PROVEN TO BOOST CALL CONVERSION RATES

5 Essential Skills Your Call Center Agents Need

Call center agents are often the first personal contact guests have with a hotel. As such, they can play an invaluable role in a hotel’s direct sales channel. But what does it really take to convert more calls into bookings.

The art of converting more calls

While there are numerous requirements needed to close more calls, successful hotel call center agents possess the following traits and skills.

1. They’re Experts at Building Rapport

The modern-day traveler can now find and book everything about their trip online. They receive recommendations from artificial intelligence, interact with chatbots, but often have little form of actual human connection.

When a hotel call center agent picks up the phone, they know a warm welcome can feel like a breath of fresh air. Instead of rattling off a polished sales script, they’re conversational, friendly, and able to build rapport by treating every caller as an individual — not just another sales lead.

John Smallwood, CEO of Travel Outlook, highlights why building rapport is more valuable than ever.

“It’s easy to forget that a couple of decades ago, most people booked a vacation through a travel agent. It was an easy, pleasant experience.
Today, we’re all researching and booking trips online ourselves. Aside from being pretty stressful, travelers are missing out on the advice of an expert. When it comes to a hotel, a call center agent can provide the friendly interaction many of us are missing.”

2. They’re Natural Problem Solvers

Busy front desk hotel staff rarely have time to give incoming callers their undivided attention. But the best hotel call center reservation agents know how to ask the right questions that can help close a call. This skill is especially useful when it comes to overcoming potential objections.

For instance, a prospective guest could be sensitive about price, or unsure whether a hotel’s destination has enough to keep their kids happy. On that initial call, they might not openly express their misgivings or wider needs. A well-trained reservation agent knows how to read between the lines and dig deeper to understand why someone might be concerned about booking.

By actively seeking to learn about a guest’s needs, preferences, and pain points, a talented call center agent can offer the information or reassurance required to convert a call.

3. They Know How to Customize Benefits

Sometimes, closing a call requires a more personalized approach. This is a fundamental part of a hotel call center agent’s role — the ability to incentivize guests by addressing their unique needs and preferences.

Certain guests may be hesitant about booking until they’re told about a relevant perk or amenity that will enhance their stay. For instance, a business traveler might be incentivized after hearing about the hotel’s high-speed Wi-Fi, late check-in/check-out policy, or themed networking events.

Rather than reading off a generic script, a great call center agent knows how to tailor their recommendations based on an intimate knowledge of a hotel’s amenities and benefits. The very act of customizing recommendations also sends a positive message to guests about the experience they can expect on arrival.

4. They’re Empathetic

Complaints and frustrations. They’re an inevitable part of any customer service role. And while plenty of reservation agents know how to handle tricky situations, a truly skilled agent also knows the importance of empathy.

Empathy comes from a place of deeper understanding, and it often hinges on being able to understand what a customer really wants or needs when they’re frustrated.

For instance, a returning guest might be agitated that their favorite room is unavailable. Instead of jumping straight into solution mode (e.g. “let me see if I can get you a better room for the same price”), maybe that customer first wants to feel understood and that their feelings are valid.

An experienced reservation agent understands when kind and supportive words are just as important as finding a solution.

Empathy can also be about reassurance. For instance, an event planner might be anxious about whether a hotel has the space to accommodate their annual company conference. In this situation, acknowledging the caller’s trepidation (they’re nervous about doing a great job) can be just as important as reeling off the size of the conference room.

5. They know when to go above and beyond

This final point isn’t just about converting calls, it’s about reputation and long-term business. A talented hotel call center agent appreciates the value of going the extra mile and knows when it’s truly necessary. This skill requires being able to put themselves in the shoes of a potential guest and recognize if they need some extra care and attention.

For instance, if a parent with young children calls to book a room for their family, the easiest option would be to find a suitable room and then quickly complete the booking. The harder (but ultimately much more helpful approach) is to consider other ways to make that family’s stay more enjoyable.

That could involve finding them the closest possible room to the pool. Or asking when their flight lands and offering a complimentary airport pick-up if it’s late at night.

According to John Smallwood, CEO at Travel Outlook, “The end goal of a hotel call center agent shouldn’t be just to convert the call. The ultimate intention should be to enhance that guest’s entire travel experience. What’s going to make their stay the best it can be? How can we deliver something extra special that they maybe weren’t expecting?”

Put simply, we should be asking how the initial call can lead to happier guests. Because it’s those guests who are most likely to give a hotel a great review and rebook in the future. Those are two pretty big incentives for a call center agent to go above and beyond.

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John Smallwood, President

About John Smallwood, President of Travel Outlook

A veteran in the hospitality industry, John has owned, developed, and managed hotels for many years. After earning a BBA from New Mexico State University, he started his career with AT&T, gaining invaluable insight and experience in the early years of the data revolution. His experience in technology and hospitality merged in his development of Travel Outlook, the world-class hospitality contact center. More recently, he has branched out with the creation of ExpressRez, the premier contact center for the Bed and Breakfast industry, and with the creation of Bella, the first AI-powered voice bot for the hotel industry.

 
About Travel Outlook

Given its progressive approach to the voice channel – in terms of performance, training, transparency, testing and the tools used to measure performance – Travel Outlook Premium Hotel Call Center has become the premier voice reservations team in hospitality. Travel Outlook’s valued client list includes Viceroy Hotel Group, Outrigger, KSL Resorts, Proper Hospitality Group, Pacific Hospitality Group, Highgate Hotels, The Irvine Company, Catalina Island and many others. Travel Outlook’s team and approach increases sales conversion and helps to create more effective voice communication between hotels and their guests, resulting in improved social scores in addition to increased voice channel revenue. For more information, visit www.traveloutlook.com.

About Bella™, The Virtual Hotel Agent™:

Bella is an AI powered virtual call center agent that represents the next generation of voice bots designed specifically for the Hospitality industry. Bella has been programmed using a breakthrough approach to voice bots, a system built from human conversations. Using social media, chat forums, and movie dialogue, Bella learns from billions of casual human conversations to understand human inflections and multi-turn queries. This revolutionary approach means Bella understands callers no matter what they say, when they say it, or how they speak. Bella can answer FAQs specific to your property, understand multiple languages, route calls, send follow up texts, and more.

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