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Hotel front desk upselling: How to nail and scale your strategy

Front desk upselling 3
The importance of upselling during check-in

Meet Samantha, a passionate hospitality expert who helps hotels to boost their revenue & guest experience with upselling.

The importance of upselling during check-in
Hotel front desk upselling: How to nail and scale your strategy
The importance of upselling during check-in
Hotel front desk upselling: How to nail and scale your strategy

While many hoteliers are aware of the benefits of hotel front desk upselling, they hardly leverage it to its full potential. It’s not surprising as there are numerous aspects to get right so that it’s worth the effort. Apart from having a comprehensive knowledge of all your hotel offerings, you (and your front desk team) need to know the basics of human psychology and upsell techniques to close upselling deals successfully.

From highlighting the most crucial communication skills to master to revealing the most widely used upselling techniques in hospitality, continue reading to learn the ins and outs of effective front desk upselling.

What is hotel front desk upselling?

Hotel front desk upselling is a sales technique where a front desk agent suggests hotel extras, upgrades, and other supplementary services to guests during check-in. The goal of this technique is to generate additional (ancillary) revenue for the hotel and enhance the guest experience.

Why is front desk upselling important?

Front desk upselling is beneficial to both you and your guests. Here are a few benefits not to overlook:

  • Positively impacts your revenue and RevPAR

Although pre-arrival upselling is essential for driving incremental revenue, the check-in stage appears to be an even better opportunity to upsell.

The data speaks for itself:

  • Front desk upselling drives 5-9 times more revenue than pre-stay upselling.

  • Front desk upselling drives a RevPAR contribution of between 2 and 5%, while pre-stay upselling generates only 0.3-1%.

Considering that pre-arrival upselling generates at least €64 on average in form of additional spending per room (according to Q3 2022’s data), upselling in the front office might multiply this figure by at least five times.

  • Boosts your guest experience

Informing your guests about your offers is the first step to refining their experience. Front office agents have a unique opportunity to read the actual situation. By considering different factors like the guest’s mood and reservation data, they can suggest upsells that will better cater to their guest’s needs.

For example, if a family with kids and a lot of luggage arrives at the hotel, a front desk agent might offer a more spacious room with ample storage.

The key is to suggest an upsell that will add value to your guest’s stay, as this will increase the chance of them booking the deal.

What are the best upselling techniques for the front office?

Effective front desk upselling is not only about what you offer. It is also about how you do it.

This is why mastering upselling techniques is essential. The good news is that there are several tried-and-tested methods that you can start implementing right away to skyrocket your results.

1. Reconfirm your guest’s choice

The first rule of elegant upselling is never to point out the drawbacks of the room/service your guest has chosen. At this stage, your aim is to establish a good relationship with your guests. Mentioning the flaws of their choice won’t help in this regard and is unlikely to produce a positive impression about you and your hotel.

Only after you’ve reconfirmed your guest’s excellent choice, you can move on to presenting relevant upgrades and services. For instance, you can say, “I see you reserved a table at our restaurant — you will for sure not regret it! Would you like to have breakfast throughout your stay as well?”

2. Quote incremental price

Stress the affordability of room upgrades by mentioning only the incremental price guests will need to pay. Instead of saying, “You have a great chance to upgrade to a deluxe room for €250”, you should say, “For only €20 extra, you can get our deluxe room with a hot tub and a terrace.

Be as specific as possible and highlight the additional features, value, and amenities when suggesting a room upgrade/service.

Don’t hesitate to use visual content when offering a room upgrade. People remember 65% of what they see, compared to 10% of what they hear. So, demonstrating the photos of the room will ensure your guests can perceive the information better.

3. Use rate framing

Special offers and discounts are powerful marketing weapons you can employ when offering extras or room upgrades.

The trick here is to mention a higher price first and then follow up with a special offer. You might state: “Normally, our junior suite, which has the most stunning view in our hotel, costs $250, but for your dates, it’s available for $210.”

4. Ask if guests have any special requests

Ideas on what to upsell to your guests might be hidden in plain sight and all you need to do is just ask. Start with a simple question like, “Do you have any special requests?

Then, go further and analyse the guest and the situation to come up with more in-depth, follow-up questions.

Depending on who is standing in front of you, your questions might be:

  • Family with kids - Would you like a special menu tailored to your dietary needs? Would you like a more spacious room with a kid’s corner?

  • Leisure travellers (couple) - Would you like to book a romantic dinner and taste our seasonal menu? Would you be interested in our special wine-tasting tour?

  • Business travellers - Would you like to upgrade to a quieter room with a working desk? Would you be interested in our business lunch option?

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5. Suggest bundles

Who doesn’t like bundles? Bundles and packages look extremely appealing to your guests because they take the decision-making burden off their shoulders.

For example, you can suggest a half-board supplement throughout the entire stay plus a one-time spa treatment or full board with a fun boat cruise deal. It’s best practice to make a few variations of your deal so guests can customise it to their liking.

How to master your front desk upselling skills?

Good communication is crucial at each stage of your guest journey. And, when it comes to offering upsells at check-in, it can make or break your upselling success.

Hone the following skills to become a real rockstar at upselling:

- Top 3 communication skills you need to excel in front desk upselling

1. Read the situation

First of all, you need to become proficient in analysing your guest and their potential needs. By combining details from their reservation card with cues of the actual situation, you can better identify if your guest is likely to opt for a higher room category or buy extras. Pay close attention to the following points:

  • Who the guest is, and which segment they belong to (gender, age, country of origin, etc.)

