Given the seasonal nature of the tourism industry, you have a short amount of time for training. While it’s tempting to provide minimal training — because employees may only be with you for one season — it’s still important to give them the tools to succeed. Their success is also your success.
Part of your on-boarding should include teaching your guides on how to be sales professionals. Why? Because they interact closely with your guests and could be the reason why a reservation is made.
For instance, some of your booking inquiries could come in over the phone. Any of your staff members may be the one to answer — often whoever’s closest to the phone. The conversation can either lead to a booking or end with the caller saying, “I’m going to give it some more thought.” Which usually translates to no thank-you.
To make sure your seasonal workforce get more bookings, you should train them on proper phone sales etiquette. But if you don’t have enough time for this, it’s a good idea to give your staff a script to follow instead.
John Tedham — my friend, colleague, and bundle of personality — used to work as an office manager for a large adventure tourism business. He shared some helpful techniques with me on how to train a tour guide quickly on phone bookings. One of the methods he used was called the IIPS Framework.
The IIPS Framework
John says to break up the phone call into four main sections. The call should look something like this:
- Introduction (5%): Answer the phone in a professional manner.
- Information gathering (45%): Learn about the customer, their group, and the kind of experience they want to have together.
- Presenting (35%): Explain which of your activities would be best based on the information given.
- Say it back (15%): Repeat the itinerary back to them before saying goodbye.
The best way to answer the phone is to tell the caller your name and company. You’d be surprised how often I call a tour operator and the rep answers with a simple “Hello?” Not only is this greeting unprofessional, but it leaves the customer wondering if they called the right number.
Instead, you should train your team to answer like this:
“Hi, this is [Name] at [Company] how can I help you today?”
Gathering context gets the conversation going while taking a phone booking. The objective here is to collect information that gives you insight into what the guest wants — like why they’re interested in booking an activity with you. To gather this information, you can work relevant questions naturally into the conversation. Here are some great examples:
- “What’s the occasion?”
- “Have you been out with us before?”
- “Have you done [activity] before?”
- “Has anyone in your group done [activity] before?”
- “How many people do you think you’re going to bring?”
- “Are there going to be children in your group?”
- “The height limit is [height limit]. Do your children meet the height requirements?”
- “How much do you weigh?” just kidding don’t ask that.
Once you’ve got a general sense of who you’re talking to and what they want, you can press for information related to your Booking Policy.
For example, if you’ve learned that children are in the group and your activity has a height requirement, make sure you emphasize the importance of checking each child’s height. You can even make a friendly suggestion like “better whip out the tape measure. It’s possible they’ve grown again since you last measured them.”
Similarly, if your activity has a weight limit, you need to let the lead booker know the consequences of not meeting the weight requirement. Since weight is often a sensitive subject, you can try and make it amusing by painting a scenario:
“The weight limit is [weight limit]. It’s really important that you confirm with your entire group that everyone meets the requirement. If you don’t, someone’s going to be waiting back at the office with me while the rest of your group is out having fun.”
Make sure to avoid the phrase, “I’m sure everything will work out.” We all know that’s not always the case. And it’s easy to appease someone who insists they’ve done similar activities in the past. But they’ll likely be more frustrated when they arrive unable to participate in the activity. So it’s better to be upfront on the restrictions in the beginning.
If someone doesn’t meet the booking policy requirements, you should avoid negative language and provide them with alternate options.
Take for example the difference between these two responses:
Don’t say: “Your child is too short to do [activity.]”
Do say: “We designed [other activity] for [child’s name’s] age/height. How about we book you for that instead?”
Remember, you can always let them know your booking policy is in place to keep their family safe.
As soon as you’ve gathered all the information you need, you can make suggestions on relevant products your tour business offers. And if you feel the call is going well, you can even try an upsell.
For example, I’m in the middle of booking an Inca Trail trip, and the sales rep I spoke with on the phone managed to upsell me. Even though I indicated on the booking form that I didn’t want to do the Huayna Picchu trek, she asked if I’d be interested anyway.
According to Harvard Business Review, telling a story is the best way to present information. And this is precisely what she did to make a successful upsell.
During the call, she explained that Huayna Picchu means “Young Mountain” and Machu Picchu means “Old Mountain.” And she related this fact to the idea that only the most avid hikers can complete the Huayna Picchu trek. As for the others — often older or less physically fit — are too sore to continue after the four-day trek to Machu Picchu.
I felt challenged when she presented the trek this way. And since I’m determined to experience as much as I can on this adventure, I was compelled to complete the booking with the full trek #noregrets.
If the sales rep had gone with what I initially checked on the booking form, she would’ve missed out on a more significant sale. And I would’ve missed out on a better experience because the line “Would you like to add the Huayna Picchu trek for $75?” didn’t intrigue me enough. I checked No without giving it much thought. But speaking with her gave me the emotional context to go for the add-on.
Say it back
It’s ideal to review the final invoice/itinerary at the end of a call. This practice helps to catch any mistakes, so there are no issues on the day of the activity. The best way to do this is by reading out the booking information on the invoice before saying goodbye and hanging up. Which also gives the customer a second chance to add anything more.
Applying the IIPS Framework can significantly influence your team’s success at phone bookings. So the next time the phone rings, try this method out yourself. If you’re happy with the results, you can quickly train the rest of your team on the script.