If hotel managers and executives really want to increase direct bookings to the greatest extent possible and use the OTA channels to their best potential, that is, to find a new guest that would otherwise not have found you, here are some easy solutions: - Make sure your hotel’s direct number is posted prominently on your website. If your 800 number rings directly to the property, indicate such by saying, “Call our on-site reservations agents at…” - If you use a call center, make sure you visit it regularly or at least conduct remote webinars for the agents that sell your hotel. If you use a private third-party call center, pick one that trains its agents on sales and “product knowledge” so they are comfortable with answering specific questions and endorsing or recommending your property. - Also post your email address prominently, thus encouraging more direct inquiries by what is essentially its own distribution channel. Encourage agents to place outbound calls to those who inquire by email, indicating they are doing so “just to clarify a few details…” but in reality to make a personal connection and stand out from the competition. Install chat options on your website, and train your team to use this medium to encourage guests to book instantly. - For hotels with longer stays, higher average rates and multiple outlets (and thus a higher revenue per guest opportunity), encourage reservations agents to use online meeting tools to take guests on their own virtual tour of accommodations. - Make sure you right-size staffing. Track the number of direct reservations (and email) inquiries you are receiving by hour of day and day of week. Calculate the number of minutes it should take agents to properly respond to these inquiries and staff accordingly. Factor in the time needed for administration work such as typing in OTA and extranet bookings (or shift this work elsewhere in the hotel staff). - Calculate the potential revenue from each booking (transient/FIT ADR x ALS = revenue potential per call). Factor in revenue per guest potential if you are a full-service hotel. All this will help you determine if it cost effective to add more staff and/or to extend hours. - Consider offering your on-site front-desk and reservations agents incentives or small commissions for securing direct bookings. It will be far less costly than central reservation system fees or OTA commissions. - Train staff from other departments or even from other divisions. Make it everyone’s job to field direct bookings. - Conduct regular telephone mystery shopping to ensure your agents are properly handling calls from a sales and guest service paradigm. - Similarly, conduct ongoing training so that your team is prepared to handle specific questions from agents who are confused by online guest reviews or by the number of room types and rate options online. Also, train them on how to handle “value-driven deal seekers” who try to negotiate lower rates. - Front-desk staff should also be trained on capturing walk-ins and upselling check-ins. Most staff only quote one rate, usually the lowest rate for the least expensive category. Get the full story at Hotel News Now