Tag Archives: reservations

Morongo Casino Resort & Spa Extends Mystery Phone Shopping Service to PBX Department

Southern California casino expands telephone mystery shopping services to their PBX department in order to further enhance the customer experience for their front lines.

SAN DIEGO, CA, May 17, 2013 – Advanced Feedback, Inc. a San Diego based mystery shopping company that provides video, onsite and telephone skills evaluations nationally and in neighboring Canada and Mexico. Welcomed the addition of another Morongo Casino Resort & Spa department this year. The mystery shopping firm has been working with the Cabazon, CA casino since 2012.

Account Manager, Geoff Gladu of Advanced Feedback said, “We are very pleased with this new expansion and owe it all to Matt Huber their Revenue & Reservations Manager. We have been working closely with Matt throughout his career since 2006 mostly providing reservation and PBX department services.” He also commented “We look forward to providing Connie Aragon (PBX Manager) the same high quality of service and support both today and in the future.”

The casinos Reservation and PBX departments rely on telephone mystery shops to monitor each operator’s customer service telephone skills. Mystery shoppers pose as potential customers and call inquiring about such things as rates, availability, special events, gaming, amenities, services, specials and much more. Telephone attendants are scored based on a number of criteria, such as rapport building, determining needs, building value, appointment / reservation offers, overcoming resistance, friendliness, helpfulness and professionalism.

Advanced Feedback provides next business day and even same day reporting to Morongo Casino Resort & Spa. These results include the agent’s individual phone shop report and recorded call; all accessible via online streaming and smart phone apps. This immediate feedback allows for encouragement, corrective training and counsel to take place if needed.

To learn more about telephone mystery shopping visit  http://advancedfeedback.com/services-mystery-shopping-company.html

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Boutique Hotels – Missing the Opportunity to Provide Personalized Services

One measure of personalized customer service, and perhaps its most objective indicator, is a hotel’s willingness to practice it over the phone.  Being one of only two possible first impressions a hotel has to work with, the personalized phone call is so simple it ought to be automatic yet it is increasingly rare. Less than 5% by one measure!

In part one of an independent national study to measure customer service and sales in today’s web-based world, Advanced Feedback, Inc. called over 250 boutique hotels to see if this traditional line of communication was any more personable than an online search.

“The phone shop doesn’t lie” explains Zachary Hooker, President of Advanced Feedback. “Unlike customer surveys or feedback requests, there is no upset customer or buyer biases, just the facts.  They either do it or they don’t”.  Zachary is referring to whether or not the front line is tasked with and performing the niceties of good old fashioned personalized sales and service:  “May I have your name?”, “Have you stayed with us before?”, “Would you have any special requests that I may help you with?”

The company began their study by focusing on a segment that should lead the pack in personalized services, boutique hotels, the popular personality or lifestyle brands of recent years.  Using a simple mystery phone shop to check rates and availability, Advanced Feedback was able to objectively determine if the hotel is intent on providing service any more personable than an online reservation form.

The answer is no.

In fact, based on their results one could argue that today’s hotel agents ask fewer questions to personalize the service than found in a typical online rate inquiry where we know we’re at least asked to select room type or bed preference.  One could also question if some properties have an objective to encourage guests to go online versus call their business. Looking at the data below tells us management is no longer committed to phone skills that include rapport and personalized services:

17%      Asked for the caller’s name

31%      Asked the caller if it was their first stay or reason for visit

9%        Asked about specific needs or preferences

10%     Mentioned any hotel amenities or benefits prior to quoting price

4%         Covered all four areas of personalization

Boutiques might be well designed to cater to a particular lifestyle or modern trend, but the Advanced Feedback study shows a missed opportunity to turn a hotel’s charm and personality into a memorable first impression.

Furthermore, looking beyond the qualifying aspect of the call, one might speculate that specialty hotels would at a minimum embrace each incoming call as an opportunity to highlight something interesting about the property.  Yet only 10% of those called mentioned even one unique feature or benefit of their boutique property!

“We started with boutique properties thinking this would be a benchmark for how good phone skills set the stage for a personalized hospitality experience.  We didn’t necessarily anticipate better overall skills from boutiques, as the major well known brands often have phone training systems in place, but we did expect the personalization to be there” continues Zachary.

Comparing the overall phone skills performance of boutiques to a sample of well known brands, collected during a control group survey, the study shows no overall difference, boutiques 37%,  majors 37%.  In addition to the personalization aspects of inbound phone skills  (rapport and needs assessment), the survey scored other phone handling and sales criteria such as the use of a professional greeting and asking for a reservation.  These scores, shown below, are also roughly inline with a random selection of non boutique hotels.

92%      Answered within three rings

82%      Used an appropriate hotel greeting

47%      Asked to secure a reservation

24%      Handled resistance to a reservation

33%      Attempted to lead the conversation

37%      Overall phone shop score

In general,  it can be concluded that the front desk or reservations is adequately staffed and trained to answer the phone professionally and politely, but that’s where the training stops.  It seems this is true across all brands, not just boutiques.  The company will know for sure when a second phase of the investigation is complete.  “Clearly when only 47% of hotel agents ask the caller to make a reservation, phone skills training is no longer front and center.  Excuses include cuts in training, attention to online sales, etc. but as long as you’re paying people to answer the phone, they should be selling your service”, challenges Zachary.

The survey covered a wide variety of self proclaimed boutique hotels, ranging in size from only a few rooms to over 500.  On average small boutique properties did worse in all areas.  Those with less than 50 rooms had the lowest average overall score of 21%.   Above 50 rooms, there is a weak correlation between a hotel’s size and practice of good phone skills, boutiques above 500 rooms faired best at 62%, but with a small sample size.

Rooms                          Average Score             Calls

1-49                              21%                             46

50-99                            34%                             49

100-149                        39%                             59

150-199                        44%                             30

200-249                        48%                             27

250-499                        34%                             31

500 plus                        62%                             10

All Boutiques                37%                             252

With regard to the drop in performance with fewer rooms, Zachary claims that it doesn’t have to be this way.  “Our on demand phone shops give small hotels an incremental and low cost solution to training, one equally as effective as programs used by the large hotels and groups.”

“Again, what’s keeping the scores so low are the components of communication where boutiques should excel, namely the personalization of the call.  Personalization as simple as asking for a callers name, asking if the caller has visited their property before, if there are any preferences, and mention at least one feature of the property that may be a benefit to the caller – on average, done less than 5% of the time” he emphasizes.

Advanced Feedback’s survey also looked at differences between specific cities, states and regions of the country.  In part two of this study the research firm will investigate variations in service between brands, independents and hotel groups.

Go to THIS LINK (http://www.advancedfeedback.com/hotelsurvey2011.html) for a copy of the full report, or to find out how your hotel fairs relative to others in your area, region or the national average.

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Is Your Hotel Hurting, or Are You Hurting Your Hotel? – Small Tourist Area Sampling Returns Big Results

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.

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