Listening to recorded calls for reservation sales and guest services offers so much insight! Often, I hear supervisors say they can hear their team members in the office and that is all they really need. I am always excited to hear that supervisors are paying attention and listening to team members, yet there is so much to be heard when companies take the time to listen to recorded calls. Coaching employees on how to grow their soft skills and create better relationships is a wonderful way to build trust with your team and make them feel valued. Recently when working with a large team who has homes in two unique markets, an employee shared that she was so touched that the owner valued her enough as an employee to invest in her and have someone coach her. The owner was equally touched and very grateful that his team looked at the coaching opportunity in such a way. In order to build solid relationship building teams, it is important to hire for values and then coach additional soft skills. There was another employee who excelled significantly after coaching. She told me she just wanted guidance, so she knew what worked in calls.
Over the years I have updated and altered the sales and guest relations, service points from what I have learned listening and scoring thousands of calls. Following are some areas I see as critical for creating loyal guests who want to book direct and come back year after year.
Greeting the Caller
It is nice if you are able to ask the caller’s name in the original greeting, yet often it is a mouth full and not everyone feels they can be authentic and can feel robotic. Instead make sure the name is asked in the first minute of the call. If the caller offers their name right away, I suggest the caller’s name is repeated just like a verbal handshake. Using the caller’s name in calls has so many benefits. Research shows, as humans, we judge people in the first seven seconds of meeting them and if you use their name, they will listen to the next 15-20 words.
I feel the foundation of any call includes asking two open-ended questions. I am a fan of the following questions.
“What is bringing you to the area?”
“What are you looking forward to enjoying while you are visiting?”
“What is important in a home for you and your family?”
“What traditions do you enjoy this time of year?”
“What did you enjoy most the last time you visited?”
It is good to let the caller start with what they are calling about, and then transition to asking the above questions as you look up the details they are asking about. Also, great questions for when your computer is taking its sweet time. There is a ton of researching showing people like you better if you ask them questions. I have tested the theory out and it works. I talked with a woman for 15 minutes for the first time ever meeting. She knew a few things about me, and I knew a ton about her. She hugged me when we parted.
If you truly understand your caller and what is important to them, often you can eliminate additional calls, emails or texts taking place because you chose to make assumptions that were not correct. Often two questions allow you to really understand someone. It also eliminates the series of close ended questions that can make people feel disconnected. Such as, how many people are coming, how many beds do you need, are you bringing any furry friends, do you want to be near downtown. I am sure you know what I am referencing.
Another great technique I like to bring in, is under standing behavior styles by doing the DISC assessment and using sales techniques. By listening for what, who, how and why questions you can narrow down the caller’s behavior styles and know if they are Dominant, Influencer, Steady or Compliant styles, honing your techniques to what they like. For example, the Dominant style does not want to hear about the sand between their toes and the smell of the ocean, yet they do care about how many steps to the villa or how the travel insurance can benefit them in a factual way. Whereas the influencer enjoys when you paint the picture of them sitting on the deck with their morning coffee looking out at the ocean.
Relationship Building and Connecting
People want to do business with people. I have listened to so many calls where the team member shared something simple like being from the same area or having children similar in age. The caller’s tone changes, and they ask how they can make sure to talk with the representative again. We are living in a disconnect world and as humans we are put on this earth to connect. It is what fuels us and our inner soul, although I have never heard someone say, “Hey, I want to connect today!” They do say at the end of a call where connection has happened, “You are the nicest person I have talked to today.”
It is essential to empathize with caller’s when they have shared something personal or have called due to a problem. I have listened to many calls where a caller shared a loss of family members or something sad and the team member didn’t acknowledge it at all. Supervisors don’t hear this on one sided conversation, and it is a huge trust breaker and creates disconnection. No one likes to have someone completely ignore the fact they took off their mask. My favorite saying… empathize before educating. For scoring guest service representatives, I have empathy specifically be a service point.
Putting the Caller in the Moment
The key is to say “you”, and have it directly related to information they shared with you. This could be wanting an ocean view, needing time in the warmth of the desert, wanting to walk to all their activities, having a pool at the home or house layout, number of steps, cancelling the previous year due to an emergency. When describing the home, you say, “You will be able to sit outside into the late evening with the most pleasant temperatures.”
Most companies I work with have insurance with good reason. We are having many big weather changes in our world and it is important to let people know their options. Recently I had someone tell me that they don’t feel they need to share it when callers are concerned with pricing. I think the opposite. How is this caller going to feel if they are already feeling financially stretched and they end up having a death in the family and can’t make their trip and lose thousands that they didn’t feel they had in the first place. I promise if they choose to not take the insurance, they won’t be nearly as upset as if they were never told at all. There was a call where the representative said she would take off the travel insurance to lower the price and the caller stopped her and said, “Don’t take it off, with the amount of kids we are traveling with, we always buy the insurance.”
Professional Words and Tone
I am one of those people who thinks about the words we put out there in communication and strives to build relationships with compassionate tone and warm words. I often hear industry verbiage such as “units” and “properties”. It feels the same as fingernails scraping a chalk board, for me. I understand that we have the word “properties” in company names and all over websites and technology platforms, yet we can always say “house,” “villa,” “cottages” or “cabins.” Notice how much softer and inviting it feels. This also goes along with saying “cheaper” or “expensive.” There isn’t anything soft about those words, yet instead saying “most economical” or “best price point,” even “high end” or “luxury.” I like the technique often used when one struggles with too many “ums.” Write the word and draw a ghostbuster sign over it. Do this daily and see what happens.
Another detail about professionalism is not bad mouthing third party booking websites about their added fees and altering of emails, making it hard for consumers to contact companies directly. When we talk badly about others, the bad talk does not transfer to who we are talking badly about, it reflects on us as people. Keep it positive and simply state that the best price is always guaranteed when you book directly with the property management company.
Asking for Commitment
When asking where people are at with commitment levels, it doesn’t have to be pushy. I am a fan of simply asking, “How does The Cozy Cottage sound for you and your girlfriends?” The key is to do so right after stating the price. Too often I hear this awkward pause after sharing pricing, like stating the price was a question. It isn’t a question. The next step is to remove the pause and ask for commitment in a kind way. If they aren’t ready, the best next step is to offer to email them the details, so they have them on hand. This way you are also getting valuable information for your database.
Closing the Call
We are in the hospitality industry, so it is up to us to make it easy on people. The best way to do so, is to ask, “When are you looking at making a decision?” Then follow up with, “Can I call you if I don’t hear from you before?” This makes it easy for managing leads and more times than not, the caller is grateful for the offer. Then ensuring we are using the caller’s name in the closing and re branding the company name. Re branding the company name is so important these days with all of the multiple booking platforms and how confusing it is to consumers. I also see it as a form of gratitude. Consumers have options and thanking them for their business, is essential.
It is so easy to be service providers by answering questions and having a smile on our face, yet being a hospitality enthusiast is another level and requires mindfulness and self-reflection with how we communicate and be the person we want to be in life. I encourage you to take the time and ensure your people are getting the personal development required to be true relationship builders.
“True hospitality consists of giving the best of yourself to your guests.” -Eleanor Roosevelt