Are Reservation Specialists Essential Post-Covid?
By Laura Laaman
To survive the impacts of the pandemic, many businesses were forced to reduce staffing to the bare minimum…and pet care businesses were certainly no exception.
As we’re finally starting to see the world slowly reopen, you’re likely beginning to bring more staff back on board. But as a savvy business owner suffering through the shock of almost no business or a closed business, you might be leery about bringing back too many staff.
Many companies are choosing to bring back their obviously necessary (and sometimes less expensive) team members first. These include pet care staff and receptionists—the people who take care of your furry guests and their humans. But what about the people who can dramatically increase your revenue and help pay for all those other necessary staff?
A strong reservation specialist (inside phone salesperson) can play a crucial role in your business’s ability to recover from the negative effects of COVID-19. When executed properly, you’ll rebound faster than expected, gain new customers at a surprising rate and end up making 2021 the best year ever. But how?
Why Reservation Specialists Matter
The goal in this highly competitive market is to create a strong phone team that consistently turns new client inquiries into paying (and, hopefully, returning) customers at appropriate, premium prices.
During the COVID crisis, some pet care facilities were reluctant to bring their phone team back right away. So, we performed analyses and listened to a large sampling of actual client calls to see how well their inquiries were being converted without their reservation specialist.
A remarkable trend emerged. Facilities that didn’t bring their reservation specialists back right away were missing over 50% of their incoming calls! And of the (few) calls they did answer, the new client conversion rate was around a dismal 15%. If that isn’t bad enough, their average revenue per pet, per night was much lower than before. Compare this against their typical performance of less than 10% missed calls, 70% conversion (booking rate) and add-on sales exceeding 50% of their “base lodging” charges.
I find business owners fall into one of two groups. The first is what I call the “bear” or “doomsayer” camp. These people initially say something like, “See! The economy is terrible, no one can afford anything, everything is falling apart, we need to hunker down and weather the storm.” The second camp generally blame the “clueless” owner or manager. Both camps have pieces of evidence they can point to that they feel justify their position. However, I believe (and our data proves) both are fundamentally wrong.
Instead, these owners and managers are simply innocently neglecting a critical aspect of their business while trying to respond to an unprecedented crisis. Strong reservation specialists are essential.
How much does not having a trained reservation specialist cost you?
Trained, well-managed reservation specialists ultimately help in at least three ways:
- They answer and cherish new clients’ calls—avoiding unnecessarily missed calls, enhancing your brand and providing excellent customer service at a critical “touch point”.
- They convert inquiries into paying customers at a high rate (50-70%) compared to the untrained industry average of about 20%.
- They sell important add-ons (or otherwise premium prices) at a high rate.
Let’s do the math. During the sample analysis, we accurately estimated one of these facilities received about 60 legitimate new customer lodging inquiries. This is perhaps slightly down from previous years, but not as much as most people would think—assuming your marketing is performing well. Conservatively, let’s reduce this facility’s typical performance numbers from 70% to 65% conversion, 10% missed calls to 15% missed calls and $350 average lodging stay down to $300. This means, with typical reservation specialist performance, this week alone would result in about 33 actual new clients and increased immediate revenue of just under $10,000.
Let’s compare this against what actually happened without a well-trained reservation specialist. They missed 50% of their calls, converted 15% of the inquiries they answered and didn’t sell many activities or other services (as they typically would) so their average lodging stay dropped to $200. This means they only converted about 5 new customers that generated immediate revenue of less than $1,000.
That’s a $9,000 loss in just one week!
The owner thought the business was doing fine “given the circumstances.” The entire staff was directed to pick up all calls immediately and to try to follow some basic bullet points. Everyone was very busy and trying their best—including the owner and managers. The owner felt “busy” and that things were “getting better,” but not “better enough” to justify bringing back the phone staff. However, the cold numbers clearly show the business performed very poorly on the phone because they didn’t have the right people answering calls and they weren’t looking at the real, objective numbers.
And it gets worse! That’s only the immediate revenue. Again, using very conservative numbers, with an average customer lifespan of 4 years and an average of 3 stays per year, that’s a difference of over $100,000 during the next 4 years—just because of one week of poor phone performance. And, that’s not even accounting for cross-marketing opportunities like daycare, grooming and training.
With this type of phone performance, the business is unlikely to ever recover—despite everyone’s best efforts and intentions. If you can afford to keep the doors open until some of your existing customers return, maybe you could get by for a while. But both your income and the business value will drop significantly.
Instead, by having a strong phone team that’s well trained, well coached and well managed, you’ll be primed to have 2021 and 2022 be your best years ever. There will likely be a beautiful compounding effect of all those new customers you’re getting continuing to return, your previous clients returning—and maybe even extra clients from any competitors that didn’t make it. Not to mention, there have been more dogs adopted in the US now than ever before. The future is bright.
We understand the challenges this crisis is presenting this industry with. And we understand why so many business owners are hesitant to bring back their phone team. However, your strong phone team could have converted more reservations and earned more revenue to pay for themselves several times over. And, reservation specialists cost very little more than a good receptionist.
So, if you’re asking yourself if you can afford to bring your sales team back, the answer is—you can’t afford not to.
Laura Laaman is president of Outstanding Pet Care. Outstanding Pet Care guarantees to substantially increase the revenues of its clients with its proven services. If you’re interested in growing your revenues, schedule an individual consultation with Laura Laaman or one of our team members. Call Outstanding Pet Care at 1-888-735-5667 or go to www.OutstandingPetCare.com.