggest trend for 2012 is: “Continued growth of smartphone ownership in general, and the use of Android and iOS platforms in particular which are the core “rising tide that lifts all boats”.

For many firms, says Max Starkov president and chief executive of HebsDigital, the mobile channel is already a real travel planning and hotel distribution channel and this is especially true for so-called ‘drive-in and last-minute travel markets’. But going forward, even that may be changing. Priceline.com vice-president for corporate strategy, Todd Henrich, says that all the research points to the fact that consumers are becoming more mobile and before long they will be booking travel via mobile too – and this, he says, “this won’t necessarily just be the case for last-minute bookings”.

2. M-Commerce is ramping up but it is still the Wild West

It may still be a minority of smartphone users who are using their phones to transact, pay bills, shop and interact but this is changing as consumers become increasingly comfortable using their phone for commerce. This trend will only continue. In fact during May, online travel agency, Orbitz, reported that 6 million people used a mobile device to shop for travel, more than doubling numbers on the previous year. During the first quarter of the year, more than 9% of Orbitz hotel bookings were made via mobile devices.

Comscore, for one, is seeing big across-the-board growth in categories involving mobile transactions. “Consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable using their phone for commerce and this is a trend that will only continue,” says Blakely.

But when it comes to what technology will win the day in mobile commerce this is still very much the Wild West.

Any technology that makes commerce even easier on mobile devices is going to gain huge traction. I’m looking forward to the day that I no longer have to carry a wallet, and I think that day isn’t too far off. NFC isn’t the only means of getting there, but it certainly looks like a promising one,” says Simon.

Blakely, however, is not so convinced. Today, he argues, NFC-enabled handsets are owned by a very small number of consumers and there continues to be lots of jockeying among credit card companies, mobile operators and others for a piece of the ‘payment pie’. “That said we’re seeing a rise in the use of phones for making online payments via existing services like PayPal and a host of startups offering point-of-sale solutions for payment and loyalty tracking such as Square and Level Up,” says Blakely.

3. The merging of social, local and mobile is “not just a flickering hope”

There is continued growth in social, local and mobile and while this is great news for travellers, the providers of travel should not forget that it presents several opportunities. “It’s never been easier for people on the go to navigate a strange city and discover places, find merchants or a great meal while travelling,” says Blakely.

Firms like HotelTonight and Uber, that have embraced mobile as an entirely new medium with completely different user dynamics and use cases are not just a flickering ‘hope’ right now, they are “hot and will continue to gain momentum,” says Simon.

He also believes that pure social players will need to adapt their offerings to the increasing utility function of smartphones or risk becoming “afterthoughts”. Foursquare is one firm that understood this changing dynamic: it has has morphed from a location check-in service to one that provides full-featured local discovery and recommendations and opportunities for sales too.

While calling Facebook ‘hype’ might be a step too far, in recent months the firm has certainly been grappling with how it monetises use of its ‘service’ on a mobile phone – this is something it will be thinking about very seriously.

4. Discounting in the mobile channel is a mistake

“The most common mistake made by hoteliers today is discounting in the mobile channel,” HebsDigital’s Starkov. He cannot stress this strongly enough. And so what are his top tips:

  • Avoid the temptation to discount! Don’t discount via mobile discounters, OTAs and Flash Sales Sites.
  • Invest in your mobile website and mobile marketing to boost last-minute reservations.
  • Market your true best available rates last-minute.
  • Maintain rate parity and brand integrity at all times.

5. Crystal ball gazing…think geography, TV, marketing and tablets

“Services that take into account geographic, usage and other contexts to know what users want before they actually do are not too far off in mobile,” says HotelTonight’s Simon.

For Blakely the thing to be watching closely is multi-screen services that allow you to seamlessly move from phone to tablet to computer to TV and back again, providing cloud-based syncing of content, experiences and shopping carts.

According to Google, 7% of all searches already come from tablets versus 14% from mobile and 79% from desktop. But watch out for rapid growth in this channel too; while most tablet usage is currently occurring in the home, it is fast becoming a go-to device for road warriors. Whatever your view today on tablets, Starkov president says 2013 will be the year this channel really takes off.

If anything says Starkov, travel marketers should be budgeting more for mobile “Marketers should be spending at least 15% of their overall digital marketing budgets on mobile marketing initiatives,” he says. This includes a bigger focus on optimisation, upgrades to the mobile website, mobile SEO, mobile display advertising and text marketing initiatives – to name but a few. So put those on the list for the coming year.

If you are in any doubt that mobile is going to be centre stage for the foreseeable future, please take a bow and leave now.

By: Hotel News Resource

 

Flying chefs serve up fine dining in sky

August 1st, 2012 by Mariah

(CNN)-Gourmet cuisine has long been a staple of business class and first-class menus. But a number of airlines are taking the in-flight meal to new heights by bringing chefs on board to serve up a fine dining experience in the sky — scooping up culinary awards in the process.

