In his presentation at the BookDirect MeetUp 2019, Mr Ákos Gyenes, trainer, consultant and RESnWEB’s hospitality director collected and shared the newest best practices of direct booking according to various direct sales channels: walk-in guests, phone, email, request for proposals, website, returning OTA bookers. Let’s see some excellent advice and helpful tips for every area.
The Walk-in: Super Last-minute Super Smart Guests
It used to be easy and smooth to sell rooms for rack rate to travellers who arrived without reservation. But nowadays these customers also check our prices on different websites before entering our hotel. So it is worth training our receptionists what rates to offer to guests who request accommodation on the spot without prior booking and how to handle those who want to negotiate a better deal. Also highly recommended to clarify if our colleagues are entitled to give any discount or offer free services and how they should communicate the special prices.
Phone Inquiries: Up-to-date Information Immediately Please
As the owner or director of a provincial hotel you may still experience a considerable amount of phone inquiries for hotel reservations, so it is worthwhile to refocus your front desk’s attention on converting more into bookings. Just consider how much additional monthly profit can be generated only with 1 extra booking per day and how heavy loss can be made by not answering or not answering properly potential direct bookers’ phone calls, which usually frustrates the caller and may mean they eventually run out of patience and reserve on OTA sites instead.
Are you familiar with the following golden rules?
- 3 rings: There might be a future guest on the other end of the line so it is important to receive the call and answer their questions within 3 rings.
- These days it has become a tendency that receptionists take individual guests’ inquiries, phone calls, however it means that they have to deal with the incoming call and the guest standing in front of them at the desk at the same time. Obviously, it is not simple, so in most cases the calls are not answered. It is therefore crucial to equip our colleagues with the appropriate phrases that can be used to resolve such challenging communication situations to satisfy each person’s needs (as much as possible). If we receive more than 20 phone inquiries daily, wouldn’t it be better to delegate this task to a dedicated phone agent, whose only job is to handle the calls not behind the busy receptionist desk but in more ideal and calmer working conditions?
- Answering machine: we are in the 21st century so please harness the power of technology. It’s still better if an answering machine turns on after 4-5 rings than an endlessly ringing phone. Make sure to call back the guest who has left a message within 30 minutes otherwise they may search for and get answers elsewhere – book on one of OTA pages or at another hotel.
- Real sales & marketing instead of Q&A: most receptionists and reservation colleagues are able to check room availability, rates and answer guest questions relatively quickly; however it is not necessarily true sales and marketing. Proper and ingenious questioning techniques and communicating value besides or even before the price help and improve final conversion rate a lot.
- Not mentioning customer retention techniques for example the mildest sentences like “May I have your email address? I will send you our proposal to make your decision easier.” may have tremendous effect on our profits.
Email and Request for Proposal: Don’t Miss the Boat…
People who request for proposals don’t like waiting, the later they receive your response the more certain they will accept another offer. A modern and effective proposal sending system provides quick and personalised proposals 7/24, is easy to handle, sends eye-catching, direct booking inspiring emails, shows real-time availability and prices, is able to sell extra services and has automated follow-up and statistics.
Online Booker on the Hotel’s Website: Simply the Best even with Promotional Code
If we look at our website not only as a necessary information platform but as our most important online sales tool, then we are on the right track. However, a beautiful website with professional, high-quality photos, online booking system, online payment gateways and excellent SEO is not enough:
- Clarify the benefits (best rates, promotions, incentives, gifts) and encourage direct booking with vivid images, straightforward messages. These can be displayed in pop-up windows, in the description of the packages, and of the free add-on services for direct bookers.
- Targeted special offers with promotional codes for corporate or senior guests without any disadvantage to our public prices or unauthorized use.
- Secret offers for returning website visitors or registered users – everybody loves exclusive rates.
Clever Coupon Campaign – Reap the Direct Benefits
We all know the “need” periods when we would do anything to attract guests… Coupon campaigns can be a great solution for these days, just keep in mind the followings:
- Don’t run campaigns constantly.
- Direct coupons may only be available for purchase for a short time (e.g. 1 week) so it is really a “Just here and now” offer and that short time may be scheduled around payday.
- To protect public rates, think ahead and have at least 2 months between purchase and redemption.
- May only be redeemed for limited room types, keep rooms for guests typically booking public rates and/or via high priced sales channels.
- Higher public rates (or close completely on online platforms) during coupon redemption period.
- Our direct coupon campaign should be before and cheaper than our OTA coupon campaigns.
If we have an email address database of guests previously booked with coupons then we may send them our campaign and can have Facebook campaigns and Google ads targeted at coupon site followers to increase the number of bookings.
Create a landing page with a promotional code especially for them to ensure immediate reservations for fix dates or promotional coded vouchers for later use. In both case, it is wise to require 100% prepayment ,no cancellation and provide online payment.
OTA Bookers: Million Dollar Questions
One of the most important issues for book direct warriors is to find out and understand why guests reserve via OTAs and what should be done to convert the possible future OTA bookings to direct. However, we can only guess as typically we do not have enough information on these customer decisions. Therefore it is recommended to survey OTA bookers with a simple and short questionnaire why they used and chose OTA pages for booking, whether they visited our website before reservation, are they aware how easy and fast to book direct with the best rates and other benefits guaranteed for the directs bookers. With such questions we may learn what to change in our marketing and sales strategy to open more and more guests’ eyes to the advantages of being direct.
Educate your Guests Offline as Well
Not only is our website, our hotel is also a brilliant place to inform our in-house guests about the benefits of the OTA-free reservations: roll-up banners in the lobby, posters in the elevator, book direct messages on the other side of the bill and other simple but clever tricks to achieve our direct sales goals.
The thought starters above may even bring about immediate change but if you want to deepen your knowledge visit our website and don’t miss the next BookDirect MeetUp.