Why you should skip the swan towels and focus on the upsell

If you had to name one thing that could turn your holiday into the trip of a lifetime, what would it be? While I can’t speak for everyone, I feel I can say with some confidence that the answer is unlikely to be bath towels shaped like swans.

Yet during my recent honeymoon, that was the way four hotels chose to acknowledge my newlywed status. The pattern caught my attention, not because I didn’t appreciate the effort involved in their bath linen artistry, but because all four hotels, who were aware of the purpose of my visit in advance, opted for that gesture and completely overlooked a golden opportunity to upsell.

It seemed such a waste; we were putty in their hands, arriving at each hotel with credit cards pretty much in hand and ready to splash some cash on a more spectacular room, fancier food options or unforgettable excursions. Instead it fell to us to seek out those extras and calculate the costs.

Of course we were just one of their many bookings, but missing such a slam dunk of chance to make more money out of a customer really matters. Why? Because if it becomes a habit, those hotels will also be missing out on a potentially significant boost to their profitability.

So what’s the secret to identifying and converting upsell opportunities? Here are four of the best tips from the hospitality world.

Train your staff

Make sure your staff are fully clued up on your various rates and rooms and all the ancillary services your hotel provides. It’s a first step to identifying which customers are likely to be in the market for which add-ons and a more tailored and, hopefully, successful, sales pitch.

Doug Kennedy, President of the Kennedy Training Network, a leading provider of hotel sales, guest service, reservations, and front desk training programmes, even recommends taking every front desk agent on a tour of your rooms and property to help them visualise potential “guest stories” and give them a clear idea of the offers that will appeal to each type of customer.

Dig into your data

Data can be a quick way of achieving the above. Comb through your database and create guest profiles that will help your staff categorise incoming customers and the perks they might be interested in.

Every client base will be different, but sales analytics provider InsightSquared says certain customers are always going to be more open to being upsold than others. It might sound obvious, but happy customers are a good place to start. Repeat visitors, loyalty programme members or those showing high levels of engagement with you brand should be among the top priorities.

Reassure and frame your offers

If you think a guest might consider a more expensive room for example, you should certainly present the pricier alternative, but don’t knock their original choice. Reassure them that they will be happy with their current booking, but explain why they may find better value through a different option.

Framing the offer correctly is also crucial. Clearly present what the room costs versus their current reservation and what exactly it is they are getting for the additional expense.

Incentivise staff… but be careful

Kennedy says incentivising staff to upsell can be as important as the training you give them to do it. But how you measure and reward success has to be carefully thought out. Possible approaches include allocating front desk staff a flat reward per upgrade or a percentage of the additional revenue, though beware that the latter could risk agents focusing solely on larger value clients.

Giving guests a more memorable stay is the gateway to a building a loyal customer base and securing all-important positive reviews. I hate to keep going on about it, but I'm willing to wager that providing a room with an Instagram-worthy view or a one-of-a-kind dining experience is likely to be a better way of making your mark than specially sculpted towels. So strategise with your staff, get your tactics right and keep a close eye on the results.

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About The Author

Clare is Content Manager at Triptease. She'll be updating you on industry news and relaying our exclusive research and special reports. She'd love to know what you want to read so please get in touch!