Best Practices for Hotel Telephone Mystery Shopping

If your hotel or call center is like most in the industry, chances are that you experienced a notable resurgence in phone inquiries for hotel reservations. Part of this might be attributed to the increase in demand, but there are other factors at play. One factor is that many of those who search for availability in a mobile device or smartphone “click to call” instead of booking with their thumbs. Another factor is what I call “Value-driven Deal Seekers” call to try to negotiate a better deal. As a result, it is a great time to refocus your reservations or front desk staff’s attention on converting more inquiries into bookings, which is also a great way to save on expensive third party distribution costs.

Below are some best practices that KTN recommends to our own telephone mystery shopping clients.

Provide advance notice. Letting your team know in advance that mystery shopping is going to happen makes them much more open to later receiving the feedback, rather than playing “gottcha” and springing the news upon them later. It also gets them thinking that every caller might be the mystery shopper, which is a good thing.
Keep your mystery shopping company updated on your work schedules. At KTN we are able to target specific agents a designated number of times per month, and avoiding duplicate shop reports, when clients provide work schedules.
Review the audio recordings. Be sure that agents have a chance to listen to the recordings of their calls so that they can become aware of how they sound on the phone. Factors such as tone, inflection, pace and pauses become evident when the recordings are played.
Use the results for positive reinforcement. Some managers only review low scoring call reports and use them for verbal or written warnings. Be sure to reward those who do well.
Yet do not make shop score results your only incentive. Rather than having the only incentive be scoring good on reports, make your primary incentive focus on total revenue sold and/or average revenue per booking. Make the results of mystery shopping reports a secondary incentive; or require agents to maintain a certain average (say 85% or higher) in order to get all of their other incentive rewards. Reduce their incentive pay-outs accordingly when their scores drop below the minimum.
Focus on what could have been done better. Rather than saying what someone didn’t do, be sure to talk about what they could have done more effectively.
When the reports come in too many managers just print out the score sheet or just email it to the agent to review on their own. Instead:

Meet with the agent in a private location such as an office or meeting room.
Hand them a blank checklist.
Play the audio recording and have the agent score their own performance.
Review the scored report, talking through any discrepancies in order to calibrate results.
Role play the call scenario with the agent until they are able to demonstrate everything it takes to get 100% next time.
By using your mystery shopping reports correctly, you will help keep your front desk and reservations agents focused on capturing every call instead of letting guests hang up and go back online to book your hotel through a costly OTA, or worse yet booking someone else from the list at the OTA.

As Published Previously at HSMAI.ORG

By Doug Kennedy
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