Effective Front Desk Upselling Increases Online Reputation by 25%
While Driving Added Property Revenue
By Klaus Kohlmayr, Chief Commercial Officer, TSA Solutions
Introduction: Implementing effective upselling methodology into a hotel’s front desk protocol has long been demonstrated to have a substantially positive and immediate effect on property revenues. Also considered a subsequent result of successful upselling is an increase in guest satisfaction, due to each guest receiving a unique experience, tailored to match their own specific needs. While instances of increasingly satisfied guests would seem to go hand-in-hand with a rise in the number of positive online reviews, until recently, no data had been collected or analyzed to validate such a relationship, or that of upselling’s ability to influence online reputation. Following a joint study conducted by Brand Karma on behalf of TSA Solutions at multiple Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts properties, the results demonstrate the very real impact that a well-structured and consistent upselling program can have on online reputation and therefore future revenue streams.
Since the exponential rise of social media and online review sites, hotels and resorts have been forced to play a game of catch up with guests in an effort to safeguard their property’s reputation, along with the legitimate consequence of user-generated content and its influence on future reservations and profit. Given a recent Cornell University study that demonstrates a link between a rise in positive reviews and a significant increase in property revenue1 , such efforts have never been as critical to property success as they are today. As a result, the efforts of hoteliers in attempting to influence such posts, have seen a multitude of tactics employed: from photo contests to earning loyalty points for liking a property’s Facebook page. But how do hospitality professionals know the success rate of a given strategy or whether it will bear any influence on guest responses at all? How do they recognize and implement a strategy that is best suited to either their individual property or hotel chain? In conducting its analysis of what potential guests find most important when consulting online reviews, Cornell University found that an impressive 51 percent of individuals focus on prior guest experience, rather than such factors as a property’s location, price or the existence of ongoing promotions, etc.
Enhancing the guest experience is, in essence, the very basis of what upselling seeks to accomplish, and what a successful upselling team can achieve with guests on a daily basis; Yet only by equipping team members with the necessary skills and intuition, can a front desk team accurately interpret a guest’s needs and match them to the appropriate hotel service or amenity at “the moment of truth” – a guest’s check-in. Such upgrades have often been assumed to significantly improve an individual’s perception of their hotel stay, and ultimately any review that they may later share with others. With detailed research finally available on the matter, hoteliers can now see an evident correlation between effective upselling and a subsequent increase in online reputation and reservation bookings.
Upselling and Reputation: The Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts Experience
With the intention of compiling comprehensive statistics and developing an accurate analysis of the phenomenon, TSA partnered with Brand Karma, a leading global provider of analytical marketing tools and social media auditing platforms to the hospitality market, in conjunction with Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts to provide insight on how upselling affected the chain’s online reputation. Utilizing cutting-edge programs such as Brand Karma iO, the joint study possessed a critical ability to integrate and fully evaluate a hotel brand’s external business data feeds, detecting correlations across performance data. (e.g., if my TripAdvisor ranking rises 2 places, what’s my expected change in RevPAR?).
When it comes to Upselling and Positive Reviews, the Numbers Speak for ThemselvesOf the properties involved in the study, over 20 locations shared the common denominator of having previously implemented an upselling training program. When comparing all properties involved in the Brand Karma analysis, those same properties had displayed a substantially enhanced rate of guest satisfaction and favorable reviews. Specifically, the results of the study were as follows:
- After analyzing over 11,000 online property reviews, Brand Karma’s findings concluded by using an overall satisfaction scale of 1 to 5, that reviews from guests who agreed to an offered paid upgrade culminated in an impressive 4.6 score regarding their hotel stay experience (compared to 4.7 attained by those offered complimentary upgrades).
- When reporting on “value for money” feedback, those same guests scored a 4.2 on a 1 to 5 scale, almost as high a satisfaction score as those who received an upgrade for free!
- Overall, Brand Karma’s analysis translates into paid upgrades obtaining a 25% higher satisfaction rate for guests with no upgrades, surpassed only by complimentary upgrades at 33% satisfaction.
- In comparing its influence on guests providing recommendations, those that accepted an upsell scored a 1.3 out of Brand Karma’s 3 point scale, even higher than the 1.2 assigned to those with complimentary upgrades and more than double guests with no indication of an upsell.
- Alternatively, those who reported the lowest satisfaction came from reviews where a proposed upsell was rejected by the guests; demonstrating the consistent need to reinforce staff upselling intuition and ability.
Morris Sim, CEO & Co-founder of Circos Brand Karma, summed up the results of the study, saying, “Our research shows that hotels offering paid upgrades can have their cake and eat it, too: higher rate, satisfied customers, and good reviews. A successful upgrade can happen if the hotel selects the right customer, communicates the offer honestly, and fulfills the customer's expectations at the higher rate.”
Overall, the statistics gathered by Brand Karma thoroughly establish the full potential of an upselling front desk team’s effect on guest satisfaction and property reputation when provided with the proper skills and knowledge from a proven training program. Those guests whose needs were correctly identified and matched up to a hotel upgrade not only paid for said service (thereby adding immediate revenue instead of incurring cost), but could further attest to the true value of an experience versus a guest who had merely been provided with an amenity for free. By recognizing that a couple on their honeymoon may wish to pay for a local guided tour package, or by accommodating a family with young children with a room that is closer to the swimming pool area, a hotel’s staff is taking an active approach to ensuring that each guest’s stay is tailor-made and exceptional, as opposed to one-size-fits-all and merely adequate. Acknowledging and catering to guest needs is what forms the basis of attaining guest satisfaction, ultimately affecting recollection of an overall stay, and thereby the likelihood of it being recommended to others.
Once considered only in a speculative sense when attempting to determine the origin of positive reviews and as previously noted by Cornell University’s study: the quality of the guest experience trumps all other factors when referencing online reviews; With Brand Karma’s own analysis complete, that experience is now known to be deeply influenced by how effective team members are in matching guest needs to an available service.
Where upselling and reviews fit into the big picture
Only by leveraging the existence of an effective upselling workforce, professionally trained to recognize and cater to the specific needs of each guest, can properties actively take a direct approach in influencing guest satisfaction scores, online reviews and property reputation. Far from being an unreachable goal or one that relies on pure chance factors, obtaining total satisfaction with each guest in actuality relies on the skills and intuition of each staff member in accurately interpreting individual needs. As demonstrated through the Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts experience, attaining such notable employees is only accomplished through the implementation of a professional and effective upselling training program; one that instills the correct strategies while ensuring consistent progress measurement in order to guarantee long term success.
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