Last week, together with some fellow revenue management appassionatos, on a panel at BTO (Buy Tourism Online) in Florence, we had an interesting discussion on the relation between internet and voice reservations. The topic raised was if we are not spending too much time on internet business.
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. Not only transient (BAR) business comes through your call center, but also corporate negotiated, frequently still books over the phone.
One should invest funds, resources and focus to each revenue source corresponding with the balance of your hotel market mix. So go figure if you are putting enough attention on this revenue stream.
Actually in one of our properties 20% of the room revenue is generated by phone reservations at BAR rate levels. This is a big chunk you would want to leave unmanaged and slip away. And if we include corporate and promotions 45% of the hotels room revenue comes through the call center.
Another interesting point that was raised is that Voice and Internet cannot be separated. They should be supporting each other. Your call center should function as an extended arm of your website in an effort to increase conversion. We tend often to have the mentality that people who are on your website must book online. But research statistics show that there is sometimes the need for questions and personal contact. This can be achieved by implementing some communication options in the booking path and allow for support and reinforcement:
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 placed online or offline. All big ecommerce sites (i.e. eBay or Amazon) have implemented instant purchasing support options like this as it has been proven to increase conversion. So should you too 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 your hotel on your website. Therefore they will most likely be more informed than 15 or 20 years ago when calling a hotel. 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.
Also discussed was the utilization of voice or email reservations to create loyalty and 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. I.e. a guest that prefers a particular room number, higher floor or just loves the view from a your corner suites, needs to be stimulated to book directly and not through third party channels. You will find that guests have specific preferences are actually willing to pay premium instead of discounted rates to enhance the quality of their stay experience.
I thought this would be an interesting topic to share with you. It is a simple way to increase direct sales, without any additional investment in marketing.