There is a powerful resource for increasing direct bookings at your disposal. One that’s available to every hotel, yet it’s often overlooked and underutilized.
Your front desk staff.
While you can’t always influence how customers book their initial visit to your hotel, you can definitely influence their subsequent stays – converting online travel agency (OTA) and even global distribution system (GDS) customers into direct booking customers for future business. Your guest-facing front desk team interacts with your guests every day, in ways that present numerous opportunities to drive more direct bookings and boost revenues. Let’s take a closer look at seven effective ways to make the most of your front desk staff.
Ensure They Know Their Value
Oftentimes front desk employees don’t realize the impact that different distribution channel costs have on hotel profits. Revenue managers should make it a priority to attend departmental meetings to explain costs associated with OTA commissions and third-party booking fees versus how much revenue can be captured when a guest books directly. This helps your front desk team understand the value they can bring to the entire company by helping to increase hotel direct bookings.
Teach your front desk staff techniques to convert potential customers who call in with questions. Instead of automatically forwarding those calls to central reservations or your after-hours reservation service – which may not be as proactive when it comes to converting calls from online shoppers. Even further, you can encourage your staff to automatically offer upsell opportunities and add-ons based around those phone conversations.
Boost Repeat Business
According to a study by Triptease, 75 percent of travelers between ages 18 and 64 believe OTAs offer the lowest prices for a hotel stay. Train your team to identify guests who originally booked through OTAs, and have them dispel that myth. Encourage them to inform guests about special deals you have running on your website. And increase repeat bookings by having front desk members automatically offer guests a “repeat guest discount” code upon checkout. Consider offering incentives for employees who generate the most repeat bookings, such as employee of the month status that includes preferential parking, a monetary bonus, or some other perk.
Along a similar vein, guide front desk staff to regularly promote your hotel loyalty program. Have them educate customers so that they understand if they book directly with the hotel next time, they get points or some other type of reward for every dollar they spent. Benefits they won’t receive when booking with an OTA.
Capture Guest Data at Check-in…
Ensure that your front desk members capture vital guest information that can be used to increase future direct bookings. Upon check-in, train your staff to routinely gather email addresses, customer demographics, and purpose for visiting. They can ask why a guest chose to book through a particular OTA, and make note of any special preferences a guest has.
And Upon Checkout
During checkout, your front desk team can collect valuable positive or negative feedback by asking guests for ways you could have made their stay better. All of this information gathered from check-in to checkout is a gold mine for your marketing team. They can use these insights to build targeted campaigns and promotions that drive direct bookings in the future.
Make it Personal
In addition to using guest data to make marketing magic, you can also have front desk staff use it to personalize guest experiences. Encourage front desk employees to welcome repeat guests back, greeting them by name and impressing them by anticipating any special requests based on historical stay data. This level of personal attention forges deeper connections with your guests, increasing loyalty and the likelihood of repeat direct bookings.
You have an immense opportunity to motivate more customers to book direct – and minimize revenue lost via commissions and fees – by better utilizing your invaluable front desk staff.