Case Study: 3325CA

? Requirements: 1. Provide a brief summary of the case study.2. Answer the questions at the end of the case. Provide detailed responses. Format (Include the question as the heading for each response)? Rubric: Information provided thoroughly addressed all questions at the end of the Case Study with details related to the case study. The answers provided were related to the case and class topics..
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Everybody Sells: Turning Front Desk Agents into Salespeople
Discussion Questions
1. What are some ways Keith can train his front desk agents to be salespeople?
2. What types of incentive plans might Keith put in place to encourage his front desk agents to
sell?
“Come in, come in!” Ben, a slim, gray-haired figure in a dark three-piece suit, rose from his leather desk
chair and waved Keith into one of the two chairs on the other side of the massive oak desk. Keith said
thank you and glanced around the general manager’s office as Ben settled into the chair next to his.
Keith had been in the office a few times before, but he was still impressed by the floor-to-ceiling
bookshelves behind the desk, the lithographs of old hotels that lined the walls, the awards and
testimonial plaques that were sprinkled throughout the room. “The reason I wanted to talk with you
today,” Ben began, “is to discuss what we can do to bring up our average daily rate. You’ve been at the
hotel a couple of weeks now and I assume you’ve learned your way around a bit.” “Yes sir.” Ben’s eyes
twinkled. “I’ve told you before, just because my hair is gray and I’ve been in the hotel business a
hundred years, there’s no need to call me ‘sir.’ ‘Ben’ will do.” Keith smiled and just stopped himself from
saying “Yes sir” again. “I’ve received word that corporate wants us to raise our ADR ten percent by the
end of the quarter, and the front desk has got to do its part.” Ben leaned back in his chair and clasped
his hands over his vest. He reminded Keith of a kindly, longtime family lawyer getting set to dispense
some grandfatherly advice. “I don’t want to be insulting, but, since this is your first job as a front office
manager—in fact, you’re not that long out of college, is that correct?” “That’s right, just a few years,”
Keith said. “Still ‘wet behind the ears,’ you might say.” “Well, if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to relate a little
history of the relationship between the reservations department and the front desk; I think it will help
you appreciate how we got to where we are today, and put into perspective what I’ll be asking you to do
to help us get that extra ten percent.” “Okay.” Keith settled back for a long story. “My first hotel job was
in the reservations office. Back then there were no computers. We did have phones, however, in case
you were wondering.” Keith smiled as Ben chuckled. “People would call in requesting a room, and we
would roll an index card into a typewriter and type out a reservation. The caller didn’t make special
requests, such as ‘a room with a desk, please,’ or ‘a king-size bed, please,’ and we didn’t ask for any of
that information, because we weren’t sure what type of room would be available—back then inventory
control was all done at the front desk. The card was simply a request that a room be held for the caller
on a certain day. The cards would all be gathered up at the end of the shift and taken to the front desk,
where they would be filed by the day the reservation was for. “When the guest arrived at the hotel, the
front desk agent would pull the card (‘Yes, Mr. Whosis, we have a room for you’) and then the selling
would begin, based on what types of rooms the agent knew were still available: ‘Would you like a kingsize bed?’ ‘We have several rooms with a nice view of the park—would you care for one of those?’ and
so on. In other words, the front desk agents were the hotel’s salespeople, because they had control of
the guestroom inventory. They knew which rooms were available and which were not. “Well, along
came computers, and suddenly sales moved from the front desk to the reservations department. Why?
