By Robert Post
The voice channel delivers from 20 to 50% of bookings for hotel brands. So why has the Contact Center become such an overlooked hospitality distribution channel? In my opinion, our industry has forgotten the impact of this valuable asset, its power to generate revenue, and the customer service it can provide to satisfy the demands of today’s busy traveler.
In a recent survey, we discovered a startling fact – Contact Centers are an increasingly poorly managed channel. In fact, we learned that a surprising number of organizations did not have a handle on their voice revenue conversion. And even when they had these numbers, there was no industry standard for comparing them to their competition.
But let’s go back to the forgotten revenue stream. How is it possible that one of the most valuable distribution channels in our industry has become so misunderstood that hotel operators – especially larger brands – manage it from the cost side, not the revenue generation or guest engagement side?
There are three main reasons why:
1. Compared to digital and social channels, voice is just not sexy. What operators don’t realize is that voice is not old school; it is a key enabler of their mobile and social media strategies.
2. Inconsistent metrics, high turnover and pressure for profits have operators keeping the Contact Center at arms length. They don’t understand it, don’t know how to make it work, and don’t have time for it.
3. They undervalue the “experience.” Plain and simple, the Millennial demographic is telling us that experience is what they look for. The “YOLO”-driven Millennials are spending more and traveling more than any other demographic – even Boomers*, and Operators need to adjust the Call Center strategy to accommodate.
But there is a path for Brands to evolve the perception of the Contact Center to better suit the consumer and their financial goals. Here’s how.
The Contact Center — Your Brand’s Best Advocate
You’ve spent precious time and money to enhance your brand through social media and digital channels. Brand recognition and smart marketing are getting some results, but your margins could be higher. Ensuring that call center staff have been well trained and possess a deep knowledge of the brand and property(ies) will increase the bottom line through incremental conversion and upsell revenue. Plus, call centers that benefit from the latest agent-pairing software can boost conversion up to 6 points by connecting consumers with agents that have the best demographic/psychographic fit for the caller. That proactive matching delivers on a deeper consumer connection throughout the booking experience. This level of service is priceless to consumers and is one of the key value propositions of Cloud5 Contact Centers’ brand advocate training for its agents.
A Surprising Lack of Insight
Although there are key performance indicators in play across the industry, it has been a “hit or miss” exercise for many operators who are looking to capture and track revenue conversion rates and other key performance metrics. This surprising lack of insight into their voice channel has resulted in missed revenue opportunities and the perceived lost profitability of the Contact Center.
We know that when managed properly, the Contact Center can be a thriving, high-value revenue center that connects with and builds loyalty from its customer base, unlike any other channel.
The Human Factor
In today’s increasingly competitive landscape, low conversion rates and the pressure for new revenue continue to challenge hospitality owners, asset managers, brand managers and CFOs. With the growth of the sharing economy and the omnipotence of OTAs, brands become diluted and it’s nearly impossible for hotel operators to break through the noise.
What the industry seems to have forgotten is the value and importance of human interaction, particularly when it comes to brand loyalty. The trend to chase lower costs results in customer dissatisfaction. Brands that focus on cheap per-minute costs, as opposed to providing brand advocates, experience a breakdown of their brand connection.
The fact remains that when good people, great processes and the proper technology to monitor KPIs are in place, operators will find that the Contact Center generates high-margin revenue and delivers brand protection.
The time is now for operators, hoteliers, and brand managers to stop leaving money at the door. Re-evaluating the notion that this channel is a cost center instead of what it really is – a valuable revenue stream, is the next step.