The importance of voice reservations as a distribution channel is still high nowadays. Statistics show that 40-50% of bookings comes over the phone. 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 business is frequently generated over the phone. Another aspect of hotels experiencing an increase in calls is the ‘click to call’ feature Google is offering when travelers search on smartphones for hotels.
With this is mind, it is important that hotels keep their voice reservation system up-to-date in training and technology!
There is a significant interplay of voice and online channels. Voice and Internet should be supporting each other. Your call center should function as an extended arm of your website in an effort to increase conversion. Research statistics show that travelers have sometimes the need for questions and personal contact. People who are on your website might not want to book online but to call you instead. Many guests prefer a personal service which you can easily provide. A popular reason is the assurance that a reservation has been made with the right requests accounted for. Guests may also call before or after a reservation to confirm and ask additional questions. Therefore you should implement some communication options in the booking path and allow for support and reinforcement. This could be:
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. The hotels should do the same. On the other hand, your website also functions as a support of your call center sales (customer might do his research before picking up the phone). Another reason for the traveler to call you directly can be loyalty programs. The utilization of voice reservations (similar to mails) can create loyalty and more direct bookings. Be prepared and offer certain services through direct reservations.
Voice reservations are also less expensive, compared to OTAs and related reservation platforms. They tend to generate a notably higher ADR. Especially when secured by properly trained reservation staff. The task of reservations agent is to be a sales professional with customer service skills, to engage the customer in conversation and not only to provide information but also to convince him to book straight away (call-to-action).