by Doug Kennedy,
April 14, 2010
As anyone who has ever worked in the retail profession knows, having
an appealing and enticing “storefront window” is crucial for getting those
passing by to come inside to shop. Having grown up working in my
family’s small business, The Kennedy Craft Shop, I can still hear my mom
Barbara’s voice echoing in my mind with one of her favorite customer service
mantras “Son, if they customer’s don’t like what they see from the
storefront when they pass by, then they are not going to want to come inside
Because of this we spent hours each month re-decorating and updating
the display. We also took great care to make sure everything immediately
visible from that window – such as the check-out counter - looked orderly
Although much of the same can be said about a hotel’s “curb appeal,”
especially for hotels which receive walk-in inquiries, if a hotel does
not present a positive impression over the telephone for inquiry callers,
many guests will decide to just call elsewhere. Here are some other reasons
why a hotels should focus on zero-defect telephone hospitality:
Hotels typically have many important “customers” who never visit – their
only personal experience is over the telephone. This includes Travel
Agents, meeting planners, administrative assistants from local corporate
Family, friends and colleagues of your in-house guests who call during
their stay will form first impressions from how they their calls were handled.
Even guests who have booked online – but who later call with a question
or special request – form first impressions from their telephone experiences.
If the impression is not good, they may very well decide to cancel.
Therefore, it is important that your switchboard operator or front desk
associate who answers calls recognizes each ringing line as an opportunity
to represent your hotel in a positive way. For full service hotels,
this concept also applies to those answering the calls within each department,
such as reservations, group sales, catering sales, and the executive office.
Unfortunately, too many others hotel associates still seem to view the
incoming calls as an interruption. Their attitude comes across as
“If it wasn’t for all of you callers interrupting us, we could get so much
more done here in the hospitality industry.”
If you haven’t already done so recently, maybe it is time to schedule
an in-house training session to review “best practices” such as these for
creating hospitality excellence over the phone lines.
Answer the “knock at the door” of a ringing phone line with a proper greeting
to include the following:
Greeting of the day, such as “Good Afternoon,” or a similar inviting
phrase such as “Welcome to the (hotel name).”
Next, we want to identify the hotel or department name. With today’s
potential guests looking at so many choices online in a single click, it
is entirely possible they might even forget where they called. Either
way, stating your hotel name will only help to reinforce the “brand
name.” If answering calls at a department that were forwarded from the
switchboard, it is equally important to state your department name to reassure
them they have reached the department they were targeting.
Offer your name. Using one’s name when answering not only builds
rapport, but helps us to gain credibility from the caller’s perspective.
Alternatively, if no name is given the caller will seem less confident
with the information about to be provided.
Many telephone hospitality experts advocate that we should complete a proper
greeting by offering a name. They say that anything said afterwards
is going to “erase” the name. Others argue that offering assistance
by adding “How may I assist you?” shows a willing help. Either approach
is fine; the most important part is that it is spoken sincerely.
Also, make sure your GM or marketing director who writes the script for
answering tests the new script by saying it themselves for about 10 times
in a row. Be careful not too give the staff too long of a greeting.
Here’s an anonymous version of a too-wordy script I have heard used many
“Good afternoon and happy holidays, welcome to the Brand X Hotel,
number one Brand X hotel in our region for 2010, this is Doug, how
may I direct your call?”
If the designated script for answering is too long, the associate will
likely rush saying the script, and some callers might even interrupt them.
Speak slowly and clearly. Many people think the rate of speech at which
we speak is dictated by the geographic location where we live. For example,
those living in the Northeast are reputed to be fast talkers, while those
in the south speak much more slowly. The truth is the biggest factor on
rate of speech is stress! Most of us speak much more quickly when under
pressure. Remind the team that speaking too fast makes the callers feel
rushed and pressured, not to mention that it might cause them to ask, “What
did you say?”
Pay attention to inflection. We can change the entire meaning of a sentence
just by changing the inflection. Typically, this means ending the sentence
on a higher octave.
Convey energy and enthusiasm. If we sound bored or indifferent when speaking,
it conveys a negative impression of our willingness to help and accommodate.
