Are front desk GSRs more skilled at booking rooms over the phone than hotel call centers? Should hotels utilize front desk GSRs more frequently instead of sending reservation calls to call centers? How many reservations are lost because of poor sales skills in the hotel industry?
These are just a few of the questions a report from ContactPoint LLC and Dr. Robert Woods, Ph.D., of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas’ William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration, sought to answer. Contact Point, a sales training organization, and Dr. Woods bill the report as the first large-scale study of the hotel industry’s ability to effectively reserve rooms over the phone. The study encompasses a nationwide analysis of several thousand phone calls to hundreds of hospitality locations. It is based on the results of a set of nearly 1,700 mystery shopping calls placed at nearly 300 properties throughout the U.S. in September and October 2011.
The findings clearly show that hotel call centers are significantly worse at techniques that make reservations more likely than front desk GSRs. According to the results, this was true across brands, classifications, and locations. In nearly every measurable way, call centers were simply not as good as front desk GSRs, according to the study.
According to the executive report of the study, “Call centers were simply poor at the basic skills that make booking rooms statistically more likely.”
The findings show that hotel group sales and corporate sales staffs are lacking in statistically important areas of sales performance—areas that increase the likelihood of booking blocks of rooms.
In the study, front desk GSRs are 35.5 percent more skilled at critical room booking competencies than hotel call centers. In addition, potential guests are 4.4 times more likely to book a room when a hotel employee directly asks for the reservation. According to the study, this means using a phrase such as, “May I book a room for you today?” or “So, should I go ahead and reserve that room for you?”
According to the results, front desk GSRs directly ask for a room reservation 52 percent of the time, while call centers only asked 42 percent of the time. In addition, front desk GSRs attempted to resolve and overcome objections by bookers 400 percent more frequently than call centers. According to the study, call centers do not attempt to overcome objections 98 percent of the time. “Call centers, almost always, give up far too quickly. They give prices, they provide details on the property, but if the caller doesn’t immediately agree to book a room the call center stops trying,” an announcement of the study’s results says.
So what types of properties were best at making bookings more likely? Using the STR chain classifications, the findings uncovered some unexpected things. Casino/resorts scored consistently better at every measurable category than other classifications or groups. Luxury/upper-upscale and upscale properties scored worse than all-suite hotels, extended-stay properties, and casino/resorts. “This is unexpected, given the focus many luxury properties place on communicating with guests at a high level,” the report says.
The lowest scoring properties were economy properties and convention center properties.