Hotel Front Desk Upselling: What It Is, How To Do It, & More

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Room booking methods are constantly changing, thus making hoteliers consider various options to generate additional revenue streams. Most often, guests don’t have direct contact with the hotel staff until they arrive at the front desk. Front desk agents are the first person they speak to. Hotels recognized this as an upselling opportunity to maximize revenue from the occupancy.

There are a couple of questions that remain to be answered. For instance, what’s the best way to plan a front desk upselling strategy, and when should it be done? Below you will find actionable information about front desk upselling. However, before we go to the tips, let’s define what upselling in the front office is.

What Is Upselling in the Front Office?

You are probably familiar with the term upselling or suggestive selling. It has become an inseparable part of sales processes across industries, including the hospitality industry. Upselling refers to persuading a customer to buy additional products and services, something that they didn’t plan to buy initially.

Upselling in the front office and front desk upselling are the same things. They encompass selling additional services or room upgrades to guests that arrive at a hotel.

What Is the Purpose of Upselling?

The primary reason why hotels decide to upsell is to generate more revenue. The entire hospitality industry stands to profit from the front desk upselling.

Surprisingly front desk upselling also has positive effects on hotel reputation. A study reveals that front desk upselling practices can increase guest satisfaction and boost the online reputation of hotels by a staggering 25%. Upselling can help hotels attract more guests through very positive online reviews.

When Should We Do It?

Upselling works best when you have a customer that already has a room reservation. Your front desk agents can offer these guests add-on items at discounted prices to reward them for early-paid bookings. That’s a polite way to welcome your guests at the hotel while minimizing the risk of appearing too pushy or too “salesy.”

A good front desk upselling strategy can also be of use when you have to handle early arrivals. Instead of being caught off guard, your front desk agents will be able to offer solid upgrades at affordable prices. Guests know the reason for the check-in time. You need to get their room ready before they can go in. You can offer them an alternative that’s slightly more expensive, but which they can move into this very moment.

When Should We Not Do It?

Promoting add-on items to a guest that is still considering whether to stay at your hotel or not doesn’t yield promising results. You don’t know anything about these guests yet. Staying focused on being as informative as possible should be your primary concern in this instance. Front desk upselling should offer guests add-on items that complement their stay at the hotel.

On many occasions, the timing at the front desk isn’t the most convenient for both parties: the guest just wants to go to his room, and the clerk wants to give quick service to the guests waiting in the line. This is why doing the whole thing pre-arrival is much better and more efficient, and consistent. It saves time for hotel employees. This can also be an advantage, especially during the pandemic, if the process is done digitally.

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Upselling Techniques for a Hotel Front Desk

Upselling and checking in go hand-in-hand. Your front desk staff should be well-informed about all add-on items and their availability for upselling. All upselling techniques revolve around conveying the right information to the right customers during the conversation. Here are the most effective upselling techniques for a hotel front desk.

Choice Reconfirmation Technique

Offering ancillary services or room upgrades as soon as your guests arrive at your front office can easily backfire. The worst thing you can do is highlight some downside of the choice they’ve made. It can frustrate them and undermine the relationship with your front desk staff. Instead, you can try a choice reconfirmation technique.

Tell your new arrivals that they’ve made an excellent choice and that you are sure they will be able to enjoy peace and relaxation in their accommodation. Reconfirm their choice and only then inform them about available upgrades.

Incremental Quotation Technique

The incremental quotation technique can help your front desk staff capture more sales. The technique revolves around communicating the affordability of upgrades. It should paint the picture of the added value of your offer. When paired with an affordable upgrade price, it can interest new arrivals and often result in a sale.

The technique is simple. Instead of offering expensive upgrades such as “Upgrade to a room with a kitchen; $150 per night,” you can lead in with a line, “For just an additional $25 per night, you can enjoy a room with a fireplace.”.

Special Requests Technique

For over 40% of people, online booking is a favorite way of booking rooms. However, websites often feature very little additional information about the hotels and available ancillary services and add-on items. Guests won’t ask about a service if they are under the impression that you don’t have it in your offer.

Your front desk staff can easily fix it and ask a simple “Do you have any special request” question. Your front desk staff’s ultimate goal is to identify the unique guest’s needs and offer relevant services.

Rate Framing Technique

Rate framing technique is a skill that your staff will have to practice in order to master it. Rate framing is when you offer something at a high price and then immediately follow with a special discounted price. The goal is to engage the new arrivals and make the offer very attractive. So attractive that your guests will have no other option but to say “yes.”

For instance, your front desk staff can engage new arrivals with a spa treatment proposal in the following fashion: “The spa treatment usually costs $90. This week we decided to offer it at a rate of $70. Are you interested?”.

Your front desk agents can simply ask questions that range from: “Would you like a room with a better view?” to “Would you like us to create a customized menu that suits your personal dieting needs?” Front desk upselling takes place during a conversation. It all boils down to knowing when to offer additional information about the offer and when to ask questions.

Hotel Front Desk Upselling Examples

Let’s take a look at a couple of hotel front desk upselling examples. A guest arrives before the check-in time. Instead of saying, “We are really sorry, but our check-in time isn’t until 3 PM, please come back later.” a good upselling line would go like this “Mrs. Smith, our official check-in time is 3 PM. Our staff is currently getting your room ready. However, we have a vacant deluxe room available right now for an additional rate of $30.

A family with small children checking in is an excellent opportunity to upsell. For instance, “I see you are traveling with your family, and you’ll value all the additional space you can get. For only $30 more, I can offer you a bigger suite with a fully equipped kitchen.”

Best Front Desk Upselling Tips

Whether you want to leverage upselling cross-selling techniques during pre-stay, on arrival, or during the stay, there are certain best practices that you should always stick to:

  • Know your guests – learn as much about your guests as possible and forward the information to the front desk staff so they can offer the relevant upgrades to the guest.
  • Personalize offers – give your best to personalize offers for each guest to appear as someone who cares for them and values their choice to choose you.
  • Offer multiple upselling options – offer several options with different price points to enable guests to pick one they deem the most valuable.
  • Use automated tools to promote room upgrades and additional ancillaries – enhance the digital experience for your guests and enable them to purchase upgrades pre-arrival while freeing up your front desk staff.
  • Continuously work on improving sales skills of front desk staff – aggressive upselling techniques can annoy guests. Train your staff not only to identify upselling opportunities but to know how to pursue them effectively.

Common Upselling Pitfalls To Avoid

Here are the most common front desk upselling pitfalls to avoid:

  • Not showing the pictures to customers – guests should never have to imagine what you’re offering to them; use pictures to help them see the value of your offer.
  • Upselling and cross-selling wrong add-on items – some add-on items are not in demand as they were just a couple of years ago, and use hotel upselling software to identify trends.
  • Upselling everything to everyone – your upsell offer should cater to the needs of specific guest segments, identify their needs, and offer them relevant upsell options.

Front desk upselling and cross-selling are viable methods you can use to tap into new revenue streams for your hotel. Besides creating a new revenue stream, front desk upselling can also help you increase customer satisfaction and boost your reputation. Use the tips we’ve shared with you to fuel your upselling strategy and take your guest experience to a new level.

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Graduated from Standford University, Arielle has over 5 years of experience in the Hospitality industry. She holds an MBA in business administration from the IDC Herzliya, Israel. She currently works as Account Manager at UpStay, building and maintaining strong, long-lasting customer relationships. She is deeply passionate about helping hoteliers unlock significant new revenue streams from unsold premium inventory.


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