Dec 28, 2021 | Customer Service | Reading Time: 9 minutes
“How can I help you?”. This is the classic question every customer service agent says. There is nothing wrong with this sentence. But is it enough to turn customer service into a sales channel in the hotel industry?
Providing information is still key in customer service. But in the hotel industry, when we talk about the service provided before potential customers choose a hotel, we need to include the ability to sell the property.
The change from information provider to sales source is what sets customer service apart from the competition and generates more reservations for your hotel.
Especially when we are talking about the “before stay” stage. Overlooking this part of the journey means losing opportunities to grow your revenue.
In this article, we will cover the top 7 best practices to turn customer service into a sales channel in the hotel industry.
Hotel customer service channels
Before we jump to the tips, it’s important to know the new customer service landscape. Once just hotel marketing channels, social media, for example, has become a popular way of interaction between customers and businesses.
If you think customer service is restricted to phone calls, in-person interactions, and emails, think again. Today, there is a multitude of ways customers can connect to a hotel.
While the phone continues to ring at the front desk, online channels have become the main contact source for many hotels.
Hence, customer service is spread over multiple channels:
- Phone calls
- Social media
- Messaging Apps or SMS
- Self-service (FAQ)
The variety of channels creates a new challenge in the hotel industry. Each channel creates a set of expectations in customers, particularly regarding time-response.
In hotels suffering from a labor shortage, many times this represents a dilemma: who goes first? In this article, Hotel Multichannel Customer Service Dilemma, global hotel experts, such as Calvin Tilokee, Adele Gutman and Max Starkov, give their answers on how they would tackle this problem. It’s worth reading! [Read here]
What is sales customer service?
Customer service can be defined as “the assistance and guidance a company provides to people before, during, and after they buy a product or service.” Often, hotels focus on during stay part and neglect the before and after stay.
Keep in mind that customer service encompasses the entire buying journey.
We are calling sales customer service the service provided that goes beyond giving information. Helping customers is always a priority, but interacting with them when they are trying to decide where to stay is a golden opportunity that hotels can not miss out on.
It’s imperative that hotel staff knows what excellent customer service means. In this in-depth article, we explain the challenge, the channels, and the meaning of 5-star customer service in hotels. Service excellence is essential to driving hotel bookings.
Once you understand this concept of high-quality customer service, you can add extra value to your service, turning customer service into a sales channel.
Turning customer service into a sales channel in the hotel industry
Here are the top 7 tips to turn customer service into a sales channel in the hotel industry and increase revenue:
1. Pricing and easy payment process:
The hotel staff must be able to provide the right price according to demand and channel. The hotel must also accept the main types of payment and currency of their guests, making payment an easy step in the booking process.
Consumers have more choices than ever before in terms of how they actually pay for goods and services. By offering more payment options, including newer services that are becoming increasingly popular on mobile, you’re making it easier for prospects to give you their money.
A good strategy here is to know what are the room rates your hotel is offering in other channels, such as OTAs. It’s surprising how hotel staff are unaware of rates strategies and, for this reason, miss opportunities of sealing the deal.
Frequently, travelers contact hotels after comparing prices in different online travel agencies. The hotel staff must know this information in order to better negotiate. Some tools, like Asksuite chatbot, for instance, are also able to do the price comparison, helping travelers to make a decision.
However, it’s imperative that hotels agents understand that when comparing prices with OTAs, they should not restrict the comparison in terms of prices. They need to know the benefits that a direct booking brings.
Direct contact enables a more personalized experience, something that customers are willing to pay more for.
2. The mid-price strategy:
When you go to a restaurant, the chances are pretty good that you’ll invariably choose one of the mid-priced dishes. This is because many restaurants manipulate psychology to push people toward mid-range meals. We’ll often avoid the cheapest dishes – and the most expensive – making the middle-tier options the most appealing.
The price can’t be too low, otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to make the product at a suitable level of quality. It’s finding a middle-ground compromise between all competing factors — costs versus revenues, quality versus value, demand versus competition.
Jutta Moore, a hotel consultant and hotel sales expert, shares with us that she used this strategy when working in Sales. She also explains how commissions can boost hotel revenue. You can listen to Jutta’s amazing sales tips in this episode of Hotel Cast:
3. Room quotations:
How you answer the classic questions: “How much is the room?” and “Do you have availability?” are decisive for travelers considering your hotel for their next trip. Your customer service should answer these questions with complete answers, full of details, with pictures (when possible), and fast.
The quality of the answer to a room quotation will help you turn your customer service into a hotel sales channel.
Time is a key factor so create templates or use auto-filling to speed up the process without losing the quality of your answer. Using technology such as a chatbot will also avoid mistakes when providing information regarding prices and availability.
Chatbots should be integrated with your booking engine, so your online customer gets the correct and up-to-date data. Besides, when they are integrated, the conversion rate of the booking engines grows 2-4 %. These are direct bookings tools essential for today’s digital world.
Emails are one of the most common channels in the hotel industry. So when you send a newsletter promoting your newest package, add the package’s booking link, so that your clients will be able to book the package online directly without having to call you. Make the booking process as easiest as it can be.
Finally, another great tip when it comes to room quotations is to avoid giving more than three options to your client. A greater variety of choices can lead to indecision on the part of the prospect, which in turn results in lost sales. Be clear, objective, and didactic while speaking in a friendly tone.
