Vacation Rental Managers: Do You Have The Right Call Monitoring Scoring Criteria?

    Over the years an increasing number of vacation rental clients are discovering the value of having a system for monitoring and scoring real-world reservations inquiries. Numerous VRMA member vendors are now providing these call monitoring / lead tracking systems and, increasingly, at more affordable price points.  
    That being said, even the best call monitoring system is only as good as how a vacation rental manager uses it. Of course you have to be prepared to invest the time in listening to and scoring calls, but as importantly, you need to make sure that you have the right scoring model and criteria in place.  


    As a hospitality sales trainer, I often get to listen-in on the real-world calls captured by our vacation rental and other lodging clients and all too many have the wrong scoring model in place. Here are tips for reviewing and updating your criteria:

    Don’t start the call with an interrogation. Many of my vacation rental clients have been told by their providers to start off the call by asking for too many details. Here is an example:

    “Good afternoon, thanks for calling Kennedy Vacation Rentals, this is Doug, may I have your first and last name please? And what is your call back number in case we get disconnected?  And may I also have your email address?” 
    The problem here is that most callers find this very annoying. It sets the call off on a “transactional” tone rather than starting with a friendly and personalized conversation. Strangely, most agents already have caller ID and can see the number calling. Yet they are told you need to ask for a call back number and extension in case the person is calling while at work at a company. Yet how many dropped calls are there from landlines? Further, if the person is calling from a mobile and the number drops, they have probably gone out of range and will not answer when you call back.  

    Also, because so many people have hard to understand email addresses, it becomes frustrating for the caller to have to give this before they even have had a conversation and made a connection with the agent. 
    Instead, here are the best practices for opening a call:
    • Use a positive opening greeting including the company name and your name. Then wait for the caller to respond. Many callers (about 1/3) provide their names. If they do not, then ask for the name conversationally by saying “Certainly I can assist you with that, may I ask who I am speaking with?” The caller will then identify by first name if they want to be more casual, or by their full name in which case you can address them as “Mr. Kennedy.” 
    • Wait to get the email later in the call such as when they make the reservation, or if they do not book, then ask at that time for the email so that you can “…send links to what we have discussed.”  
    • Avoid scripted welcoming statements at the start of the call such as “Have you stayed before? No, well let me be the first to welcome you.” This seems like a good idea but when agents are forced to say it 30 times a shift it ends up sounding disingenuous. Of course agents should ask if the caller has stayed before, so that they can:
      • a) look them up in history; and
      • b) re-sell the same accommodation as most guests want to rebook what they had or something similar.
    • Add the most important criteria question for today’s over-informed callers who have probably already been online prior to calling: “As I’m checking availability, are there any questions I can answer such as about the location or amenities?” This question helps “un-mask” the caller’s story and agents then find out where they are at in their buying decision.  Are they ready to book and have no questions? Do they have questions about what part of the destination is best? Have they decided on a place to rent but want to talk price? 
    • Add a criteria for using visually and emotionally descriptive language. In the past we trained agents to briefly describe the rental property. However now most have already seen it; some are viewing pictures while on the phone. Today it is more important to “narrate the pictures” with words that evoke visual imagery and/or evoke the emotional experiences to be derived.  
    • Add a specific criteria for recommending, suggesting and/or endorsing the accommodations. This really helps callers overcome what psychologists say is the “choice overwhelm problem” we have as consumers these days. They can say something like “Now there are three accommodations I can recommend and any of these would be great choices for a family such as yours.” 
    • Make sure the criteria requires them to try to get the caller to book now before offering to email options. I have found that many agents of my clients who have invested in call and lead tracking systems move too often to offering to email a list of the available options before they try to convince the caller to decide. Instead, make sure your criteria encourages them to first try to secure the sale, and then if not to say something like, “Why don’t we put this one on hold for 48 hours and then I can email you a list of the others we have discussed. This way you at least have something locked-in.”
    By updating your criteria, you will ensure that your agents are being asked to use a process that makes sense circa 2015 for the real-world callers contacting you daily.  

    Want more insight from Doug Kennedy? Doug will be presenting keynote speeches at the 2015 VRMA Western Seminar (April 13-14 in Portland, Oregon) and 2015 VRMA Eastern Seminar (April 27-28 in Norfolk, Virginia). We hope to see you there!

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