For hotels today, there is so much focus on online conversions that the traditional voice channel is in danger of being overlooked. But call inquiries are still key to direct sales. Eighty-three percent of US travelers would rather book online, but that leaves approximately a fifth who would not.
In this digital era, front desk agents can’t be blamed for assuming that customers who call have already done their research online—in many cases this is correct. However, not all customers who call are ready to book. They may have questions about amenities, policies, or rates and want to be reassured they are making the right choice. Furthermore, customers ask tougher questions, armed with more knowledge than ever gleaned from a multitude of online sources.
A phone call is a prime opportunity to make a direct booking and strengthen the customer relationship, so staff need to handle phone enquiries with finesse. Here are six tips for making the most of every call to increase conversions.
Display Your Property’s Phone Number Prominently on Your Website
When a property’s phone number is easily accessible, website visitors are more inclined to call with questions (or to make a booking). They’re less likely to continue their search elsewhere with a competitor or OTA.
Display both toll-free and local numbers on every page of your website and online booking process. Including them in the page header and/or footer is unobtrusive, and guests know to look for them there.
In addition, using click-to-call functionality for mobile may increase your inbound calls by ten percent.
Make yourself as easy to reach as possible. Guests will give up if they have to send a horse and messenger!
Empower Front Desk Staff
Knowledge inspires confidence, so keep the front desk team up to speed with policies, rates, offers, and the reasons behind them. They can’t sell your guests on that holiday package or special rate if they don’t know about it. This 2014 (but still very relevant) article by Doug Kennedy of the Kennedy Training Network offers excellent advice about how to quote pricing effectively, including tips for handling rate objections.
Use Basic Sales Tactics
Proven reservation sales techniques will ensure you snag that booking. Receive callers with a professional greeting and ask for their name. This allows you to build rapport by using their name and look the customer up in your property management system, so you can welcome back repeat guests.
- Listen to the caller’s request. If they ask for information about the property or location, describe features enthusiastically — don’t just list off amenities.
- Find out their specific needs with polite questions like: “Is there something special you are looking for?” This helps you promote relevant amenities and packages. For example, if the caller is traveling with kids, they may like to know about your indoor water slide and family offers. Customer details should be recorded in guest profiles to aid in personalizing the guest experience and future offers.
- Ask for the booking. You can create urgency by letting the customer know the discount is only available for a short time or that rooms are filling up fast. Offer to secure the reservation and lock in the rate by booking them now. Especially in the post-pandemic era, customers are more likely to book if they know the cancellation policy allows them to cancel free of charge within a certain time frame. Repeat back important information like their phone number and email address to ensure you have them correctly.
- When callers resist booking, find out why. If they object to the price, reiterating the value of what’s included (parking, Wi-Fi, breakfast, etc.) or offering a cheaper room can help. If the caller is looking for a specific amenity your property doesn’t have, like an outdoor pool, promote alternatives. For example, “We don’t have a pool, but we are an easy stroll from the beach and provide free beach towels.”
- Tone of voice is key. Phone inquiries are often the first personal touchpoint a customer has with a property and are a golden opportunity to make them feel welcome. A friendly voice suggests much better customer service than an indifferent or inconvenienced one.
- Avoid the hard sell. Nothing makes a customer want to dig in their heels like feeling pressured. Too much pressure, and they’ll start to wonder what’s wrong with the property. Accept that you can’t win them all.
Prepare for Difficult Questions
Ask staff about the questions they field, both common and challenging, and review answers with them. Brainstorm responses together and draft up a list for reference. Consider keeping this list by the desk, especially for new hires. It may help to role play phone enquiries too.
If your staff has to transfer the caller to someone else, make sure the customer knows who they’re being transferred to and why. You don’t want your guest gritting their teeth on the other end of the line.
Record Customer Details
Even if a customer does not complete a booking, consider recording their information (name, contact details, and relevant notes) in a customer profile within your property management system or CRM. That way, if they call back later, you can provide personalized customer service and find a solution that meets their needs more efficiently. Offering to put them on a waitlist or let them know about future deals may encourage them to give you their email address.
Evaluate and Reward
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and make a reservation (or ask a friend to) so that you can evaluate your property’s reservation process. Share feedback with your team, discuss concerns, and implement goals. Don’t dwell only on the negative; good performance should be rewarded with positive comments and encouragement. Consider staff pizza nights or extra time off to provide additional incentive. Even before the pandemic and the Great Resignation, 66 percent of workers said they’d leave if they weren’t appreciated, so taking care of your staff this way is important.
While online bookings are central to hotel sales, the voice channel has the potential to deliver your highest conversion rates and should not be overlooked. Every call should be treated as a critical opportunity to establish a positive relationship that results in a booking and, ultimately, a loyal guest.
Editor’s note: Post updated November 2022.