Because computers allowed the reservations department to keep track of guestroom inventory. Now
when a caller phoned the hotel, the reservationist could look at a computer screen and tell exactly what
rooms were still available on the day the caller wanted to stay at the hotel. So the reservationist, instead
of merely reserving ‘a’ room—the old card system could do that much—could now reserve a particular
room. The reservationist could ask the caller all of the questions the front desk agent used to ask: ‘What
size bed would you like?’ ‘Would you like a room with a view?’ ‘For five dollars more I can reserve a
room near the pool; would you like that?’ and so on. Therefore, once computerized reservations
systems arrived and guestroom inventory control shifted from the front desk to the reservations
department, the sales function and all of the sales training shifted from the front desk to the
reservations department, too.” Ben spread his hands in a gesture of regret. “Consequently,
salesmanship was not emphasized at the front desk anymore. In fact, many agents saw no need to sell,
because most guests had already told the reservationist exactly what types of rooms they wanted. Many
front desk agents thought they would be ‘bothering’ a guest if they suggested a room other than the
one called for by the reservation already entered into the computer. “But—and this is something I could
never get your predecessor to understand, or at least to act on,” Ben frowned, “front desk agents can
still have a tremendous impact on a hotel’s bottom line, through upselling. For example, if a guest walks
in with his wife, and the front desk agent sees that he has reserved a standard room, the agent should
say something like the following: ‘Sir, we have a room available that you might enjoy more than the one
you’ve reserved. The room I’m thinking of is a corner room with a great view. It also has a whirlpool tub
that’s great for relaxing, a sitting area, and a king-size bed—which would be an upgrade from the two
double beds in your present room—all for only $15 more. Would you like me to reserve this room for
you?’ “Or, if an agent sees a guest come in lugging three sample cases, he can assume that this is a
businessperson who probably would like enough space in his room to spread out business papers or
samples or what have you. The agent should say something like this: ‘Gee, it looks like you’re really
loaded down, sir. I see that you’ve reserved a standard guestroom, but I have a bigger room with plenty
of desk space for only $10 more.’ What’s wrong with that?” Ben stopped talking and looked at Keith
expectantly. “Nothing?” Keith ventured. “That’s right, there’s nothing wrong with that!” Ben said
enthusiastically. “The agent made a suggestion that might make the guest’s stay more pleasant and also
increase revenues for the hotel. That’s all there is to upselling. But so few agents are trained to do that
anymore. Like I said, computers changed everything. In the old days, reservationists were ‘order-takers’
and the front desk agents were the salespeople; now the roles are completely reversed. And it shouldn’t
be that way. Front desk agents still have a sales role to play.” Ben chuckled again. “Thank you for letting
me climb up on my soapbox. You’re probably wondering, ‘What does all this have to do with me?’ Well,
what I want you to do is turn your front desk agents into salespeople again. We’ve got to teach them
how to sell and give them the tools to sell so they’ll have the confidence to sell.” “I hope this doesn’t
sound naive,” Keith said, “but, can upselling really make that much difference? I mean, $5 here, $10
there, and not every guest is going to agree to an upgrade.” Keith paused. “I guess I’m not sure how
much that’s really going to add to the bottom line.” “That’s the beauty of upselling,” Ben replied. “Every
extra dollar you bring in through upselling falls to the bottom line. We’ve already spent the money to
get the guest to the hotel—through advertising, the reservationist taking the call, and so on. Now that
he’s here, anything extra we can entice him into spending is pure gravy.” Ben smiled. “Now, don’t get
the wrong idea. I don’t want to sound manipulative, because upselling—done properly—is not the art of
tricking a guest into buying something he doesn’t want. A front desk agent should never pressure a
guest. However, there’s nothing wrong with pointing out to a guest that, for a few dollars more, his or
her experience at the hotel might be enhanced. Usually, guests are unaware that there are rooms
available that might better fit their needs. Maybe the reservationist didn’t do a great job of selling, who
knows? So agents aren’t trying to ‘gouge’ guests when they upsell—they are merely offering a guest
some options that the guest might not have thought about, options that might make the guest’s
experience at the hotel more enjoyable. That’s the way you should present upselling to your agents.”
“I’ll be glad to try,” Keith said, “but I’m not sure how to go about it.” “Well, the first thing I’d do is assess
the current sales skills of the staff,” Ben said. “Is anyone selling right now? You’ve only been here a
couple of weeks and I know you’re not fully acquainted with your personnel, so I’d spend some time
observing the agents. This might also give you ideas on what types of upselling opportunities the agents
are missing. If you discover a pattern, that will give you a plan of attack on good ways to raise the ADR.
“What I suspect you’re going to find,” Ben continued, “is that few, if any, agents are upselling right now.
