Customer Success Story: SeaCrest Oceanfront Hotel
Perched high atop a bluff overlooking the Central California coast is the SeaCrest Oceanfront Hotel. Celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, SeaCrest is located along 5 acres of Pismo Beach sands and is well-known for its relaxed and friendly beachside atmosphere.
In February of 2022, SeaCreast decided to try ROOMDEX Automated Upselling. Initially they wary about changing their manual upselling procedures and skeptical that an automated solution wouldn’t cause operational problems.
Fortunately, the decision has paid off. Since activating ROOMDEX, their hotel upsell revenue has grown month over month. We recently caught up with Jed Bickle, General Manager and Heidi Kamas, Assistant General Manager to find out exactly how the ROOMDEX upsell system is performing, do they still have operational concerns, and what would they say to other hotelier who might be unsure about trying automated upsell software.
When or how did your team first come across ROOMDEX? What was your reaction when you first saw and heard about it?
Jed: I heard about it through someone who had previously worked for our PMS company. He reached out to me directly and said “Hey Jed, I’ve got this great revenue management product, I think you’d really, really like it. I think it would work great for your property in your market and if you want, I’ll let you try it for free for a month.” I thought, “oh, free revenue?” and since I really trust this guy, so we gave a shot.
Prior to ROOMDEX, how did you handle upselling?
Jed: We had an email marketing company that does our email surveys and stuff. They had an option where we could send out emails at predetermined intervals, offering potential upgrades – but they didn’t connect to our PMS. It was really just simple marketing.
Guests would get an email saying, “Do you want an upgrade?… but the front desk is going to have to confirm that that upgrade’s even available.” So, if they clicked on it and we would receive a response email. But we’re always so busy, so we never really got the email in “real time.” Once someone had the time, they would go through the emails and then they would have to see if the upgrade might be available. Then, they would have to move the room and charge the upgrade or put a note for somebody later to charge the upgrade. It was a bit of a laborious process, and in times where we’re really busy, the upgrade may have been available when the guests requested it the night before, but by the time we got to it, it’s no longer available – and now you have disappointed them.
Did you feel limited with that upsell process?
Jed: As I mentioned, the big limitation was taking the time to see if we might have the availability to grant their request. But the other challenge in relying on a manually intensive upsell program is simply the labor challenge. Unfortunately, you do get a lot of turnover in this business and when you have new people, you have to train them – how to sell an upsell at the desk (and to even remember to do it!). Plus there is the email marketing aspect, how to check the email, how to make a decision on granting requests etc. So, yes, training and turnover slow the system down considerably.
With Automated Upselling in place, what impact have you seen on your staff’s workload?
Heidi: We’re just so used to it. It does all the upselling on its own. There’s really nothing we need to do. We occasionally check the notes to monitor the activity, but now everything is so automatic that we kind of forget about it!
Previously we were constantly checking the email to make sure we’re answering the upgrades, making sure we get in contact with the guests to let them know if it’s available still or not, how much the price is, making sure the charge actually gets added. But with ROOMDEX it does all that automatically – it’s really nice. I do have to say when it was first presented to me, I was freaked out. I didn’t want to give up that control, both in terms of trusting it to do it right but also the work aspect.
Many hotels are very ingrained in their ways, and when new software is introduced, there is a real fear there about trusting the new system. How did you deal with that?
Heidi: At first everyone was freaked out thinking it’s was going to cause overbooking or it’s was going to mess things up in the system. Especially, during the summer, that’s one of the seasons that made everyone panic a little thinking it was going to cause over bookings, but it doesn’t. The system is just so smart that we haven’t had any issues with it at all. Everybody loves it.
Jed: I also remember when it being presented, the Executive Housekeeper was completely against turning on early check-ins and late checkouts. They were really scared that we weren’t going to be able to honor or meet those type of requests. So, we very slowly turned that feature on – which is another nice thing about ROOMDEX is that you can introduce it gradually. We quickly realized there were no issues where we couldn’t accommodate an early check-in and late check-out. Now the housekeeping side of the house is very comfortable with it.
Another benefit of the ROOMDEX “set and forget it” feature is we now can have different costs for different upgrades. When we were doing it manually, we really only had one price. We never really thought, “Well, if there’s more demand, we might even be able to get a little bit more out of that upgrade.” There were times where we weren’t as busy and we wanted to make the price more appealing but we were stuck with just that one set price that went out on our email communications. With ROOMDEX, we could price based on demand, and we quickly started getting upsells for twice as much as we would normally get. It was, honestly, amazing. One that really stood out to us was an early arrival, I think it was like a 12 o’clock arrival and they paid $150. And we looked at it and we said, “Wow, somebody is willing to pay $150 to come check in at 12.” Our minds were blown.