Etihad Airways has gone as far as to poach expert cooks from a number renowned Michelin-starred restaurants since launching its “Flying Chef” service on long haul flights late last year.

The concept has thus far proved a recipe for success, with the Abu Dhabi based airline winning the award for best first-class catering at the 2012 Skytrax World Airline Awards earlier this month.

But given the cramped kitchen conditions of the airplane galley and the complexities of cooking at altitude, is it really possible to rustle up meals worthy of the masterchefs whilst cruising at 35,000 feet?

According to Werner Kimmeringer, head of guest experience and catering at Etihad Airways, unequivocally, yes.

“We introduced chefs in our first class cabin so we could offer a five-star restaurant style of service,” says Kimmeringer.

“Our first-class guests receive unparalleled attention and choice — for example, the opportunity of having their personal chef tailor-make dishes based on their individual tastes and preferences,” he adds.

Kimmeringer highlights the “balik style smoked salmon” and “pan-seared scallops with a parmesan cheese sauce” as particular examples of the gastronomic complexity of the Etihad first-class menu.

“The chef can talk (to) and recommend food directly to our guests and make suggestions of what they might like on the menu,” says Kimmeringer.

“He is able to personally adjust seasonings and recommend menu and beverage choices to each guest. They can also make changes to existing menu items … changing sauces or taking out particular ingredients.”

Some industry experts, however, are less effusive about the possibilities of in-flight chef operations

According to Gottfried Menge, group director of culinary excellence at Gate Gourmet, an independent provider of airline catering services, there are a number of factors that restrict the cuisine chefs can produce whilst airborne.

“Because of the (safety) limitations on the aircraft there are no items like a frying pan where a chef is cooking and tossing things up in a different way,” says Menge.

Knives and other sharp implements are also not permitted aboard airplanes, tying chefs’ hands yet further. As a result, most food is still prepared on the ground before being reheated en-masse in a steam pressure oven whilst in the air, Menge explains.

The chef can then alter the ingredients slightly or add extra dressings to meet the individual tastes of passengers. On the whole, however, meals are prepared in much the same way as they always have been, he adds.

Menge says there are inherent challenges when it comes to preparing food at altitude.

“The cabin pressure of being at 35,000 feet in the air means you lose about 10% of your taste buds,” he says. “Therefore the food always has to be stronger or there will have to be a little bit more seasoning, which obviously alters the taste.”

But Michael Braun of Austrian Airlines – one of the first organizations to introduce a chef service aboard its flights — is adamant that on-board chefs can bring benefits.

He says that they can help deliver a superior level of customer service, strengthening the carrier’s brand image and differentiating them from competitors flying similar routes.

“We do our best to make a flight with Austrian a high-level experience, which is why we have one chef on board of every single long-haul flight,” says Braun.

“The menus are … refined á la minute by a chef who will pamper the palates of our guests on board. (This) service is highly valued by our customers,” he adds.

In spite of the many complexities of aerial cooking, Menge agrees with Braun that on-board chefs can still add value to the in-flight customer experience.

“It’s much more interactive if the chef can come out and say hello to the passengers rather than the crew just handing out menus and then food,” he says.

“I think it makes a big difference if a chef with passion is on board to explain the food to customers, for the visual appeal it will also look much nicer.

“This can really help the airline company go the extra mile in presentation and service,” he concludes.

 

Needle found in Air Canada flight

August 1st, 2012 by Mariah

(CNN)-A passenger on an Air Canada flight found a sewing needle in a catered sandwich during a flight Monday, the airline said.

Peter Fitzpatrick, a spokesman for Air Canada, said Tuesday that the airline is “working closely” with its caterer, which he didn’t name, to “ensure heightened security measures have been put in place.”

The police are investigating the incident, which occurred on a flight from Victoria, British Columbia, to Toronto.

“Safety is always our top priority so we are taking this matter very seriously,” Fitzpatrick said, adding that it appeared to be an isolated incident.

The FBI and Dutch authorities are also investigating reports of needles found in six sandwiches on Delta flights from Amsterdam to the United States two weeks ago.

Gate Gourmet, a 20-year-old company that provided prepared sandwiches to Delta, said the sandwiches originated at the firm’s facility in Amsterdam.

The company said it is one of the caterers that serve Air Canada but not the airline’s provider out of Victoria — from where the flight took off.

“We are cooperating fully with Air Canada and have complied with our customer’s request to its caterers to heighten food safety procedures, including inspection and screening of all products boarded on flights,” said Gate Gourmet spokeswoman Christina Ulosevich. “We are working closely to support our customer, including cooperating with the authorities investigating the incident.”