Dec 28, 2021 | Customer Service | Reading Time: 11 minutes
Turning customer service into a sales channel in the hotel industry might be challenging, but not impossible. Many hotel agents start their interactions with customers by asking: “How can I help you?”. And there is nothing wrong with this sentence.
But is it enough to turn customer service into sales and revenue?
Providing information is still key in customer service. Yet 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 “pre-stay” stage. Overlooking this part of the journey means losing opportunities to grow your revenue.
In this article, we’ll cover the top 7 best practices to turn customer service into a sales channel in the hotel industry.
Hotel customer service channels
Before we get to the tips, it’s important to understand 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’s a multitude of ways customers can connect with a hotel.
While the phone continues to ring at the front desk, online channels have become the main contact source for many accommodations.
Hence, customer service is spread over multiple channels:
- Phone calls
- Social media
- Messaging Apps or SMS
- Self-service (FAQ)
The variety of channels poses a new challenge in the hotel industry. Each channel creates a set of expectations in customers, particularly regarding response time.
In hotels suffering from a labor shortage, many times this represents a dilemma: Who should take priority in service? 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’re calling sales customer service the service that goes beyond giving information. Helping customers is always a priority, but interacting with them when they’re trying to decide where to stay is a golden opportunity that hotels should not miss.
It’s imperative that hotel staff knows what excellent customer service means. This in-depth article explains the challenges, 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.
👉In this episode of Hotel Cast, we chat with Craig Carbonniere, Hospitality Leader, about how to improve the revenue of your hotel through the guest experience. Listen here:
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 payment options 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 phones, you’re making it easier for prospects to give you their money.
A good strategy here is to know what room rates your hotel is offering on other channels, such as OTAs. It’s surprising how often hotel staff are unaware of rate 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 the Asksuite chatbot, for instance, are also able to do the price comparison with Booking.com, helping travelers to make the best decision.
The bot is able to tell a potential guest how much cheaper it is to book directly with the hotel, giving travelers that extra push they need to turn a consultation into a reservation.
Our data shows that when travelers see the price comparision, the conversation rate for direct bookings increases anywhere from 10 to 50%.
However, it’s essential that hotels agents understand that when comparing prices with OTAs, they shouldn’t restrict the comparison to prices. They need to know all the benefits that direct bookings have to offer.
Direct contact enables a more personalized experience, something that customers are willing to pay more for.
Train your staff so they don’t simply answer how much a room costs, but rather explain how the experience could be by staying at your property. The things that make your hotel special must be mapped so that when travelers start to compare your hotel with the competition, your team knows how to get around any possible objections.
2. The mid-price strategy:
When you go to a restaurant, 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 tend to avoid the cheapest dishes and the most expensive —making the middle-tier options the most appealing.
The price can’t be too low; otherwise, it is assumed that the product is of inferior quality. It’s all about finding a middle-ground between all competing factors — costs versus revenues, quality versus price, 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?” is decisive for travelers considering your hotel for their next trip. Your customer service should answer these questions with complete and detailed information, along with pictures (when possible).
The quality of the response to a room quotation will help you turn your customer service into a hotel sales channel.
Response 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 ensure that you avoid making 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. Additionally, when they are integrated, the conversion rate of the booking engines grows by 2-4 %. These are essential direct booking tools for today’s digital world.
When the booking engine displays “no availability”, a waiting list or the ability to recommend another date or even another hotel unit can potentialize your customer service rate conversion.
Often, agents assume that travelers are only interested in one specific date. But, many times they are flexible. All you need to do is offer an alternative.
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 for the prospect, which in turn results in lost sales. Be clear, direct, and didactic while maintaining a friendly language.
🎓Expert tip – packages
Don’t overlook the power of offering packages. They are very appealing to travelers. People like to see packages – they feel they’re getting a deal, so they usually check it out before even checking for prices.
Some popular package options are:
If you use a live chat or chatbot on your website, be sure to add a package button.
One of our clients has reported that 60% of his direct bookings come from the package links that he added to his hotel’s Instagram profile. He told us that it’s always good to show travelers more than one option to increase revenue.
Your booking engine might be working against you
After talking to a potential guest, many reservation teams like to provide a link to the booking engine. After all, we’ve already seen how important it is to make the booking process easy.
However, you might have the right price, the right product, the right offer, and what seems to be the right technology. Yet, if your technology doesn’t take into account the UX experience, you won’t convert reservations.
Without an appropriate mobile experience and data security, no one will book online with you.
4. Upsell and Cross-Sell:
Your customer service rep should know everything about your products and services, as well as be able to attentively listen to customers so they can make the right offer to the right person. Understanding the reason for the trip and customers’ motivations for traveling will make upselling and cross-selling that much easier.
That demands staff training: The agent must have access to all important information about the product/service and the customer’s profile. Staff must be aware of the possible competition and what sets their hotel apart from the others.
Having a CRM, for example, can guide hotel staff to decide what to offer to which potential customers.
Knowing well your guests will definitely help you in the quest of turning customer service into a sales channel in the hotel industry.
👉 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.
Furthermore, training must be done periodically.
With well-trained hotel agents and important data in hand, your upselling conversion rate will surely rise.
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!”
For instance, you can offer your guests on-site parking, a bottle of wine upon arrival in their room, a special meal, or even a spa treatment at a certain price. Match your guest to the perfect offer.
One final tip, any additional service a client can purchase on the phone should be available to them online. This will increase the average final transaction for each client.
👉 Did you know that Asksuite is integrated with more than 150 tech solutions, from CRMsand direct booking channels to upselling systems and RMS? Check out our integrations and make sure you provide a seamless customer experience:
5. Agent and demand:
It’s important to be able to identify which agent provides the best service for 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 for different channels.
You’ll notice that some agents perform better than others in different settings.
Make sure you assign the best team member to assist with that particular request or channel.
This way, it will be easier to provide the best quality assistance and add value to your service. Consequently, it’ll 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, like the one Asksuite provides, can do this for you. The tags that you can add in each chat help you track 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 knows what the service standards are in your brand. Structure your policies, your dos and don’ts. 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 into a hotel. Get to know some tricks that can help you improve this: [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 and 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 are also an efficient psychological trigger that has the potential of increasing your hotel’s occupancy rate.
Turning customer service into a sales channel in the hotel industry can be as simple as using the right trigger at the right place and time.
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 bot 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, and 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 A/B tests 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 on mobile devices. Pop-ups tend to be annoying in small devices and hard to get rid of.
Moreover, people are tired of filling out forms. They want to ask questions and get an answer right away. We are seeing the shift from Search to Ask in customer behavior.
This asking experience is the most effective way to personalize digital commerce and customer service. Live chats and chatbots give customers what they want.
👉 Did you know that a 0.1-second improvement to mobile site speed can grow conversion rates and the average order value? In this free ebook, you’ll learn the best online practices to increase your bookings through your website: [How to turn your website into a booking machine]
Not everybody is ready to book, but that doesn’t mean the game is over
People will contact your hotel at different stages of the decision-making 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.
Turning customer service into a sales channel in the hotel industry can be easier than you think. We hope you use these top right now and see your sales conversations skyrock!