Hold The Phone! 6 Tips for Converting Hotel Calls to Bookings

For hotels today, there is so much focus on online conversions that the traditional voice channel is in danger of being overlooked. But call inquiries are still a key direct sales channel, especially as travelers rely more and more on mobile devices. A Google study found that 58% of mobile searchers would be very likely to call a hotel if click-to-call functionality was available in smartphone search.

In this digital era of OTAs and online bookings, front desk agents can’t be blamed for assuming that customers who pick up the phone and call have already done their research online — in many cases this assumption is correct. However, not all customers who call are ready to make a booking; they may have questions about amenities, policies or rates and want to be reassured they are making the right choice. Furthermore, customers are asking tougher questions, armed with more knowledge than ever gleaned from a multitude of online sources.

Even in our digital-oriented world, answering phone calls is not just about taking reservations; it’s about making them. A phone call from a potential guest is a prime opportunity to make a direct booking and a valuable chance to grow the customer relationship, so front desk staff need to be prepared to handle phone enquiries with finesse.

Here are some tips for making the most of every phone call to increase conversions…

  1. Display your property’s phone number prominently on your website to encourage direct bookings.

When a property’s phone number is easily accessible, website viewers are more inclined to call with any questions they may have (or to make a booking), rather than continue their search elsewhere. Make sure both toll-free and local numbers are on every page of the website — not just on the “Contact Us” page — and online booking process, readily available to customers at every stage of their planning, from browsing to booking. The click-to-call feature is popular on mobile sites as Google research shows.

  1. Empower front desk staff.

Knowledge inspires confidence, so keep the front desk team up to speed with policies, rate restrictions and tiers, packages and specials — and, equally importantly, the reasons behind them. This article by Doug Kennedy of the Kennedy Training Network offers excellent advice about how to quote rates effectively, including some tips for handling rate objections.

  1. Brush up on basic sales tactics.

Proven reservation sales techniques turn reservation takers into reservation makers.

  • Receive callers with a professional, friendly greeting. Note or ask for the caller’s name and use it during the conversation to establish rapport. Look the customer up in your property management system or CRM so that you are able to welcome back repeat customers.
  • Listen to the caller’s request. If they ask for information about the property or location, describe features enthusiastically — don’t just list off amenities.
  • Try to find out the purpose of their trip or their specific needs by politely asking questions like: “May I ask what brings you to New York?” or “Is there something special you are looking for?” This information helps reservation clerks to promote relevant amenities and packages. For example, if the caller is traveling with kids, they would probably like to know about your indoor water slide, free breakfast or family package deals. Customer details that come up during the conversation, like interests, preferred amenities, anniversaries, etc., should be recorded in guest profiles too, to aid in personalizing the guest experience and future marketing campaigns.
  • When callers resist booking, try to find out why. If they object to the price, reiterating the value of what’s included (parking, Wi-Fi, breakfast etc.) or offering a cheaper room can help. If the caller is looking for a specific amenity your property doesn’t have, like an outdoor pool, promote alternatives and highlight the benefits of what you do have. For example, “We don’t have a pool, but we are an easy stroll from the beach and provide free beach towels.”
  • Ask for the booking. A sense of urgency can be created by letting the customer know the discount is only available for a short time, or rooms are filling up fast. Offer to secure the reservation and lock in the rate by booking them in now. Customers are likely to book if they are aware that the cancellation policy allows them to cancel free of charge within a certain time frame.
  • Tone of voice is important too. Phone inquiries are often the first personal touchpoint a customer has with a property, and as such are a golden opportunity to make the potential guest feel welcome. A clear, friendly voice suggests much better customer service than an indifferent or inconvenienced one.
  1. Prepare for difficult questions.

Ask front desk staff about the kinds of questions they are fielding, both common and challenging, and review answers with them. Brainstorm possible responses together and draft up a list of best responses for reference. It may help to role play phone enquiries too. This is another way to empower staff with the confidence to handle challenging phone sales.

  1. Record customer details.

Even if a customer does not go through with a booking, consider recording their information (name, contact details and any relevant notes) in a customer profile within your property management system or CRM. That way, if they call back at a later date, you can look them up in the system and personalize customer service by welcoming them back and finding a solution that meets their needs more efficiently. Offering to put callers on a wait list if no availability matched their dates, or to let them know of future deals and discounts, may encourage them to give you their email address.

