To Forward Or Not To Forward… That Is The Question

Take the reservation yourself, or send it to the call center?
This is a dilemma that has plagued many a hotel.

Experts have touted the fact that conversion rates and cost per reservation benefit the hotel when they send/forward incoming reservation calls to the call centers…. but do call centers really know enough to convince our customers that we are the perfect hotel choice when they also sell thousands of other properties in cities they have never visited?

GMs and FOMs oftentimes prefer the “control” of keeping the call at the front desk…. but does that interfere with face-to-face guest relations, lower GSS scores and increase labor expenses?

Recently, there has been media scuttlebutt about what we need to do to make call centers more convincing and individual property advocates. How can we “teach” them about “us” in the vast sea of other brand/inter-brand options?

There are a couple of different strategies you can embrace to make your property shine:

1. Make sure your property information and sales database is current, relevant, and up to date.

You need to make sure that the information call center operators are looking at tells a specific story – not a generic story. Lists, bullet points, key phrases, specific information about our rooms, meeting rooms, location and amenities are all well and good…. but when the call center operator “reads” this info to the customer does it sound personable? Just like we develop our own personal 30-second elevator pitch for social interactions, we need to develop a hotel 30-second elevator pitch that includes information and key points that help the call center operator relate specifics about our hotel to the customer.

Does the information in your database sound like a medical file or a sales conversation? Now is the time to “update” the content and the voice, and make a commitment to keep it updated! Make sure the voice is not only your brand voice, but your individual property voice. Include information on local festivals and events that might be interesting to the customer. Focus on family friendly activities and attractions in your information. Highlight your location in proximity to businesses, colleges/universities and sporting/entertainment venues. In short – populate enough information in a conversational tone that assists the call center operator and make them seem like they know what they are talking about!

2. When was the last time you “shopped” your own property through the call center?

If you are not calling and “testing” these individuals you are doing a disservice to your hotel and flushing away dollars on programs that are not benefiting your hotel. Shop your hotel for both business and leisure travel. Is the call center operator describing the hotel the way it needs to be sold? Are they featuring the right hotel attributes? Are they making pleasant conversation and asking probing questions? Are they making suggestions and offering upgrades? Are they asking for the sale?

3. Make a sales call on your call center…. especially if you are geographically convenient to the call center.

Now, if you are not located near a call center, I realize that this might be both financially and time prohibitive… but what about a “Virtual Sales Call” or “Digital FAM Trip” to include a YouTube video, a gift basket, and/or sales gifts coupled with updated hotel folders riddled with pictures, info, deals, incentives, and local tidbits? The more “in your face” you are with these call center operators, the better they will sell you! This coupled with better information in our hotel data bases should give them better information.

Create a FAQ sheet for your hotel based on what you know potential guests want to know and include this information in your sales kit for the call center (and sales packets). Your GSRs and Sales staff know how to answer these hotel/location specific questions, but the call center operator would have no idea. This might be the deciding point for the customer and you don’t want to lose the sale just because you haven’t populated the info for them to see!

Whether you forward your calls or keep them on property – every hotel needs to at least do items #1 and #2 above. Please incorporate these tasks into your sales and marketing plans and add them to your To Do lists today!

Happy familiarizing and forwarding!

Linda

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