These days, nearly every vacation rental client company I conduct reservations and hospitality training for offers travel insurance. This is a win-win for everyone. Guests win because their investment in a vacation is protected from unexpected disruptions such as bad weather and health events. Vacation rental companies win because they do not have to choose between feeling badly about having to say “no refund” to a distraught guest experiencing personal travel drama or feeling badly about having to refund a homeowner’s revenue. The third win is that many reservations sales agents are incentivized for selling travel insurance.
However, when our KTN team conducts either mystery shop calls or “remote call scoring” (evaluation of recordings of real conversations), we typically either find that agents are too aggressive in pushing insurance to the point that it is a turnoff, or too meek in offering it so that callers don’t fully consider it.
Here are some training tips to share with your vacation rental reservations sales team.
1. Sell the vacation first.
We often find that reservations agents engage in a discussion about the travel insurance too early, thus derailing the conversation away from the primary buying decision, which is to convince them that you are the best company, this is a great vacation home or condo, and now is the best time to commit. Also, when presenting the “benefits” of insurance too early in the decision, due to the more restrictive cancellation terms, it may scare off first-time vacation rental bookers and push them back to a traditional hotel or resort with a 72-hour or seven-day cancellation.
2. Listen for buying signals.
Once you are hearing “buying signals” such as “OK, that last one sounds perfect!”, start down the path of confirming details such as to get the full spelling, address, and contact information. Then it is the perfect time to segue into presenting the insurance option.
On a related note, if guests book online, many VR companies have the reservations salesperson call the guest to reconfirm details and terms. After doing so, it is the perfect time to present the insurance.
3. Ask permission to cover the benefits of travel insurance.
Too many agents either say “Did you want to buy the travel insurance?” or “Would you like me to tell you about the travel insurance?” Instead, say: “Now Douglas, I know a lot of people automatically say no to travel insurance, but if I may, can I please go over a few of the benefits that I definitely think are worthwhile considering?”
4. Prepare the team for the most common FAQs.
Make sure your reservations team is well-versed in the benefits of travel insurance and can provide reasonably definitive answers to the most frequently asked questions. When selecting an insurance provider, ask them about onboarding training as well as ongoing training support. Of course, your agents need to use caution about guaranteeing any benefits and instead defer to the written details they will receive from the policy provider, but they should at least be prepared to say with confidence, “To the best of my understanding, this will cover [insert information here], and you can read on that on page 3 of the link I will send.”
5. Use personal recommendations and endorsements.
Examples are, “I can tell you that if it were my vacation, I would definitely always get this insurance.” Or “Based on that this is such a large home for a big party, I would definitely say it would be worth the extra costs, especially since the fee will be split by three families.”
6. Do not over-incentivize selling of travel insurance.
I often find that when we hear agents pushing the travel insurance even more so than selling the vacation home, it is because the staff’s main incentive is based on selling insurance. First and foremost, provide your staff with a well-designed incentive program, not a straight commission, and then make the incentive for travel insurance a secondary incentive.
Doug Kennedy is the president of KTN and has been the lodging industry’s leading expert in hospitality sales and guest services training for over two decades. Over the years, he has conducted corporate-sponsored training for most of the major hotel brands. His monthly sales training articles inspire readers worldwide. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.