Yeah, yeah, yeah, the internet is great for hotels – but please do not neglect the telephone
Are hotel businesses spending too much time concentrating on their digital channels at the expense of others?
It’s a valid question and one which reared its head at the recent Buy Tourism Online panel in Florence, Italy, where other revenue managers discussed the relationship between internet and voice reservations.
The debate led us to the obvious conclusion that internet is important, but voice should not be neglected. It remains an important revenue stream for hotels as not only transient (BAR) business comes through your call center, but also corporate negotiated stays are frequently still booked over the phone.
Stop for a moment, therefore – figure out if you are putting enough attention on this revenue stream.
In one of our properties, 20% of the room revenue is generated by phone reservations at BAR rate levels. This is a big chunk that you would not want to let slip away. And, interestingly, if we include corporate and promotions, 45% of the hotels room revenue comes through the call center.
Another good point raised in the debate is that voice and the web cannot be separated. They should be supporting each other.
The call center should function as an extended arm of the website in an effort to increase conversion – sounds obvious, but are you doing so?
Many travel suppliers and intermediaries often have a mentality that people who are on your website must therefore want to book online.
But there is clearly occasions when there is a need for questions and personal contact. This can be achieved by implementing some communication options in the booking path and allow for support:
- Phone number
- Click to Call
- Click to Call Back
- Click to Chat
These simple options will help you solve any unanswered questions or doubts the shopper might have. The reservation can subsequently be placed online or offline.
All big ecommerce sites (ie. eBay or Amazon) have implemented instant purchasing support options like this as it has been proven to increase conversion. So should you on your hotel website.
But your website also functions as a support of your call center sales. Consumers do online research, and look up information about a property on the web.
Therefore they will most likely be far more informed than when calling a hotel 15 or 20 years ago. Your reservations process should play into this.
Ask the caller if there was anything in particular he saw on the website that he liked. And tailor the sales script around this.
Back to the panel…. Also discussed was the use of voice or email reservations to create loyalty and trigger more direct bookings.
We have to ensure that repeat guests book directly and can do so by offering certain elements of our services through direct reservations – ie. a guest that prefers a particular room number, higher floor or just loves the view from one of your corner suites, needs to be stimulated to book directly and not through third party channels.
You will find that guests which have specific preferences are actually willing to pay premium instead of discounted rates to enhance the quality of their stay experience.
This up-selling of sorts, lest we forget, can be achieved through the human touch. On the phone.
NB: More from Xotels.
NB2: Telephone image via Shutterstock.
Patrick Landman is a contributing Node to Tnooz and founder and CEO of Xotels. This hotel management group assists independent hotels with revenue management, online marketing and internet distribution strategies.
They offer outsourcing services, coaching, consulting and training. In his blog, Patrick challenges hoteliers to think out of the box and not to accept the established order.
Through a passionate drive for growth and improvement he brings creative tips, ideas and best practices to the table that can help hotels drive up their bottom line.
In previous roles he has helped to develop businesses like RateTiger and Hotels.com into industry leaders.