Up-selling at the Front Desk.
By Leora H Lanz and Lacey Hagen
Thursday, 5th August 2010
With the increasingly dominant role of technology, methods for making travel plans have changed dramatically over the past decade.

(with contributions from Eydie Shapiro and Barbara Fischhof)

With the increasingly dominant role of technology, methods for making travel plans have changed dramatically over the past decade. It is now possible to book a flight, rent a car and reserve a hotel room -- all while sitting in a movie theater or even in a car wash.

This means that the first person-to-person interaction guests may experience with a hotel, is probably with the front desk agent. While it is common practice for hotels to sell and oversell the Best Available Rate (BAR) online to book more reservations, up-selling is more likely in the hands of the front desk agent today, rather than the reservations agent as in years gone by.

Now, with the front desk positioned to assist in creating more revenue, the following are suggestions on how to motivate your staff to up-sell:

1. Create opportunities for the front desk to sell upgrades. This can create more revenue for the property and more avenues for guest satisfaction. Upgrades include rooms with views, different bed types, square footage, added meeting space, and access to VIP Lounge areas.

2. Achieve higher ADR. A property can potentially profit more from a lower occupancy with a higher Average Daily Rate (ADR) because of the reduced amount in labor and hotel resources used.

For example, if a property has an occupancy of 85%, only 85% of the rooms have to be cleaned, only 85% will use electricity and water, and only 85% will need assistance from front of the house.

If a large amount of upgrades were sold to that 85%, it could potentially generate the equivalent rooms revenue as a sold-out property at BAR.

3. Consider a commission program for front desk staff. The front desk staff can have a major impact on the revenue that a property generates so it is important to motivate them to work toward raising the ADR. It is not uncommon for a front desk agent to think "Sure, I'm making money for the hotel, but what's in it for me?" A commission program is becoming more common practice among hotels to create incentive for the front desk. For example, a 5% commission paid to the desk agent for every upgrade sold can give the front desk something to show for their hard work and motivate them to upsell. A 5% commission would be equivalent to $1 for every $20 upgrade sold. This will give agents a bonus without putting a large dent in your upgrade revenue.

4. Train front desk staff to negotiate. Giving desk agents the freedom to negotiate, within reason of course, could be the difference in selling the upgrade or not. It may be necessary to look at availability and hold a short daily meeting with agents to provide guidelines, but maintain flexibility for agents to negotiate upon arrival.

Train your front desk staff to:
  • Know the property.
  • Know the selling points and highlights of each room type and what type of travel/number of travelers the room type is best suited for. For example, if a family of four comes to the front desk and they have booked a room with one king bed and pull-out couch, that would be the time to suggest they upgrade to a room with two queen beds and pull-out couch for an additional $30 per night because they would be more comfortable.
  • Know availability. Before each shift, check availability and see if there are any room types that are oversold and would be given complimentary upgrades in order to balance room inventory. Also, check to see if some of the more exclusive room types are sold out as to not oversell a room type that cannot be fixed. Make sure that if a guest wants to upgrade for their entire stay, that the room type is available before upgrading them.
  • Ask every arrival. View every arrival as an opportunity to create more revenue for the hotel and for yourself. Some guests may not understand all of the room types so it is beneficial to inform them of the different options. For example, if a guest arrives and they are not booked in an ocean view room but you do have one available, you could inform them that you have rooms with preferred views available.
  • Negotiate, don't haggle or annoy. If a guest does not wish to purchase an upgrade, do not push the issue. Remember, guest satisfaction comes first. If a guest does consider an upgrade, remain professional during negotiations.
The basics of up-selling have not changed. What has changed is the increased opportunity for front desk personnel to affect your bottom line through greater understanding of your room inventory, motivation and the use of more sophisticated property management systems. Up-selling has the potential to generate more revenue with each reservation, and surely deserves attention by management and frontline staff.

HVS Sales & Marketing Services' Barbara Fischhof and Eydie Shapiro also contributed to this article. For additional information on training your staff to up-sell, contact HVS Sales & Marketing Services. Leora Lanz , llanz@hvs.com or at 516-248-8828 x 278.

About Leora Lanz
HVS is pleased to announce that in 2010 Leora Halpern Lanz was named Sales & Marketing Executive of the Year - Tourism, by the Greater New York chapter of the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI). Leora Halpern Lanz joined HVS in February 1999. She is responsible for coordinating the global marketing and external promotion of HVS' worldwide office network and comprehensive hospitality services. Additionally, she coordinates the internal communications for the firm as well as contributes to the production of the firm's weekly e-newsletter, website and intranet. Her efforts have earned her Awards from the prestigious Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) as well as awards from within HVS itself. Leora also serves as Director of HVS Sales & Marketing Services -- providing sales, marketing, revenue management and public relations expertise for the hospitality industry. Specialties include: operational reviews; marketing plan development; sales and marketing assessments; reviews of hotel marketing strategies, sales organizations and operations; public relations; sales and marketing coordination with the property's flag; sales action planning; pre-opening marketing; sales direction and training; publicity; and promotions including web marketing and social media.

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