The hotel I have worked for, that is JW Marriott Indianapolis, had an incentive program to encourage front desk agents to upgrade standard rooms to premium rooms for an additional fee. If the agent managed to upsell the room from standard king to sky view king bedroom then the agent would receive a commission from the sale.
Many hotels implement upselling techniques at the Front Office as part of the overall revenue management strategy. It can even potentially improve both the hotel’s reputation and revenue. This article is written specifically for front desk agents as well as managers who want to train their staff to better upsell. Now I am going to share the strategy that allowed me to become the best upseller out of 40 associates in my department by upselling over 15,000 dollars YTD.
First and foremost, there is no particular way you can gauge a person by appearance. My personal observations have shown that even a guy in a cheap T-shirt may be interested in a presidential suite while a gentleman wearing a Gucci suit may be a cheap skate. Therefore, offering upgrades to everybody is of paramount importance. It’s a game of statistics, the more upgrades you propose the higher your chances. For example, when asking 10 people, at least 1 person will accept the offer. Therefore, by offering an upgrade to 100 people, you can be sure that at least 10 people will accept the offer (Pareto Principle).
Being efficient that is assisting as many guests as possible is another contributing factor toward a successful upsell. This follows from the advice above, the more people you assist the higher your chances. It does not mean you can disregard creating a special experience for the guest. Showing interest in people allows getting to know what’s the reason behind the stay. The same person may come back and they will remember that it was you who showed interest in them before thus being smooth, and sociable definitely pays off in the long term.
This brings us to another point. What’s the reason behind their stay? Is it a couple having their anniversary? Or maybe it’s a family with kids having a country trip? SME CEO who may need something to impress potential partners? Answering all these questions will allow you to figure out what the best room would be to offer. The anniversary couple will need a sky view king with romance package, the family may need a concierge 2 queens with a foodie package, while CEO may opt for the Presidential Suite with executive lounge access.
Now, once we figured out the reason behind their stay and found out what would be the best premium room for the guest, we have to find the best price by determining their price sensitivity. This will require experience and the ability to think on your feet (talent and intuition may help as well). At this stage, a difference will be seen between exceptional and average upsellers. These are the main psychological points I noticed about high-paying customers:
- Did they valet or self-park? If they immediately valet without even knowing a price it means they have lower price sensitivity. They are more likely to be willing to spend more money
- Are they a couple? As funny as it seems couples are the most likely people to get an upgrade. Nobody wants to look cheap in front of their other half!
- Are they here for leisure? People who are on vacation tend to go all the way to get pampered.
Do you notice a spark in the eyes of the guests when you offer an upgrade? Are there any other cues that you have noticed yourself through your daily interactions with guests at your property? Utilize them!
Mention the price only after the guest gets interested in an upgrade. Otherwise, you’ll be jumping on a boat that’s not even sailing and lose the trust of the guest.
Furthermore, I see many associates give up on the upsell once the guest says ‘no’. Instead, I see an opportunity to offer them a cheaper upgrade that may better suit their needs. Being persistent does not mean that you are annoying or obnoxious. If framed correctly it may even elevate the guest experience:
“Would you like to have an upgrade to a sky view king bedroom on the highest floor with a view of the city?”
“Would you like to have a premium upgrade to an executive suite?”
Then you can follow with this if the guest gave a negative response:
“We have limited availability and I was thinking that you would be interested since you arrived here for ….. special occasion…….!”
Mention limited availability, especially in the case of suites.
Make it sound as smooth and as nice as possible. Speak with a smile in your voice.
In a summary:
- Offer as many upgrades as possible
- Offer the right upgrade to the right person
- Offer different prices based on cues and questions.
- Do not hesitate to offer cheaper upgrades if the initial upgrade was rejected
- Develop your own strategy for yourself and your property
As a bonus, here are the small tactics that I employed to upsell for a higher price:
- Upon verification with the management, you can say that the rate is offered at a discount at the front desk compared to the rate online.
- Point out how and why exactly the upgraded room is desirable for the guest
- Mention the social status of the room, for example, by highlighting that only CEOs and high-level executives stay in the presidential suite
- Mentioning limited availability definitely helps to embellish the offer (without lying)
- Sometimes the guest just wants to change his room from a double to a single-bed bedroom. In case the hotel does not have availability with the same room type offering a suitable single-bed upgrade can be a great opportunity to upsell.
- Check the guest history. If the guest stayed at the hotel before for a higher price then you can upsell for the identically high price
In conclusion, hotels exist to offer a place to rest and to create a lasting experience for guests. If I were to summarize the strategy in one sentence: ‘To make the guest feel special.