Top tips to stay connected and profitable with remote reservation sales agents

April 21, 2020 Brise Carpenter

Recently, we discussed virtual work best practices with leaders from NAVIS, Vail Resorts, and Auberge Resorts. Key takeaways from this conversation – plus a cheat-sheet on tools and practices – are featured below.

For most companies, the shift to virtual work is a journey. Many are exploring cost savings. Some want to accommodate a top employee who is tired of their commute. Others are forced into it by work-from-home mandates. Regardless of the reason, benefits for both agents and employers abound. That is, if effective remote work practices are in place. 

“Engagement is the number one point of failure in a virtual organization,” shares Alex Hinkel, Senior Reservations Manager at Vail Resorts. “You have to interact with remote agents as if they’re a person in the office, not someone calling in to get a question answered.” Hinkel’s 130 person at-home team prioritizes virtual culture-building using everything from quick instant messages to say ‘Good morning’, to Dominos gift cards in the mail.   

Poor technology overshadows great sales skills and training. “You have to make sure your technology is solid,” offers Matt Juarez, Vice President of Operations at NAVIS. His team, which swells up to 150 agents in peak season, experimented with a bring-your-own-device model, but IT headaches spurred a move to thin client PCs. “If there are any issues, we quickly reboot and get that cash register back up and running again.”

The remote model lets companies expand the pool of competitive candidates and build teams all over the globe. But this shouldn’t preclude some onsite experiences. Angela Berkey, Corporate Director, Reservation Sales at Auberge Resorts believes that because “many properties are experiential in nature” remote workers should visit the resort annually, at a minimum. “Take them everywhere; to the spa, dining, paddle boarding. They must experience everything the guest does [to sell it successfully].”

Without water cooler chats and impromptu drop-ins, communication must be organized. “Every day, we do Brady-Bunch style stand up meetings,” explains Auberge’s Berkey. “We get on Google Meet and go through standards and updates.” 

Vail’s Hinkel agrees: “Find some sort of engagement platform with channels where you can do everything from share important business to post funny GIFs.”

Leaders noted the productivity leaps in the work-from-home model. “They’re not getting interrupted by the front office nearly as much,” suggests one manager. While fears that remote workers “are doing their nails or watching TV on company time” are unfounded, managers should still focus on where agents spend their time.

Others suggested the use of web-based time-management systems and periodic comparison to Navis login and logout times.

“That’s the beauty of technology,” offers NAVIS’ Director of Enterprise Sales, Stacie Bushaw. “If agents spend too much time in project mode versus on calls, you can see that.” 

Want more help managing remote agents? 

Download NAVIS’ Remote Operating Procedures guide here. In it, we cover basic workflow management ideas and highlight useful communication tools.    

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