But don’t be discouraged. There are lots of techniques we can use in-house to train them; we may even
send them to some outside seminars, or bring a trainer here if we have to. Also, you’ll probably want to
set up an incentive program to encourage the agents to sell.” Ben stood up to signal an end to the
meeting and placed a hand on Keith’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, I’m confident you can do it. And you’re
not alone. All we need from the front desk area is an additional five percent; reservations and the sales
department have targets to meet, too, and—working together—we’ll make our numbers and corporate
will be happy. If you run into trouble, don’t hesitate to come see me.” “Thank you, Ben.” During the next
week, Keith observed the front desk agents as they checked in guests. As Ben predicted, they didn’t
make any effort to upsell. They were polite and professional, but invariably they sent the guests to
whatever room they had previously reserved. Even with walk-in guests there was no salesmanship. The
agents always offered the walk-ins one of the hotel’s standard guestrooms—the lowest-priced rooms in
the house—and almost every walk-in simply accepted it. Keith observed only one walk-in guest who
asked if there were better rooms available. The agent said yes, the hotel had some deluxe rooms
available, and there was even one club room still available. (The hotel had three basic types of rooms:
“standard” guestrooms with either two double beds, two queen-size beds, or one king-size bed;
“deluxe” guestrooms with the same bed combinations but with slightly more floor space and better
appointments; and “club” rooms that were really mini-suites with king-size beds, sitting areas, and
special amenities such as thicker towels, upgraded toiletries, turn-down service, and so on.) When the
guest asked the agent to describe the differences in the rooms, Keith was surprised to hear the agent do
a terrible job of outlining the different features and amenities that accompanied each type of room.
Later, Keith checked with some of the other agents and was shocked to learn that many of them had
never seen any of the hotel’s guestrooms. As the week wore on, Keith noticed a pattern that concerned
him: most of the hotel’s club rooms were given away as upgrades to the hotel’s business guests. Those
rooms were supposed to be real money-makers for the hotel, because the hotel sold them at a higher
rate than the standard and deluxe guestrooms, but that was precisely the problem—the rooms were
rarely sold. As part of its special corporate rates, the hotel promised business travelers free upgrades to
club rooms “subject to availability.” And club rooms were always available, because front desk agents
weren’t selling them! If Keith did nothing more than get his agents to sell more club rooms, that would
have a dramatic impact on ADR, because the rooms would be sold rather than given to guests who were
already enjoying a discounted corporate rate. At the end of the week, Keith met with his front desk
agents at the beginning of their shifts and explained the situation. “The overall goal of the hotel is to
raise ADR by ten percent; our contribution is to increase our numbers by five percent. We can do that by
upselling—to all of our guests, but especially to our walk-ins. According to my research, about 12
percent of our guests are walk-ins, and since these guests have no prior reservations, they’re not
committed to a particular room and should be easier to upsell. If we start out by offering walk-ins our
club rooms, rather than our standard rooms, then offer a deluxe room as a compromise if they don’t
want a club room, I think we can almost make our numbers right there, not even counting upselling to
guests who already have reservations. “Let me give you an example of how a little bit of upselling can
make a big difference,” Keith continued. “We sold about 1,000 rooms to walk-ins last month. All but
fourteen of those guests were booked in standard rooms at around $55 per night. If we sell club rooms,
which sell for $40 more, to 200 of those walk-ins— that’s just one upgraded guest out of five—that
brings in an additional $8,800 for the month. Project that over twelve months, and we’re bringing in
over $100,000 more revenue per year for the hotel. Just moving 200 walk-ins from a standard to a
deluxe room at $75 a night would bring in $4,400 more a month. And those dollars fall right to the
bottom line. “If we sell out the club rooms—and that should be our goal every night— they are no
longer available as free giveaways to businesspeople, which saves us money and gives us up selling
opportunities: ‘I’m sorry, Ms. Businessperson, but our club rooms are full tonight. I can go ahead and
book you into your standard room, or I can upgrade you to a deluxe guestroom with lots of space and a
kingsize bed for just $20 more.’ Don’t save the club rooms so you are sure to have some available to give
away as upgrades. What you want to do is sell them out, so we don’t have to give them away.” “Isn’t
that unfair to the business travelers?” asked one agent. “Not really,” Keith replied. “Our deals with
business travelers state that we will upgrade them to club rooms if any are available—but we certainly
aren’t obligated to deliberately not sell club rooms to make sure they’re available. That’s not good
business, and businesspeople don’t expect us to do that. The hotel put a lot of money into those club
rooms, and it’s entitled to try to recoup that investment if it can. “I know the idea of upselling is a new
one for many of you,” Keith said in conclusion, “but it isn’t that difficult, and I’m not going to just shove
you out there unprepared. You’re going to get some training, and I’m also going to come up with an
incentive plan so you can share in the rewards of bringing more revenue to the hotel. “Upselling can be
enjoyable if you approach it the right way, so get ready to have some fun! And here’s a slogan I want
you to remember from now on: ‘Everybody Sells!’”

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