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Hotel Spa Reservations Training Tips.
By Doug Kennedy
Thursday, 6th February 2014

Having spent most of my career presenting sales training for hotel front desk and room reservations agents, it has been interesting these last few years to see an increasing number of upscale hotel and resort spa managers reaching out for the same type of sales and guest service excellence training. 

When you think about it, it makes complete sense as they face many of the same challenging call scenarios as hotel front desk and reservations agents.  Examples include callers who:

  • Have been online prior to calling but who need the personal reassurance that the spa is a good choice, which only a human voice can offer.
  • Are confused by the often overly-extensive menu of massage and treatment options.
  • Have read conflicting online spa guest reviews and social media postings.
  • Have specialized needs, such as physical limitations or health concerns.
  • Want to request special services and/or to make arrangements not listed  online.
Further, although some hotel and resort spas offer online booking options, as of this writing the majority require the guest to call in advance to schedule their treatment or therapy. 

So it is wise that today’s spa directors are realizing that those who answer the phones at the spa front desk need to move from being “order-takers” to consultative sales advisors.  Rather than re-stating the same list of treatments and therapies that the guest has most likely already seen online, today’s  frontline colleagues need to see their goal as being to help the caller finalize their decision and commit to making a reservation right now. 

Unfortunately, what our KTN call coaches all too often find when we first being telephone mystery shopping for new spa clients is that the front desk agents who answer the phones see their role as appointment makers and not consultative advisors.  More often than not when our mystery shoppers start off with statements such as “Hello, I’m planning to visit your spa when I’m in town with my mother next month…” or “Hi, I’m going to be staying at your resort for a girlfriends’ getaway…” we hear them respond with statements such as:
  • "Okay, what date are you visiting? What time of day are you looking for?”
  • "What treatment do you want to book?” and 
  • "Do you prefer a male or female therapist?”
  • Instead, spa directors should be training their agents to take control of the call and to initiate a personalized conversation with statements and questions such as:  “Certainly, I can assist you with those plans.  May I ask you a few questions to help me better assist you with scheduling your visit?”  This allows the agent to manage the flow of the conversation and also puts them in the role of “consultative advisor” versus “order-taker / appointment-maker.” Here are some training tips from our KTN spa reservations training programs. 
As with all hospitality industry telephone sales calls, agents should welcome guests with a genuine and authentic sounding greeting, spoken slowly and with enthusiasm. 

Next, it is important to use an Investigative Selling Process to fully understand “the story” behind the caller’s plans:
  • Spa front desk agents should listen with empathy to the caller’s opening remarks, making it interactive by re-stating the caller’s remarks such as, “Oh, a girlfriends getaway vacation, now that sounds fun!”  
  • Similarly, they should also use the information they again from listening actively to fully understand the situation or circumstance for which the caller is making plans.  There is a big difference between a caller who is bringing her mom for a mother / daughter getaway to reconnect, and the caller who is bringing her mother who has just completed a series of chemotherapy treatments or to celebrate the 5th anniversary of being cancer-free.   
  • After asking a question similar to the example from the paragraph above, agents should ask additional questions that are specific to the caller’s situation or “story” such as:
    - “Have you visited our spa before?”
    - “Do you have a particular treatment or therapy in mind, or are you looking for assistance in selecting?”
    - “So that I can recommend the best body treatments, do you have any particular physical areas of concern that you want the therapist to focus on, such as a back problems or arthritis?” 
    - “Are you interested in working out in our extensive fitness center during your visit or just relaxing?”
    - “Are you planning on enjoying our spa cuisine?” (If yes…) “Do you have any special dietary requirements?”
    - “Is there something special you’re looking for that I’ve not yet mentioned?”
Having discovered details about “the story” behind the caller’s plans, spa front desk agents need to be properly trained to use descriptions of treatments and therapies that are alluring and enticing.  Instead, when our KTN mystery shoppers call our newest clients, we tend to hear agents that simply list the facts such as “With the hot stone massage the therapist places hot stones on your back after giving you a massage” or “With the deep tissue massage, the therapist will press more deeply than with the traditional massage option.”  

Instead, spa front desk agents should use descriptions that include alluring words that evoke imagery in the caller’s mind and that appeal to emotions versus intellect.   It is easy to provide your team with a word list that includes language such as “invigorating,” “stimulating,” “relaxing,” and “revitalizing.”  Yet having the list of descriptive words alone will not provide the skills needed for personalized conversational selling. 

Similarly, if all the spa director does is provide written descriptions to read that were put together by the Public Relations or Marketing team, the spa front desk agents will sound like scripted robots who spew out the same information to all callers. 

Instead, spa managers should first have the team brainstorm their own list of alluring and enticing words, and then to each put those words together into sample phrases they would feel comfortable using to describe the various treatments or therapies to real-world callers.  They should then role-play using these descriptions for various types of call “stories” during the training. 

Finally, when our mystery shoppers call the spa front desk staff of new clients who have not yet been trained, we rarely hear them encouraging callers to commit to making a spa reservation right now.  Instead we usually hear them say “Okay, well thanks for calling,” or perhaps “If you do want to reserve an appointment, give us a call back.  We are here from 9am until 7pm.”   Instead, spa front desk agents should offer to secure the appointment right now with statements and questions that create urgency such as:
  • "May I secure that appointment now for you while it is still open?”
  • "Our weekend schedule tends to fill-up in advance; would you like me to lock-in that appointment now while you check with your (family or friend who is also visiting) companions?”
This will ensure that the caller gets the treatment they want, during the time frame when they wanted it, and with the gender of therapist that they preferred.  If spa front desk agents don’t secure the appointment during the first call, the guest may call back later to find that the only open times are earlier or later than their original preference.  Or worse yet, they might wait until they are in-house only to find that the spa schedule is entirely booked, thus resulting in a complaint to the hotel manager or a negative online Facebook comment.

By training your spa front desk reservations team on techniques for consultative selling such as these, you will not only generate more spa revenue, but you will also provide more fulfilling guest experience that will result in positive guest reviews and social media postings.

Doug Kennedy is President of the Kennedy Training Network, Inc. a leading provider of customized training programs and telephone mystery shopping services for the lodging and hospitality industry. Doug continues to be a fixture on the industry’s conference circuit for hotel companies, brands and associations, as he been for over two decades.

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