A call center is a highly dynamic operation and often quite complex to manage. But do you know who your best converting reservation agent is?
The call center represents an important hotel revenue stream and deserves more attention than it usually gets. So optimizing this in-bound sales department will have an immediate impact on both your revenue and bottom line profit.
What could be the ways to improve or fine-tuning the operations of your hotel reservations call center?
To answer this question we should ask ourselves what the equivalent required marketing budget would be to convert one more call per agent (per day or even per hour).
Depending on the size of your team this could add up to anything from two to even 100 reservations per day. In any case it could and should be an important amount of extra business.
Hotels tend to focus on expanding distribution channels and working the market with the out-bound sales team. But hoteliers should also focus on the functions of the reservation call center.
Even though the internet age has seen the volume of phone sales decrease, a substantial volume of calls still come in to hotels over the phone. This includes both transient (non-qualified) and contracted corporate business.
In a previous article, we outlined how the reservations sales process can be streamlined. But there is more to it. Hoteliers need to measure themselves to a greater degree to gain a better understanding of how well they are performing (or not), and to identify where opportunities for improvement may sit.
So, what are some of the simple things that can go wrong in hotel reservations?
- Loss of calls during peak hours due to lack of capacity.
- Loss of conversion after hours when calls are routed to front desk.
- Low conversion due to calls being rushed.
- Overstaffing during slow times.
We start by measuring the call volume and flow in the hotel. For this you need an ACD (call tracking) system connected to your reservations phone system. You can measure KPI (key performance indicators) as:
- Calls received
- Calls answered
- Percentage booked
The data should be measured per hour so you can get a good overview of how well incoming sales leads through the day are being handled.
Match the calls with the numbers of reservations to generate a conversion ratio, then match this against revenues, room nights, room types, segments, etc to get useful trend numbers of the overall performance in taking calls, and turning them into a contribution to the bottom line.
Other useful statistics to measure effectiveness are:
- Lost calls
- Average call time
- Average waiting time
These will answer questions such as:
- Do we have the right staffing during peak hours, or are we loosing calls?
- Are we overstaffed during slow days?
- Is our schedule matching the call patterns?
We should also log why people are not booking to be able to gain a better understanding of the business.
Among the reasons could be:
- Corporate rate unavailable
- Looking for another rate
- Room type sold out
- Booked to capacity
- Just shopping
You can also tag these for the number of months out from the stay (such as 0, +1, +2) to gain a better understanding of lead time and shopping behavior.
It is also important to tag calls generated by online and offline promotions to identify how much additional call volume these might generate.
It would be a shame if you would lose calls generated by advertising, ruining the ROI of your campaign. If you know how many calls to expect in the future based on results from previous campaigns, you can schedule for it.
If not handled well, "the after hours challenge" can become costly. Many hotels route calls to the reception when the reservations office is closed.
Unfortunately front desk clerks are not as well trained on the sales reservation script and conversion tends to be low.
Or just imagine the impression you give to a potential guest calling from overseas due to time zone differences, when they are told to call back the following morning as reservations is closed.
The only way to know how the call center is performing is by quantifying results into data and statistics.
But there is more. The analysis above only gives the overall performance of the reservations department. How about assessing the performance of the reservations sales agents?
Of course, based on the sales training and script they have, owners can can do test calls to score them. But this is only part of the equation. Hoteliers should know who their top revenue generating agents are. In short: who is bringing in real money?
Managers also need to identify which reservations sales agents need additional coaching to improve conversions. Here some of the statistics hoteliers should compile for sales agents on a daily basis:
- Calls taken
- Reservations made
- Conversion %
- Revenue generated
They can then also dive in deeper and analyze which agents are more capable of selling higher room categories. Separating conversion per segment might also lead to interesting data, illustrating who can sell the BAR best.
Now that a hotelier knows who the are top sales agents, it's review the schedule again.
- When should they be working?
- Slow days or peak hours?
- What tasks do we give them?
- Manual data entry, because they are faster than the others?
Moreover, based on the results, you can set goals!
Every agent has different qualities, and hoteliers need to make sure they are well scheduled according to the business needs - i.e. don’t put on agents that tend to sell slowly during peak call volume hours.
All of this speaks for itself and is nothing new, in some respects. But it is worth reflecting upon and measuring the performance of a call center to optimize the ROI a property manager can achieve from the hotel reservation department.
NB: More from Xotels.