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Hotels Adding Incentive Programs to Boost Sales from Direct Booking

January 17, 2013

By Colleen Lynch, Call Recording World Contributor

Online third-party booking systems for hotels and vacations, such as Priceline.com or Expedia.com, are certainly a popular option when customers are looking for deals. But when a customer knows exactly where and when they want to stay, many choose to book directly over the phone with the establishment’s reservation agents or front desk staff.

The problem? Too many hotels fail to recognize the pivotal role these staff members play in their sales and business. One solution is boosting sales training for hotel employees, but another option has been sweeping the hotel circuit lately, and with impressive results--more incentive programs.

To get transient staff generating an acceptable return-on-investment (ROI), some hotel companies are realizing (and rightly so) that front desk employees and staff dealing with reservations should be seen in a different light--as salespeople.

And salespeople are compensated via incentive programs. Making such an industry shift may seem like a no-brainer, but up until now the hotel industry has nearly unanimously resisted in making this change.

The thinking is generally “Why do these employees deserve additional compensation for doing their job?”

The answer to this question lies in the many benefits an incentive program could provide to a hotel, its staff and its business, if handled correctly--and that last part is important.

First and foremost, incentive programs have proven to be directly tied to extra revenue for the hotel if they are built around a quantifiable business practice.

In other words, hotel management should be careful not to frame their incentive program around a job requirement that does not directly impact sales revenue. If an employee is to be rewarded for ambiguous practices or traits, such as how “friendly” they are, there is no foolproof way to measure or compare the level at which each employee is operating. Incentive programs have failed completely based on this shaky structuring.

With a quantifiable, countable, monetary value that can be measured and ranked, favoritism then becomes a nonissue.

Another important note is that individual incentives are generally preferred over team incentives. A company should always confront the main issues affecting sales efficiency and staff performance, so unless teamwork is a clear problem within the group, the incentive program would likely fare better on an individual-based platform.

This does not mean, however, that each employee can have a separate goal to reach, but that each member is evaluated on their own merit. If one person is underperforming, they will not drag the whole team down, essentially.

Program goals should not be based on any one employee’s limitations or abilities, but the ideal level should also not be out-of-reach. Realistic goals, and not unattainable ones, are the backbone of any good incentive program; otherwise, the program will immediately fail.

Lastly, incentive programs in hotels and in other industries should always post the results in a public place. Nearly every restaurant or office has an “Employee of the Month” wall with hanging pictures or names, and this recognition is a tried-and-true feature of incentive programs that will add a touch of competition--but only if the group does not have internal issues or fails to work well as a team, as mentioned.

The hotel industry may be a bit late to the game when it comes to incentive programs, but the addition of such methods could significantly boost revenue for those hotels not especially affiliated with online travel-deal companies, and those which build their business on dealing more directly with their guests. 

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Edited by Brooke Neuman

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