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Upselling at registration is best accomplished with authentic, human conversations

Pre-arrival emails certainly help, but personalization requires a human touch.


Despite what digital marketing and tech providers may say, I believe upselling can best be accomplished when welcoming front-desk colleagues have authentic, human conversations.


That’s not to say that pre-arrival emails marketing upsell options in advance do not serve a role, because they do. For one, whatever upselling revenue they produce is a plus, especially since it is automatically generated. Also, pre-arrival emails tee up a conversation-starting question that a well-trained receptionist can use to open the door.


The challenge with relying solely on pre-arrival emails is that these days, guests who book travel in advance are inundated with so many such offers, and on top of that, pre-arrival emails explaining things such as self-check-in by smartphone, loyalty programs and numerous other reminders. These are received not only from the hotel sending them, but also rental car companies and airlines offering upgrades. Plus, if the guest is a frequent traveler, they are spammed customer satisfaction surveys from last week’s trip. As a result, the chances that these offers will be given consideration are minimal.


Humans also have another advantage over drip campaigns, which are marketing accommodation types, whereas a front-desk receptionist can sell very specific locations and views. Also, these human conversations take place upon arrival, a time during which guests:


  • Are likely to feel more spontaneous and indulgent after a long day of stressful travel, such as families with young children who may now see the value of a suite or a second, connecting room.
  • May have had their needs change on the way. For example, a business person may now be meeting or traveling with colleagues and therefore might consider a suite with a separate living room.
  • May already consider the original rate “paid” and are now only looking at the incremental cost difference.
  • May not even be aware of upgrades if their reservation was made by a third party such as administrative assistant, family member or traveling companion.


Finally, humans have the advantage of being just that, human! How many of us go out to dinner and never even give the dessert menu a second thought until a well-trained server says, “May I just tell you a little about the deserts that chef is offering tonight?”
Now, implementing a successful program for upselling at registration requires not only training, but also other considerations of leadership, such as:


  • What is the rate strategy? Should we consider a “flat rate to upgrade” rate strategy to make sure the “gap” between the booked rate and the upgrade option is reasonably bridgeable?
  • How will we help front-desk staff know which categories are open for their shift?
  • If we are going to implement this for front-desk staff, what about our voice reservations salespeople? Or do callers just basically upsell themselves? In short, no they don’t!
  • What opportunities are there to upsell besides room types, such as early check-in, late check-out, and offering families a second room at a discounted rate?
  • How will we measure the results? Should individual results be posted?
  • What about an incentive? Should it be a team incentive, individual or a hybrid?


Finally, if the staff is not properly trained to upsell upon arrival at reception, not only will they be unsuccessful, but they may even offend high-status loyalty members and diminish the perceived value of those who pre-reserved minimum categories.


If you already have a pre-arrival email drip campaign, keep using it, but hold a leadership meeting to work through issues, then train your front-desk reception staff to engage in successful upsell conversations.


Doug Kennedy is President of the Kennedy Training Network, Inc. a leading provider of hotel sales, guest service, reservations, and front desk training programs and telephone mystery shopping services for the lodging and hospitality industry. Doug’s monthly training articles have been published worldwide, making him one of the most widely read hospitality industry authorities. Visit KTN at www.kennedytrainingnetwork.com or email him directly doug@kennedytrainingnetwork.com.



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