News for the Hospitality Executive
Hotel Voice Reservations: The Forgotten Channel
By Doug Kennedy
August 16, 2011
As a hotel industry trainer and consultant, it continues to be fascinating to observe firsthand the extreme differences between how various revenue management and distribution marketing executives view the voice reservations channel. On one end of the spectrum, many hotel RM’s and hotel marketers these days pay little if any attention to managing their voice operations. Instead their agendas are filled with meetings and task lists focusing mostly on their electronic channels, whether direct website bookings, online travel agency reservations, or brand.com. Or they are busy meeting with the area sales representative from the latest hotel discount program. Yet when you look at the numbers showing where their actual reservations are coming from, many of these same revenue and distribution managers would tell you that 40% - 50% - 60% or more of their reservations arrive via a phone call. Hotels that are overly-focused on electronic channels over voice usually have symptoms such as:
Although many hotel marketing executives have for years predicted the demise of voice reservations, it is interesting to see that the increasingly overwhelming amount of information available online is causing callers to do the old fashioned thing; pick up the phone and talk to someone. Their motivations to call could be many. Perhaps they have read a few too many online guest reviews and are confused by starkly contrasting opinions. Maybe they have seen a rate online at an OTA website and are calling to book directly to avoid perceived problems with changes/cancellations. Or it could be that they are at the hotel’s own website, but just confused about a booking option or policy.
If you suspect that your hotel marketing and RM team might be over-looking the current, real-world importance of the voice reservations channel, the first and most immediate move to make is to start listening to real calls from real callers. If you are on-site, just go and sit next to those handling the phone for an hour or so. If your hotel does not own a handset adaptor, stop by Radio Shack and buy a device to split the handset cord so you can listen in live. Or perhaps your phone system already has a listen-in feature. Or look for one of the many long distance providers that now provide the option to record all inbound calls for training purposes and then to access the recordings online for review.
Once you start listening you’ll recognize the need to invest a just as much time, energy, and resources on the strategic development of your voice reservations channels as you do on the electronic channels. You can then formulate a strategy based on the interplay between these channels and optimize productivity on all, including and especially voice.
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