By Elaine Oksner, Guest Service and Concierge Trainer, Hospitality Excellence, Inc.
Recently, at a charity fund raiser in South Florida, I chatted with a number of my concierge colleagues about the state of the economy and the impact it is having on the travel industry in general and hotels and resorts specifically. Occupancy numbers appear to be disturbingly lower than usual for this current off season. No doubt that this is due, at least in part, to rising prices across the board, the inevitable reaction to soaring fuel costs. This is affecting all of us. It is especially true in reference to where the public chooses to spend its dwindling discretionary income.
Many of our guests, both the individual travelers and the corporate meeting planners, are finding the need to do some serious belt-tightening. Even our wealthy travelers are reconsidering their vacation plans. What that means to the hotels and resorts is that we need to sell more to the people who are already in our properties. We must encourage everyone on staff to find all the opportunities to “cross sell” our facilities and motivate our guests to spend, spend, spend, beyond just paying the basic room rate.
Consider who on your staff is in the best position to do the most cross selling, making sure the guests are spending their time and their dollars in house. The Concierges, of course! With their guest contact and customer service skills, they can promote your food and beverage outlets, your spa and salon, your gift shop, your health club, tennis and golf, and add to your bottom line in a number of ways you may not have considered before. Here are some suggestions how they can help you and you can help them with the proper tools, motivation and support.
Let’s take your food and beverage outlets, for example. Does your Concierge have the most up-to-date copies of all the menus – not just your main dining room’s, but the lounge’s and tiki bar’s and room service’s, too? Are they presentable and easy to show the guests? Does the Concierge staff regularly sample dishes so they can speak enthusiastically about the chef’s creations? Do they know and understand the job of the Chef, the Maitre d’, and the Sommelier? The Concierges should feel a real connection with your food and beverage staff and want to assist in building that big part of the hotel’s business.
Your Concierge Manager may want to invite the Chef or Sommelier to speak at the Concierge staff’s monthly meetings. Concierges are information sponges. Fill them with knowledge about the wine list, the food preparation, the origins of your organic veggies or any other topics of interest. The more they know, the easier it will be for them to sell the product. Guests like to know that the Concierge can offer insight. How much more effective it is when they recommend the “Chef’s special melt-in-your-mouth guava-marinated braised short ribs” rather than just saying that “short ribs are on the menu“? One version makes the sale, the other does not.
Beyond this constant Food and Beverage, your F&B department should utilize the Concierge staff for guest feedback. Do they listen to the staff when they say that, for example, the guests are looking for local seafood. Do they react and increase those items on the menu? Or can they go even a step further? A few years ago, The Breakers Resort Palm Beach did just that and more. When the concierges showed that the most popular venues that guests were requesting outside the property were a nearby seafood restaurant and a traditional upscale steak house, The Breakers designed their own seafood bar and an elegant grill that have been hits ever since they were opened, keeping more F&B revenue in house.
Moving on, there are lots of other opportunities for cross selling. For example, how can the Concierges help to make sales in your retail shops? First of all, they will visit the shops regularly and find out what is new and exciting. Here the Concierges can build a connection when the retail manager or buyer gives them some extra insight into the lines they carry. For example, at the Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach, the Concierges are given a “heads up” when a new line of local celebrity designer, Lilly Pulitzer’s, brightly colored clothes has arrived. Guests are enthusiastically sent to the gift shop to see the quintessential Florida fashions and, better yet, buy these high ticket items. Keeping up-to-date on the unique items in the shop as well as the more mundane sundry items available is a must for the Concierge staff.
Does your guest want to go shopping to bring home something fun to the spouse or child who couldn’t make the trip? The educated concierge will be able to recommend a number of items readily available right in the hotel. When a guest comes to the concierge desk and asks where he can buy a bottle of wine to take to someone’s home, the staff will give him the information, of course, but they will also want to suggest two or three things available in the gift shop that would be great and unique alternatives to the ho-hum traditional wine. Again, building an inter-departmental connection will help the Concierge in doing the necessary job of cross selling.
Again, the Concierge staff should be encouraged to offer guest feedback about what the store might consider stocking. For example, if the concierges get a lot of requests for somewhere to buy reading glasses or men’s brown socks or self-tanning lotion, or those bottles of wine, the store manager may want to begin to carry these items so the guests don’t have to go off property to make the purchases. And, of course, once they go to the gift shop for a small item, the retail staff can guide them toward multiple purchases of higher ticket items. The trick is just to get them into the store. Your Concierge cross sales team will get them there!!
Is your Spa/Salon doing capacity business? Could it use an enthusiastic sales force with lots of guest contact? Of course it could! How do you get and keep the concierge staff enthusiastic about cross selling this important facility? The Manager should begin by giving them a tour, showing them the products and explaining the methods. Let them meet the staff and learn what specialties each spa team member has. Again, the key is building a connection between the departments and supplying information that makes the Concierge enthusiastic and insightful.
If you can, let them experience the spa first hand with a massage or a facial. It s always easier to sell a product you know and love. And always keep the Concierge department informed and up-to-date on any changes in services offered, pricing, hours of operation and staff. Building trust and respect between the departments builds business through cross selling.
Do you have tennis courts, a golf course, a fitness center with personal trainers? Exercise classes? You want to maximize guest usage, so, again, these are areas where you want to enlist your concierge staff’s help in cross selling these facilities. Build relationships between the fitness professionals and the Concierge team. Have your golf and tennis Pros explain the type of surface on your tennis courts, what makes your golf course challenging, and what kind of certification the personal trainers have. Let the instructors explain, and better yet, demonstrate the differences between Yoga and Pilates. Encourage the concierges try one, or all, of the facilities for that all-important first hand knowledge. Then step back and watch the revenues go up. Information and personal experience help them to cross sell.
And what about the feedback for these venues? Have you encouraged your concierge staff to let you know when the guests suggest an elliptical machine instead of yet another treadmill, or have they heard complaints about the hard clay surface of the tennis courts? Do your guests leave your property because they want a golf course with a driving range? Perhaps you might want to consider a virtual alternative to keep them on property. Are they going offsite for specialty classes? How often are the Concierges making reservations outside of the hotel for Aerobics or Step classes? Would it make sense to keep your guests in house by offering those classes yourselves? The Concierges, the eyes and ears of the hotel, can help you discover the things the guests really want so they spend their time and their money where it does the most good.
Cross selling should be everyone’s job in your hotel, but you will find that your professional concierge staff is ideal to absorb and disseminate the information your outlets give them to make sale after sale after sale. And, with the proper encouragement, they will give you the guest feedback that you need to continue improving your property. Education, motivation and recognition will pay off in cross selling. Track the sales and enjoy it when their efforts pay off!