  • What’s the purpose of their stay (leisure, business, wellness, etc.)

  • Who they’re travelling with (alone/with a partner/with a family/group of friends/colleagues)

To simplify this task, you might want to prepare a list of deals to offer a specific segment along with a script of how to approach different guest segments. This is where hotel upsell software like Oaky can come in handy to assist you with selling the right deal to the right guest.

2. Practise active listening

Active listening is the best-kept secret of all seasoned salespeople. To uncover your guests’ needs, you should be fully present in the conversation and seek to understand the real meaning behind their words. To become a better listener and demonstrate that you’re paying attention to what your guest is saying, you need to:

  • Maintain good eye contact

  • Pay attention to nonverbal signals

  • Don’t think about what to say next but try to understand your guest truly

  • Paraphrase what you’ve just heard to validate if you’ve heard it correctly

  • Ask relevant follow-up questions, preferably open questions.

The end goal of this technique is to make your guests feel at ease. This way, they will feel more comfortable sharing their plans and be more open to considering your suggestions and offers.

3. Become an expert in body language and learn how to control yours

Is your guest standing with crossed arms and avoiding eye contact? It’s a sign to wait for a more suitable moment to present your upsells.

Learning how to differentiate positive body language from negative body language will increase the effectiveness of your upselling efforts. If you sense that your guest is not in the right mood, offering upsells will be a futile attempt that will only irritate them.

Aside from learning how to read your customers’ body language, you should also learn how to control yours. Here are a few key elements that you should keep in mind when welcoming your guests:

  • Practise the right posture — don’t slouch when you’re standing or sitting

  • Greet your guest with a smile

  • Have a firm handshake

  • Be engaged in the conversation and keep good eye contact

  • Be confident in your behaviour but don’t act as if you know everything.

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- 3 common pitfalls to avoid when upselling at the front desk

Being great at front desk upselling also means avoiding the following pitfalls:

  • Not describing the value of suggested deals/upgrades. Always try to tell a story and sell an experience rather than just a room or service. Be specific and descriptive and show pictures of what your guests might get. The visual element is key in many instances, as customers generally want to avoid buying a cat in the sack.

  • Selling generic, run-of-the-mill deals. Modern travellers are used to personalisation and they expect you to do your homework before they arrive. Suggesting irrelevant deals will result in zero incremental sales and make your guests doubt your professional approach. This brings us to another point…

  • Not researching the guest beforehand. Getting to know your guests beforehand will help you to suggest relevant upsell offers. Prepare for your guests’ arrivals by going over their booking details in the morning. This way, you will feel more confident communicating with them once they arrive.

- Automate your upselling efforts

While upselling at the front desk is a crucial part of a viable upselling strategy, putting it into practice is easier said than done. To make it work, you need to have quick access to the following information:

  • Your guest’s booking details

  • Up-to-date availability of your room inventory and services

  • The prices of the room upgrades and services.

On top of that, you need to keep track of booked rooms and supplements to prevent double-bookings.

This is why manual management of the entire process usually turns into a real hassle for hotels.

In addition, a high staff turnover and lack of time to provide upselling training to your team mean that hotels rarely have the chance to implement an upselling strategy.

Getting an upselling software solution is a smart way to streamline the entire process across the board. It will let you boost the upsell productivity and guest spending and enable your agents to sell more.

For example, Pillows Grand Boutique Hotel Reylof has been experiencing considerable growth in upsell revenue after enabling automation. Since the Oaky roll-out, the hotel has been consistently generating €163 in average upsell revenue per room per month, reaching €224 in December 2023. The average ROI achieved for the year 2023 was 31.9.

How Pillows Hotels generate €163 in average upsell revenue per room per month

Front desk upselling, step-by-step

So, when is the best moment to upsell? It starts as soon as your guest enters the lobby of your hotel. Follow the steps below to set the stage for presenting your upsells.

1. Pull the information about your quest from the reservation card:

  • What’s your guest’s name? (It’s critical to know how to address the guest by his/her name)

  • Which segment does your guest fall under?

  • Is he/she travelling alone or with kids/pets/a bigger group?

  • Is it a first-timer or a loyal guest?

  • Where is your guest coming from? (Country of origin)

2. Give your guest a warm welcome:

  • Thank them for choosing your hotel

  • Always smile

  • Analyse the body language of your guest and try to identify their present mood.

3. Ask open questions to find out about your guest’s plans and pinpoint their expectations:

You might ask, “What brings you here?” If you see that the guest doesn't look tired or upset, you can also ask, “How was your journey?”

4. Keep the conversation going based on their responses.

5. Reassure them that they booked an excellent room.

6. Use your automation software, such as Oaky, to check the availability of rooms and services, as well as their prices.

7. Mention that there’s a special offer running on the dates of their stay (utilise the techniques discussed above).

8. Move on to presenting relevant hotel services and add-ons.

Final thoughts

Not only will upselling in the front office help you meet and exceed guest expectations, but it will also let you unlock another lucrative revenue stream. Making it a common practice at your hotel is easier when you have an automation solution.

While a big part of upselling success depends on communication skills, the knowledge about your current hotel offers, promotions, and access to the necessary information about your guests can work wonders for your financial results.

Curious to learn more about how upselling automation can save time and drive more revenue?

Let's discuss your front desk upselling goals

Any questions about Oaky? Feel free to reach out!

MKT Olga Vasylieva email
Olga Vasylieva

Senior Marketing Manager 

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