One of the biggest factors contributing to a successful Front Office Upgrade Program is turnover. Manage it well and as new Agents come and go over time, you can build in continuity and performance. The stability and success of your Upgrade Program hinges onÊnew agents getting the training and support they need at the most critical times.Ê
As such, we’ve identified three of the biggest challenges your program will face as new Agents join your team and how to best address these issues. In short, they are 1) product knowledge, 2) system confidence, and 3) service excellence.
A new Agent understandably lacks a familiar knowledge of your property’s different room categories and the subtle Ð or not so subtle Ð differences within categories. What exactly does partial-ocean mean? While room tours are a very standard part of onboarding, what varies is a hotel or brand’s focus on this aspect of onboarding.
It matters because it is rather difficult and intimidating early on to try to Upgrade a guest at check-in when you have a limited product knowledge. We want Agents to offer guests something that will truly enhance their stay. Guests are savvy and can sense when someone is offering them an Upgrade for the wrong reasons.
For example, there is a big difference between offering a romance couple an Upgrade simply because Òit’s a bigger roomÓ versus honing in on the romantic experience the guests are seeking by saying, ÒI think you would both really enjoy the beautiful view on the balcony that overlooks the ocean- the sunsets are incredible.Ó
Recommendations for Success
- Begin educating your new team members by hosting daily, weekly and/or monthly meetings in your most valuable upgradeable rooms, especially suites. If holding frequent team meetings isn’t feasible, then send your Agents up during a slower time of the day to individually explore and get acquainted with your rooms.
- Ask your Agents to write down two or three details they noticed and why they liked that room. Have them share their impressions and discuss together at the end of your meeting. This will allow the Agents to quickly get familiar what they should offer and why.
- Make sure to discuss their feedback with them when they return. Once they feel confident with the product, Upgrading becomes significantly easier.
Even though a new Agent may have the right level of product knowledge, he/she may struggle with figuring out what Upgradeable rooms are actually available at any given moment in the day. This is particularly true when there is a line of impatient people waiting to check in. Given the pressure to minimize wait times, getting through each arrival without any mistakes can seem like a win to new Agents.
Unfortunately, with the pressure to check in each arriving guest within 3-5 minutes and get through the line, a new Agent that is not ÒfluentÓ with your property management system (PMS) is likely to skip the upgrade step. This is because he/she may not be able to find the open rooms quickly. It may also be because if the guest says ÒyesÓ to the upgrade offer, additional and time sensitive steps to block/unblock or re-key the room are needed.
Recommendations for Success
- Start by creating a system cheat sheet complete with how to block/unblock rooms, re-key and an index of important codes for your new Agents.
- Create an ÒOperation of the DayÓ and go over special codes and functions during your pre-shift meetings or in your daily newsletters. Daily reinforcement over time is going to create a lot of good habits.
Once new Agents have sufficient product and system knowledge, they still need to know how to offer nice choices tailored to the guest’s needs without coming across as pushy and salesy. They also need to know how to respond to a known group of questions that guests have about the Upgrade offer. For example, it is very common for guests to ask for a free upgrade when checking in. The non-verbal messages and precise language that an agent uses to respond to these common questions can add to ADR and REVPAR when handled well.
Without proper training and practice, without appropriate language to use, without clear empowerment guidelines for dynamic pricing, new Agents may prefer not to offer Upgrades at check-in because they are unsure or worse, scared. Ensuring your new Agents are comfortable with how to ask for an Upgrade and respond to guests during the process is the best way to enhance the quality of their focus on service excellence.
Recommendations for Success
- Make a point to discuss the specific questions the Agents have been asked when they attempted to Upgrade guests, as well as recommended responses. This way you can feel comfortable with how they are responding, and they can feel confident knowing they have approved verbiage to answer those frequently asked questions.
- Reinforce confidence in new Agents by including Ò60 seconds on UpgradingÓ each day during your pre-shift meetings where you practice a ÒLine of the DayÓ with your team.
It is never easy to walk into a new job, and a Front Desk Agent role can be both exciting and intimidating. Keep in mind that along with everything else that is required of new Agents, from a revenue perspective, Upgrading is one thing they need to learn and master. If you can keep these 3 challenges in mind and implement the suggestions that work best for your property or brand, your Front Office Upgrade Program will be positioned to optimize the impact of turnover.
About the Authors
Dana Beil is Vice President of Training and Development at Drake Beil & Associates, an international consulting firm based in Hawaii since 1980 focused on the worldwide hospitality industry. Dana specializes in creating incremental Upgrade revenue for hotels and resorts at the moment of arrival. She currently manages a portfolio of over 60 properties throughout the US, Canada, and the Caribbean. Email [email protected] for a complimentary Upgrade revenue assessment for your property or portfolio
Ksenia Khalturina is anÊinternational hospitality consultant with Drake Beil & Associates. She coordinates Upgrade Programs in over 30Êproperties throughout Canada, Mexico, and the East Coast and is responsible for training, development, and program management.ÊBased in Honolulu, Hawaii since 1980, DB&A customizes ÒService Excellence Upgrade ProgramsÓ for luxury hotels and resorts in Rooms, Spa, F&B, Golf, Retail, and Sales revenue channels.ÊContact Ksenia for a complimentary revenue assessment for your property or portfolio. VisitÊwww.drakebeil.comÊor email:[email protected].Ê