San Diego, California, May 11th 2009 – Advanced Feedback, Inc. a nationwide customer survey and mystery shopping company, phoned ten hotels, over half the hotels in seaside Coronado CA, a popular tourist island just west of downtown San Diego. Part of a wider study on business and the economy, the mystery shoppers, posing as potential customers, simply called the front desk and asked “How far are you from Sea World?”
“I wanted to see if agents would make an attempt at a sale … with someone calling their hotel from out-of-town.” explained Geoff Gladu, Account Manager for Advanced Feedback. Perhaps not shocking to this group of seasoned mystery shoppers, but alarming to any business manager, the team did not find one hotel agent who attempted to continue the conversation beyond answering their initial question. “I was hoping to hear something along the lines of ‘would you like for me to check rates and availability?’ or “Is there anything else I could help you with?’ anything, really. Also, no one even thanked us for calling”, he added. Considering these businesses spend a good share of their marketing budget on getting travelers to call their hotel, Advanced Feedback’s survey uncovered pervasive missed sales and branding opportunities.
Perhaps the hotel agents ignored the sales opportunity because the scenario implied the caller wanted to stay closer to Sea World, 6 miles from Coronado? To test this possibility, the team conducted a second survey to the same properties with the question “what is there to do for fun in the area?” This time, all hotel agents did fine to sell the area but only two agents built value for their hotel and only two others thanked the customer for calling. Again, not one hotel representative attempted to continue the conversation or make a sale.
Deciding to make it as simple as possible for the front desk agent to recognize a sales opportunity, without saying “I want to make a reservation”, the mystery shoppers called the same hotels a third time asking, “How much are your rooms?”
Only one out of the ten properties that were called received a passing grade; the agent qualified the caller, built value for both rates and property and even offered to make a reservation. All others failed. One property attempted to qualify the caller, another spoke well of their property, but all of them were quick to provide the rate and let the potential customer off the phone – never once asking if the caller wanted to stay there!
“With beach weather soon approaching, there’s no better time for these seaside hotels to learn how to recognize and pursue the sales opportunities given – this usually starts with phone skills via a mystery phone shopping program”, said Geoff.
In a challenging economy like the current one, Advanced Feedback’s research is a wakeup call to companies not to overlook the training and monitoring of frontline employees.