4. Upsell and Cross-Sell:
Your customer service rep should know everything about your product and service as well as listen to customers to be able to make the right offer to the right person. Understanding the reason for the trip and customers’ motivation will make upselling and cross-selling that easier.
That demands staff training: the agent must have access to all important information about the product/service and customer’s profile. Staff must be aware of the possible competition and what sets the hotel apart from them.
Having a CRM can help hotel staff decide what to offer to which potential customers.
👉 Want to know better your guest? Fill out this free template with the information about your potential and existing guests. By analyzing this data, you will be able to build your Ideal Guest profile:
Training must be done periodically. As hotel consultant Adele Gutman once wrote on LinkedIn: “Cross-training your team is one of the best ways to enhance loyalty, guest satisfaction, and therefore, revenue!”
With well-trained hotel agents and important data in hands, your rate of conversion in upselling will surely raise.
You can thus offer them, for example, on-site parking, a wine bottle upon arrival in their room, breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even Wi-Fi, all of these services being for a certain fee. Match your guest to the perfect offer.
Moreover, any additional service a client can purchase on the phone should be available to them online. This will increase the average final transaction for your clients.
5. Agent and demand:
It’s important to be able to identify which agent provides the best service to each type of demand. As we explained in the article How to Provide the Best Customer Service in the Hotel Industry Before Booking, there are different types of customer service demands in different channels.
You will notice that some agents perform better than others in different settings.
Make sure you assign the best team member to assist in that particular request or channel.
This way it will be that easier to add value to your service and l provide a better service. Consequently, it will increase the chances of sealing the deal.
This is one of the reasons why it is so important to manage customer service reports so hotel managers can control and help agents perform better. There are technologies that can help you with that.
A platform integrated with an AI chatbot, as the one Asksuite provides, can do this work for you. The tags that you can add in each chat help you keep track of what kind of assistance customers are requesting, making it easier to assign the right human agent.
6. Service standards:
It’s important that the entire team know what the service standards are in your brand. Structure your policies, your dos and don’t. Create a service flow, and even scripts, if needed.
Guide your staff through the details. Many hotels say that they strive for service excellence, but they fail to define what is service excellence for them. If you don’t have mapped, it becomes too subjective with the risk of your standard becoming the exception.
👉 Every traveler expects comfort and quality of services when checking in a hotel. Get to know some tricks that can help you improve that: [How To Improve Hotel Customer Service by Teaching Your Crew Some Tricks]
7. Psychological triggers
Triggers are events or pitch techniques that create a need for buying in prospects. They help leads to make decisions faster. Triggers can be used to drive desired actions among your target market. They involve emotions and therefore can be called psychological triggers.
Learning how to use them when interacting with potential guests will help you turn customer service into a sales channel. There are many types of triggers: curiosity, sense of urgency/scarcity, sense of belonging, and more.
For example, a common trigger used in the hotel industry (especially by OTAs) is to show that there are only a few rooms left when the potential guests are asking for a room. That creates a sense of urgency, that influences the potential client to act on it and don’t risk missing the opportunity.
Offering time-limit promotional codes is also an efficient psychological trigger that has the potential of increasing your hotel’s occupancy rate.
Leveraging customer reviews is another powerful psychological trigger. It shows your potential guests that they are not the only ones interested in booking with you. It also gives them social proof, something that impacts first-time buyers in particular.
This can be done in a very natural way with Asksuite’s chatbot. Our chatbot is integrated with online reputation software, like GuestRevu. This integration allows your Asksuite chatbot to show travelers the good reviews you have directly on the chat, taking away any doubts your potential guest might have before making the decision of staying with you:
You can also (and you should) use triggers on your website. There are online booking tools, primarily created to optimize conversion rates. One example is The Book Now button. This button significantly changes from one website to another: color, size, location, text. It should stand out on your website, making it simple and easy to book with you.
Here at Asksuite, we are constantly testing the design of our chatbot, the text, and the UX experience to bring the best results to our clients. We run tests A/B that all clients can benefit from.
According to The Hotel Network, the average total website conversion is around 2% for hotels. This means there is plenty of room to grow the conversation rate and get more direct bookings.
A word of advice: many hotels use pops-ups to push conversion rates. That is nothing wrong with that when it’s done carefully.
But you need to take into account the overall experience, especially in mobile devices. Pop-ups tend to be annoying in small devices and hard to get rid of.
Moreover, people are tired of answering forms. They want to ask questions and get an answer right away. Live chats and chatbots give what customers want.
👉 At Asksuite Insights – The Reservation Experts Summit, Rodrigo Teixeira, CEO at Asksuite, spoke about the five trends that are changing direct booking and service experience in the hospitality industry. Read more: [5 Trends in Direct Bookings and Service Experience]
Not everybody is ready to book, but that doesn’t mean the game is over
People will contact your hotel in different stages of the making decision process. Some people will only want to gather information. For now. That doesn’t mean it’s game over.
If you do your homework right, everybody that contacts your customer service is a potential lead/ guest. Here is where follow-ups come to help you convert more reservations.
Collecting and analyzing data from your audience can lead to more bookings while building a solid and healthy relationship with guests and potential guests. Write down all the information you obtained during customer service, preferably in an organized way. With this data in hand, you can customize your communication onwards.
In the article Hotel Booking Follow-Ups, we describe a step-by-step guide to help you use this efficient strategy and boost revenue. Don’t give up so easily. If you use the follow-up strategy right, you will increase the chances of converting sales, while avoiding being too pushy.
We hope you use these top tips to turn your customer service into a hotel sales channel, starting now!