As my frequent readers know, I often write about the importance of voice reservations as a distribution channel, even in today’s online world where we carry a computer – read: a smartphone – in our pockets. Now there is yet another survey to back up its importance.
I really enjoyed reading the recent survey that was published by DKSA (D.K. Shifflet and Associates) entitled “Making Hotel Reservations; Is Mobile Living Up To The Hype?” (If you missed the survey just search online for it by name.)
According to their study, while 49% of hotel bookings are made on a laptop or desktop computer, only 8% are made on a smartphones and tablets (4% each) and 43% are still made via “…traditional, non-electronic, methods for reserving…” presumably including bookings made by phone.
What’s more, based on the real-world call monitoring we do at KTN, when you listen-in to real calls you often hear those who have booked online calling in with a question after they have booked; still others call first with questions and then book online.
So many of the 49% of those who book online still call at some point. There are many reasons why guests are still calling; one reason that even the Google Adwords consultants told me is that many of those who search on a mobile device will “click to call” instead of completing their transaction online. This has led to a slight increase in voice bookings for many hotels.
Finally, some have theorized that guests are growing weary of using travel intermediaries. Perhaps they themselves have had a problem upon arrival when booking online, or maybe they have read one too many articles from “Travel Ombudsman” columnists writing about those who have booked online that have later run into a problem with the lodging provider. Based on all these factors, voice is still an important channel worthy of attention.
Yet when we do mystery shopping test calls for random hotels these days, we find that the overwhelming majority have devolved completely into “order-taking mode.” Reservations and front desk agents for these hotels treat reservations inquiries as if they were fielding tech support calls. I believe this is not the fault of the staff, but rather it is reflective of the paradigm of the parent hotel and/or brand.
In other words, if your revenue and marketing managers think that voice reservations is a dying distribution channel, it is! Alternatively, if your leaders recognize the interplay between voice and electronic channels, and understand that many guests still prefer to call rather than book, and thus invest in properly managing voice channels, you will find that voice can be the most profitable of all of the channels.
When you factor all of the many costs of an online booking, such as OTA commissions, CRS fees, plus the labor that is often required either to manually enter the extra-net reservations, or if you use seamless interfaces, to at least have someone proof them for errors and requests, and on top of that factor in the cost of fielding a call from the guest prior to or following their online booking, paying an in-house person an hourly rate to secure those bookings in the first place does not seem so costly.
Given the proper sales training, a bit of coaching and a small incentive, the voice reservations and front desk agents can sell higher rated accommodations, thus increasing ADR and RevPAR, and they can better market the hotel’s revenue-generating outlets, activities, and/or services.
Best of all, they can convert more of the indecisive, channel surfing guests into booking than a hotel can covert simply by being just another name on the “billboard” at an OTA or listing site.