Industry Update
Opinion Article24 April 2015

A day in the life of a reservationist

By Larry Mogelonsky, Managing Director Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited

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With so much attention given to digital sales channels, we sometimes forget the power of a good salesperson — specifically, a reservationist. In an attempt to elucidate more about this crucial position, I sought out Jodi Tower, a senior reservation sales agent for FRHI Hotels & Resorts, the Toronto-based hotel-management company that supervises the Fairmont, Raffles and Swissôtel brands with more than 110 properties in 32 countries.

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With experience in human resources and marketing, Jodi works out of FRHI's Global Reservation Center (GRC) in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada, with 300 other some odd specialists who deal primarily with inbound telephone calls but also all loyalty-program services and technical support issues. The GRC offers services in English, French, Spanish and Arabic on a 24/7 basis.

Larry Mogelonsky: What makes for a great reservationist?

Jodi Tower: A great reservation sales agent needs to have exceptional listening skills in order to anticipate what the guests' needs are before they know what they want. This is complemented by superior product knowledge, which gives us credibility, establishing a trusting relationship and enabling relevant recommendations to be made to the guest. Because we do not actually see the guest — limiting the two-way communication process — listening with your "third ear" helps our guests realize how valued they are to our company.

LM: When you're listening to a customer, what are the clues they are interested in your suggestions?

JT: Tone plays a big factor, as this helps in determining the guest's interest. I also need to listen for pauses and understand the silences, as these might mean a customer is contemplating, is not interested, wasn't listening or doesn't understand the offer. Asking a clarifying question at this point brings us back and allows me to move forward. Being engaged reinforces the relationship and trust that is developed on the call. A person can sense interest during the process.

LM: Do you have a favorite period to sell?

JT: Christmas is my favorite because many of our properties create such a magical holiday season atmosphere that I love sharing with customers — from the Plaza Hotel with its specially selected designer Christmas tree in the lobby to the Fairmont San Francisco and the larger-than-life gingerbread house complete with a computer to send a letter to Santa. All of our hotels embrace the season with something special.

LM: What kind of promotion are you most passionate about?

JT: My favorite promotion ties in with my favorite period — Christmas in November at Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. They have been running this promotion for so long — over 20 years — that our clientele have passed from mother and daughter to grandmother and granddaughter!

LM: What do you recommend that managers looking for reservationists do to find the best and keep them as part of the team?

JT: Creating an engaging and fun work environment that welcomes a competitive spirit, collaboration and creativity is important. Managers need to lead through clear expectations and by example. Here at the GRC, we are encouraged to bring our individual talents to the table and use them to reach our common goals.

LM: Could a hotel GM survive a full shift at the reservation center?

JT: Certainly with the proper training and talents they could. At the same time I have had the opportunity to have general managers and vice presidents listen to my sales calls, and they seem to approach this activity from a totally different perspective. Based on my personal experience, they have a tendency to think about the hotel operations processes. Some may find it difficult as I completely focus on selling and setting the stage for a positive guest experience at whatever hotel the guest is visiting. I must say that they are always in awe with the amount of information I have to sift through and the level of multitasking that takes place … all while carrying on a natural conversation with the guest!

Larry Mogelonsky

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