Enthusiasm shows pride and excitement about the hotel.
Ask for the caller’s name, if not provided. According to my observations,
approximately one-third of all typical hotel callers provide their name.
Train your staff to take note of the name and to use it conversationally
throughout the call.
Just be sure not to ask for the name in the opening greeting. It seems
many hotels have gone to this procedure, perhaps to ensure they will hit
some AAA or Mobile standard. “Good afternoon, front desk, this is Doug,
may I have your name please?” This will sometimes put the caller on the
defensive, and they will respond with comments such as “Oh, I’m not ready
to book yet, I just needed some rates.”
Instead, use something similar to the recommended opening greeting above
and then let the caller speak. If they do not provide their name, this
is the time to politely say “Certainly, I would be delighted to assist
you with that. May I have your name please?”
When it is necessary to place callers on hold, use proper procedures for
a positive impression.
Ask permission to place the call on hold, politely explaining why it is
necessary. For example:
“Certainly, let me check on that for you. May I place you on hold momentarily?”
Wait for a response. If asked politely, most will respond with approval.
However, if a caller states they cannot hold, but it is absolutely necessary
to place them on hold, offer to phone them back as an option. In this event,
most callers will then agree to hold.
Thank callers for holding and apologize for the delay, especially if the
time was significant.
Use the transfer button judiciously. Do your best to “own” the request
or question if possible. When it is necessary to transfer, here are some
Indicate why you need to transfer the call without making excuses for not
being able to help them yourself. For example:
“Certainly Mr. Perez. We are delighted to assist you in finding 12 rooms
for the meeting. We have a sales manager dedicated to assisting groups
such as yours. Her name is Jane, and I will transfer you right now.”
Supervise the transfer. Introduce the caller to the co-worker receiving
the transfer. Continuing the above example, we would stay on the line until
Jane answers and then say, “Hi Jane, this is Doug at the front desk. I
have Mr. Perez on the line and he is looking for 12 rooms for a meeting.”
The person receiving the call can then say, “Hello Mr. Perez. This is Jane
in the sales department. We’re excited to hear you are considering us for
your meeting. I understand you need 12 rooms. How may I assist you?”
If there is no answer at the department or staff member’s line, notify
the caller and give them options.
“Hi again Mr. Perez. It seems Jane has stepped away. Do you want to leave
her a voicemail or would you like me to take a paper message and deliver
it to her?” Most callers these days will opt for the voicemail, but it
is a very nice gesture to have to choice.
When fielding incoming calls for others, such as managers and hotel sales
staff, use “call announcing” and avoid ever using “call screening.” Call
screening usually goes like this:
Caller: “Hello, I am calling for Ms. Chen, your General Manager.”
Screener: “May I ask who’s calling?”
To the caller this says that Ms. Chen may or may not be there, depending
on how important you are. Instead, by using call announcing, we can create
a positive first impression from the storefront window:
Caller: “Hello I am calling for Ms. Chen, your General Manager.”
Screener: “Certainly. I am happy to transfer you. May I tell her who
Caller: Anton Wells
Then Ms. Chen can answer “Hello Mr. Wells. This is Naomi Chen, how may
I assist you?”
End the call correctly. Just as a positive first impression starts the
call off on a good note, ending the call correctly will leave a memorable
lasting impression as well.
—Offer additional assistance. “Is there anything else I can assist
you with today Mr. Wells?”
—Express interest in their call back or in hosting their stay. For example:
“We hope to hear you again soon,” or “We look forward to hosting your
—Thank the caller. “Thanks again for calling and have a delightful day.”
Even if your staff has received this training in the past, it is
always a good idea to review these techniques to reinforce this vital function.
Remember: the reputation of your hotel is only as good as the impression
of the last caller who dialed your main number.
Originally published at www.HotelWorldNetwork.com
||Doug Kennedy, President of
the Kennedy Training Network, has been a fixture on the hospitality and
tourism industry conference circuit since 1989, having presented over 1,000
conference keynote sessions, educational break-out seminars, or customized,
on-premise training workshops for diverse audiences representing every
segment of the lodging industry. Ee-mail Doug at: firstname.lastname@example.org