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.
A fundamental part of a hotel call center agent’s role is the ability to incentivize guests by addressing their unique needs and preferences.
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.
Using empathy helps agents to understand what a customer wants
and needs, thus helping conversion.
|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.
What makes a hotel stand out is they go the extra mile to make sure guest satisfaction is at the highest level.
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.
Kelly (Wilson) Cox, CHRM, Regional Director if Revenue at Hotel Teatro Denver adds to this point: “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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|This is one in a series of essays by John Smallwood, CEO of Travel Outlook Premium Reservations Call Center about voice reservations, the second most profitable revenue channel.|
About Travel Outlook Hotel Reservation Call Center Services
In addition to the unique use of world-class call center technology, Travel Outlook is the only call center certified by Kennedy Training Network, the hotel industry’s best source for sales training and guest service excellence. Its luxury call team is tested by Forbes and Kennedy each month. Travel Outlook is a hospitality company that takes reservations calls, not a general call center with a handful of hospitality clients.