You also are selling guest services through ROOMDEX. Can you tell me specifically what you are selling?
Heidi: We’re selling a little lavender gift box that a local farm puts together. It includes items like a lavender spray and a lotion. Originally, we were selling that through the front desk, and we barely sold any of those little packages. Now with ROOMDEX we’re selling those so frequently, we’ve already placed another order with that little farm – good for them and good for us, and good for the guest! Another thing that’s really popular are cheese plates. Those we are constantly selling out. We can hardly keep up with the demand. It has been a top seller.
What do you think you are adding more ancillary guest revenue through this system? What is it about ROOMDEX that makes people want to purchase more?
I think it’s because it’s really easy on the guest side. The way in which upsells are presented to them are really simple – clear. With the old system, the way upgrade pricing was shown to the guests was not clear, and we had cases where a guest would show up at the front desk and not realize that there was a charge for the upsell. They had clicked that they wanted it and then they’d get here and say, “Oh, I didn’t realize there was an upsell charge,” With ROOMDEX that never has happened. It has really helped us meet guest expectations.
Let’s talk about upsell performance in general. How has your hotel upsell program performance changed?
Oh, it’s definitely improved. The average room upgrade is double what we were getting before. Pre- ROOMDEX upgrades came in somewhere around $35. Now we’re getting $70 on those upgrades. It’s been pretty impressive. But, not only do you get all that but it also takes some of the operational challenges away. So, you’re getting the additional revenue while you’re also making it easier on your front desk and your team. It’s really a win-win.
When we’re in our summer season, our occupancy for the month could be 93%. The opportunity to upgrade is smaller but we make up for it in the early arrival and the late checkout revenue, because even in highly compressed times as that still works very, very well.
But even when occupancy is high, the other part of this upselling success has been additional revenue from better balancing the house – which isn’t really easy to see in the pure upsell numbers. For example, when we are able to upgrade guests to premium rooms several days prior to arrival, we free up those lower priced rooms for reservations closer to arrival – which, of course, because of compression, are getting a higher price than if they were sold in the weeks before. So, I think that delta we see on sold rooms that other guests were upsold out of can really be attributed to ROOMDEX upselling too.
Now that you’ve had this experience, what would you say to industry colleagues or hoteliers who might be nervous or unsure about trying an upsell automation software?
Number one, it works. From my own personal experience, it works extremely well. And then I think the second thing is, the free month trial. That’s what got me! When we talked about what it would take to set up our property management system interfaces, the setup was – I mean, I don’t think we had to do much of anything. ROOMDEX made it really easy. We got to try it for a month for free and right away it started working. If that’s still an option, I would say “try it for a month for free – and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to pay anything, they turn it off and, you know, there you go.”
And while it is a very much “set it and forget” system, what I really like about ROOMDEX, is their client services managers. You can reach out and there are people there to help. Once we saw the results and they were consistently delivering, we thought “Is there a way we can, tweak some things and maybe push the limit a little bit more and really see where we can go?” We worked with the team at ROOMDEX who helped us make the changes and they said, “We’ll send you updates on reports on how it’s working”. It’s clear they want you to succeed just as much as you want to succeed.
About ROOMDEX, INC
ROOMDEX’s hotel upsell software, “Upgrade Optimizer,” automates, monetizes, and ultimately simplifies the hotel room upgrade process by putting the power of choice in the hotel guest’s hands. Automation is the cornerstone of our pioneering hotel optimization platform. ROOMDEX uses hotel reservation, guest data and its proprietary persona and price algorithms to deliver personalized digital offers, greatly enhancing the guest experience. The hotel upsell tool relieves hoteliers of the labor time required by other upselling solutions while delivering high margin revenue and a substantial ROI.
The company was founded by Jos Schaap, Pierre Boettner and Denis Bajet, three industry veterans (Ex. MICROS-OPERA (now Oracle Hospitality), StayNTouch, Shiji and Nor1) who together bring over 90 years of hotel software innovation experience in PMS, integrations, revenue management, BI, mobile, self-service and upgrade optimization software. Since founding in spring of 2020, ROOMDEX has signed on more than 90 hotels with 8,500 rooms across the U.S., U.K. and Europe.