Resort Reservations: What To Say When The Phones Start Ringing Again Shortly!
Wow, what a wild two months that resort reservations sales agents have endured. Agents were the first to feel the impact of the COVID19 pandemic, as suddenly a tsunami of cancellation calls and emails flooded the phone lines and inboxes. How painful it must have been to watch hard-fought bookings cancel and to see the flow of revenue change direction. Even more so, this team endured difficult conversations about the fine print of cancellation terms and travel insurance. Next, it was surely hard to watch as co-workers from operations were furloughed or laid off.
Now, here in late April, most resort reservations teams have seen call volume slow to a trickle and have entered the next phase of this crisis: an eerie period of quiet time.
So, what comes next? The most important time in voice reservations history! As the economy reopens and travel starts to rebound, reservations sales agents have a huge opportunity to become the superheroes of their hotel or company. Experts are predicting that leisure travel will rebound first, especially to resort destinations that by nature allow for more social distancing. I predict that the voice reservations channel will return with a vengeance, as potential guests will have questions and concerns that can only be addressed by human interactions. Here are my own predictions for three emerging trends.
Trend One: Vacation Day Dreamers
While about 20% of the workforce have seen their jobs displaced, many of those have received stimulus checks or unemployment benefits as a bridge to rehire. The remaining 80% have been working as hard or harder than ever. Those providing essential services might be receiving overtime or hazard pay, while those who switched to doing their work remotely have been overseeing their kids’ homeschooling efforts. As a result, people are beginning to daydream about a badly needed vacation and soon will start doing some planning.
Trend Two: Displaced Vacation Traditions
When people to start traveling, it makes obvious sense that most will plan travel to destinations that are closer to home and most likely within driving distance, resulting in a major displacement of longstanding travel traditions. For example, those who visited Europe every summer or went on a cruise may decide to vacation at a nearby beach. Those who usually take a long trip to meet family at the beach may decide to stay local and visit a mountain or lake destination. As a result, reservations agents are going to be selling to more “first-timers” who are craving local insider tips and recommendations.
Trend Three: Deal-Seekers
The third and final trend I see coming is going to be the most challenging for our resort reservations agents. Therefore, now is the time during this quiet phase to get ready for the coming wave of deal-seeking callers. The general public is aware that the travel industry is now a “buyer’s market,” and that there are deals to be had. Also, with actual availability showing online at everyone’s websites, guests will be in no major hurry to commit unless we nudge them along. Here are training tips for this third and final trend:
1. Mention higher-rates to position current rates as being a good value. Before quoting whatever rates are displaying in your system, always refer to a higher “normal” rate first to make the offer sound “already discounted.”
- If you know the actual high-demand rates, then specifically reference them. For example: “The normal rate is $X, but right now for your dates I can offer you a special rate of $Y.”
- If you do not know the actual high demand rates, just express surprise at the rates you are showing such as by saying: “Wow! Right now, I’m actually showing a really terrific rate of $X.”
2. Create an urgency to commit. Some callers may offer remarks such as: “I see online that you have plenty of space…”
- Use urgency statements that fit into the conversations. Examples: “All of a sudden we’re getting a lot more calls these days…” or “Yes, but things sure have seemed to pick-up lately.”
- Offer to “lock-in” their choices: “I definitely recommend that we lock-in this rate (or option) for you now while it is still open.”
- Remove the barriers to commitment: “This way, if things change, you can always cancel up until…”
3. Follow-up proactively. Times like these require us to be “sales hunters” like never before!
- Rather than asking if they want you to send a follow-up email, ask in a way that assumes they do. For example: “Do you want me to send you a follow-up email?” vs. “Let me get your email address so I send you a follow-up on our conversation.”
- After the conversation, enter any details you have discovered into your TrackPulse history so you can later use it to personalize follow-up messaging. Examples: Who they are traveling with; specifics on why they are traveling, such as a special occasion; Is it their first time visiting? 3rd Time? 7th Time?
- It’s perfectly fine to use an email template, but start the first sentence of the email by recapping what you learned from the conversation. Example: “Hello Douglas. How excited to hear about your plans to surprise your wife with this vacation, now that your kids are all off to college!” Then use the template from there on!