Front Desk Upselling Opportunities Go Beyond Room Attributes, Views and Locations

As RevPAR growth slows to a crawl in most markets, hoteliers are struggling to find ways to improve revenues. It’s a great time to implement a comprehensive front desk upselling training program that goes beyond room attributes, views, and locations.

Obviously, hotels offering a diversity of accommodation types (room, suite, executive floors), along with those offering premium views, have the most potential upside with an upsell program. Yet hotels consisting of a homogeneous inventory, such as limited service and all-suites, can create unique room attributes that justify a rate differential. Examples: upgraded sleep comfort (dream mattresses, high thread count sheets), snack and beverage equipment (mini-fridge filled with sodas, snacks, flavored waters, premium coffee), or bathroom/beauty amenities such as high-end shampoos, and glamour style dressing rooms (full-length mirrors, curling irons, hair straighteners.)

However, beyond these room attributes and accommodation types there are other opportunities to upsell at registration that apply to all hotels on a “space available” / off-peak basis:

– Early check-in fee. (Example: Check-in at Noon for $X.)

– Fee for late check-out. (Example: Check-out at 5pm for $Y.)

– Add a second room (connecting or adjoining) at registration to an existing reservation for an additional fee. (Example, 50% off for second room that was pre-reserved in advance.)

So step one in implementing an upsell program is to identify the upsell opportunities that best fit your inventory and operations.

Next, hoteliers need to identify a rate structure that makes upgrades a reasonable value. Most properties market a range of rates to various market segments. However, groups, high-volume BT accounts, or guests participating in special discount programs are typically only offered the special rate for the least expensive room type. Upgraded accommodations, if offered at all, are at top-tier rates. The end result is that the additional cost to upgrade does not justify the value received.

For example, if the top-tier rate are $200 for a regular room and $250 for deluxe, a $50 difference seems reasonable. However, when a special corporate rate of $165 is offered for the regular room only, the upgrade fee, which is now $85, is effectively out of reach.

To work around this, implement a “flat rate” for upgrading to the next highest category. In this scenario, the guest always has the option of upgrading for the same fee, regardless of what rate they qualify for. So whether it’s a corporate, group, government, or promotional rate, the investment for the upgrade seems more reasonable. Best of all, additional revenue is created from rooms that might have been given away at lower rates anyway if the hotel instead over-sells the lowest room types.

After identifying the upsell opportunities that match your inventory and operational constraints, it’s time to conduct training to expose the front desk team to the various techniques and tactics.

Here is an overview of the components from KTN’s on-site upselling training workshops.

– Be sure to reconfirm the pre-reserved accommodation, reassuring the guest that they already have a nice room. Otherwise, the attempt to upsell might diminish the value of what they already bought. Example: Instead of saying “Right now we have you in our standard room, do you want something nicer?” train the team to say “Mr. Johnson, we have you confirmed in one of our traditional rooms, which I’m sure you will find quite comfortable…” then continue on to ask if they are aware of or interested in upgrades such as below.

Another example is: “Our check-in time isn’t until 4pm and it’s only 10am, so check back later.” Instead say “Ms. Perez, I know it’s early, and our official check-in time is 4pm. We’ll do our best to get you access to the traditional room category as soon as possible. However, we did have a deluxe room that was vacant last night and therefore is open now for an additional rate of $35.”

– Utilize incremental sales techniques. When a guest has an advance reservation in their minds the original room rate has already been paid. This is even more true for those who booked online at most OTA websites where they actually have pre-paid. Therefore, reference only the additional investment. “For only $25 more, I can offer you one of our _____ rooms.”

– Demonstrate the value received. Be as specific as possible. Rather than saying “Deluxe rooms have a view,” say “In this room you can look out your window and see…” Rather than saying “The executive floor has a lounge,” say “As a guest on this floor you’ll have 24-hour access to our executive lounge, which includes…” Rather than saying “This is a 600 square foot suite with a fully equipped kitchen,” say “Since you’re traveling with your family, you’ll love having all the extra space this suite provides.”

– Use a “rate framing” technique: Mention higher rates as a reference point to position lower rates as being a good value.
“These rooms usually run _____, but because of (special circumstance) I can offer you a special rate of _____.”

– Use Visual Aids. Many hotels are finding it helpful to display digital picture frames or tablets flashing photos of actual rooms and suites. You can also drop-in a slide with copy reading “Ask us about our upgraded room options.”

Measuring and Incentivizing The Results

A key ingredient in any upsell program is to measure the results and to implement a recognition and/or incentive program. Front desk upsell incentives are especially easy to justify, as the incremental upsell revenue can be measured by the “rate change” reports from PMS systems. Reward the individual associate for each upsell, with either a percentage of the upsell revenue or a predetermined cash amount. Cash incentives should be paid separately to help differentiate rewards from base salary.

If you cannot get approval for a cash incentive, use a system where points are earned and can later be used for rewards such as gift cards, free stays at sister properties, or days off with pay.

By focusing your front desk team’s attention on upselling your property can turn on the faucet to this extra revenue stream. Along the way, your guests will enjoy utilizing the extra space, upgraded room features, and special services they might not have otherwise considered.