Hospitality Upgrade – Spring, 2013

Consider this: The vast majority of reservation phone calls, whether to a call center or the hotel directly, are preceded by a visit to the hotel’s website. The caller often knows the hotel’s room options, amenities and available rates. So why do they call? In this article we play the devil’s advocate and suggest it was because the website failed them, and failed the hotel.

Failed? Yes. The caller was unable to find the information he or she was seeking, was uncomfortable about reserving online, or was unsuccessful in their attempt to book a reservation. The website failed to fully satisfy their shopping and booking intentions. As a result they needed to take the extra step of making a telephone call (and we can only guess how many potential guests opt to book elsewhere rather than make that call). This is not the guest service standard we aim for.

The website also failed the hotel. The hotel (or brand on the hotel’s behalf) invested in a website aimed at not only informing its visitors but converting those visitors to booked guests. Adding insult to injury, the hotel, brand (or both) incurred the labor costs of handling the telephone call.

Recognizing the problem – in this case the shortfall of the website – is step 1. Step 2 is correcting it. And there is good news. Every one of the reservation telephone calls gives hotels the opportunity to learn where the current information on the website is insufficient to answer site visitors’ needs, where the booking process confused them or where it did not allow the booking process they wished to complete.

  • Did they want to know the hours of Room Service, the distance to the nearest drug store, whether a baby crib would be available? Maybe this information was already on the site but its location was insufficiently apparent or maybe it had never been added to the property descriptive information.
  • Did they want to reserve two rooms (a king-bedded room and a double/double for example) and not understand how to do so?
  • Did they become confused about how the booking process flows or the need for what appeared to them to be unnecessary information?

Hotels can expand or clarify the information on the website, clarify the site’s layout, or improve the reservation creation process if they understand what it is insufficient, or where improvement is needed. The key is to learn from reservation callers and then take action. But how should hotels do that?

Hotels learn by building a feedback process in which they collect information from the people who answer reservation calls at the hotel reservation office or in the brand call center and communicate that information to the property and brand staff who are responsible for website content and website design. Making this learning a reality takes a process that will be used by everyone who answers reservation calls.

Whenever a reservation caller mentions that they visited the hotelsite and either says that they could not find the information they were seeking or could not complete their booking, or it become apparent during the conversation that this was the case, the staffer will send a brief email with a standard message subject such as “Website Problem” to a specific individual or email address. The recipient of these messages must be responsible for researching the information that was absent from the site and forwarding it to the person/team who make property information update or, if it was a booking process issue, forwarding the information to the website design group.

Operating properly, this feedback process will result in the website information being continuously expanded and clarified and, over time, will result in a clearer, more successful website design.

Yes, reservation calls are a failure of the website. They are also a learning and guest service improvement opportunity as well.

JOHN BURNS is the president of Hospitality Technology Consulting. He can be reached at < a href=”mailto:John@burns-htc.com” John@burns-htc.com or by phone at (480) 661-6797.

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