The world is in a bold digital age, where the process of researching, booking and even providing feedback on accommodation has primarily become an instant online process.
The focus in marketing and customer service has shifted dramatically but, despite the changes, it is essential that hotel owners do not to forget about the telephone as a key method of communication with their customers.
A recent study of 1,000 consumers by PH Media Group found that 42% would still rather have enquiries answered quickly over the phone than to look online. This could represent a serious problem if budgets are not being devoted to what people hear when they call, creating a detrimental customer experience.
For hotels, the telephone is still a key source of inbound leads and is far too underappreciated as a sales and marketing tool. Answering the phone in an unfriendly manner or leaving a caller waiting on-hold with only poor-quality, repetitive music for a company isn’t going to do any favours when it comes to attracting new business.
First impressions last and when a customer picks up the phone to make an enquiry, their ears are their only tool for formulating an initial judgement. Research from PH Media Group has found 73% of consumers wouldn’t give repeated business to an organisation if their phone call wasn’t handled to expectations.
By training your staff to employ a professional and polite telephone manner, use an appropriate greeting and providing their name, it represents a good start in ensuring callers enjoy a positive telephone experience.
Engage and entertain
Call handling best practice shouldn’t be limited to shaping employee behaviour. A study by PH Media Group of 3,630 UK businesses discovered hotels keep customers on hold for an average of 28.83 seconds before they reach their intended destination.
Unfortunately, there are times when hold-time cannot be avoided. The customer may need information on certain room specifications which aren’t to hand or they may need to be transferred to another employee.
In such cases, it is important that they are kept engaged and entertained. Previous research has found 50% of callers will hang up within 20 seconds if left listening to silence so the business implications are clear.
This is where on-hold marketing – bespoke, brand-congruent voice and music messages – can help. If hotels are putting callers on-hold for nearly 30 seconds, it provides an ideal opportunity to speak directly to customers in a way that best reflects the image and values the company is attempting to portray.
Such messages are also particularly effective when used to cross-sell or up-sell services. For example, a caller may ring to book a standard room for a special occasion but then be made aware of a suite which would be better suited. The customer could also be told of a special offer on certain dates or perhaps a package which includes the hotel’s spa and leisure facilities.
Ultimately, the on-hold marketing system provides callers with information which will enhance their stay while boosting the hotel’s customer service offering, something which is particularly important in the hospitality industry where everything is tailored to make the guest happy.
Given that such carefully constructed messages work to combat the typical connotations of hold time, reduces hang-ups by 79% and actually helps to decrease perceived waiting time, hoteliers would be well advised to consider how they sound, rather than focusing purely on how they look.
Mark Williamson is the sales and marketing director at PH Media Group, which supplied audio branding and on-hold marketing to a large number of hotels and B&Bs