  1. Evaluate and reward.

Putting yourself in your customers’ shoes and making a reservation yourself (or asking a friend to) is a great way to evaluate your property’s reservation process. Share feedback with your team, discuss concerns and implement goals. Good performance should be rewarded with positive feedback. Consider staff pizza nights or extra time off to show appreciation and provide incentive.

While online bookings are central to hotel sales today, the voice channel has the potential to deliver your highest conversion rates and should not be overlooked. A call inquiry is often the first truly personal touchpoint between the customer and the property. As such, every phone call should be treated as a critical opportunity to establish a positive customer relationship that results in a booking and, ultimately, a repeat guest.

Is Your Property’s Online Booking Engine Mobile Friendly?

Market research company eMarketer predicts that this year more than half (51.8%) of travelers who book accommodations and airfare online will do so using a mobile device. That’s up from 43.8% last year.

Improved technology and user experience as well as increasingly tech-dependant consumer behavior (think Millennials) contribute to the growing trust in mobile commerce. It’s pretty plain to see that mobile travel bookings are going mainstream. Properties that want to maximize room sales and remain competitive must offer customers the ability to book direct online — via desktop and mobile devices.

What Makes a Mobile-Friendly Online Booking Engine?

Just because you can see the booking widget on your property’s website when you look at it on your smartphone doesn’t mean it is mobile friendly. A long-winded booking process with hard-to-read font and hard-to-tap menus and fields is going to send all but the most determined customers packing (for your competition or an OTA).

When it comes to mobile bookings, user experience is key. From a simple step-by-step process to secure payment, a mobile-friendly booking engine should provide users with convenience and confidence.

How can you tell if your online booking engine is mobile friendly? The easiest way is to grab your smartphone and test it out yourself. An online booking engine that is optimized for mobile devices will offer:

  • A user-friendly experience – The quicker and easier it is to make a booking, the better. A mobile-optimized booking process is a simple one; it does not overwhelm customers with too many options and is ideally limited to two or three steps or pages. It should be easy to read and navigate with tap-friendly (not too small) drop-down menus, text-entry fields and buttons. It should also able to display rates in different currencies, and should load fast too.
  • Secure bookings – A secure online booking process will use SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryption to keep personal and payment data safe. Pages using SSL encryption will display HTTPS:// in the URL, rather than HTTP:// (missing the “S”), which tells users that the page is secure. Make sure the URL for the booking page that askes for personal and payment information begins with HTTPS. If a user clicks on the little padlock icon that appears alongside the URL, they can view the page’s security certificate and whether it is valid. Displaying a secure payment badge when asking for credit card information also reassures customers that the booking process is secure.
  • Compatibility with various operating systems – iPhone or Android? Everyone seems to have their favorite so it’s important for an online booking engine to work well across various mobile devices and operating systems, from Apple iOS to Google Android to Windows Phone (and there are others!). Online booking engines that use responsive design automatically detect and adapt to the user’s device for an optimal user experience whatever the screen size or operating system.
  • Automatic booking confirmation – Upon submitting their reservation request, the user should immediately see an on-screen booking confirmation that affirms their booking was successful. The customer should also receive an automatic confirmation email.
  • PMS integration – When integrated with a property management system (PMS), a mobile-optimized online booking engine automatically offers customers real-time rates and availability, maximizing inventory and avoiding overbooking. Mobile bookings are automatically entered into the PMS and availability adjusted accordingly.
  • Prominent placement on your site – The booking widget should be prominently displayed on a property’s website with a strong call-to-action (“book now” button), whether viewed on a desktop computer or smartphone. If the online booking form is not easy to find, you risk losing customers who are ready to book.
  • The look and feel of your brand – A booking widget that reflects the branding on your website and includes the property’s logo and contact details on all pages of the booking process helps to inspire trust.

With more and more consumers turning to their mobile devices to research and book travel, it’s fast becoming essential for hotels and other lodgings to offer mobile bookings.

If your direct online booking engine does not play nicely with mobile devices, you are probably already losing customers. Feel free to ask us about our mobile-optimized, commission-free online booking engine, included with WebRezPro PMS, to capture more bookings on any device.