Hotels Should Not Hide Their Phone Numbers And Email Addresses
By Doug Kennedy
To me it is an obvious attempt to force guests to book online versus calling or emailing. These hotel marketers apparently do not understand the interplay between all distribution channels. Using myself as an example, there are times when I am perfectly happy to book on a hotel website, such as when it is just me traveling for a short period, or when I am returning to a hotel I've already experienced. Yet if I'm planning an important meeting, a memory-making vacation, or when I have special needs for a particular visit, I am much more likely to make at least one phone call even if I book online. At other times I prefer to email my reservations-related questions, such as when I am inquiring after hours or just plain tired of talking after a long day of training facilitation.
Smart hotel marketers know it's the customer's choice of how they want to book. They understand the interplay of voice, web and email and they make it easy for potential guests to use their preferred channel. Some guests might prefer to call directly, such as those who have read negative online guest reviews, those with special lodging or dietary needs, or those who just do not believe the rate online is the lowest. Some want to look online first and then call; others want to call first and then book online. Still others want to do it all in writing, for whatever reason, such as wanting a paper trail or experiencing a language barrier.
Why make it challenging for potential guests to use their preferred method of communication? After all theyarethe customer! What's worse, at the same time hotels are hiding their phone numbers, "cyber-squatters" are out-bidding some hotels on their own key words so that they come up before the hotel on a Google or Bing search. These companies are prominently posting a phone number that is answered with a generic greeting such as "Central Reservations." Thus, many guests are tricked into booking via a third party channel, costing the hotel commissions and booking fees.
If you have not done so recently, check out your own website and make sure your phone numbers and "contact us" email addresses are prominently displayed, and in a font that is large enough to be easily read. Here are some other tips:
- Post both 800 and local numbers. Remember some guests might be calling internationally from regionals where your 800 number does not work. Still other guests prefer to call a local number as they sense they are getting more localized assistance.
- Post direct dial numbers for specialized departments such as hotel sales, purchasing, lost and found, and executive offices. Doing this will help syphon-off numerous "service only" calls that may otherwise be going to your hotel reservations department or off-premise call center.
- Similarly, post direct contact email addresses for these specialized departments.
- If you do not post an email address and instead only use a "contact us" form, provide an option for the inquirer to indicate if they prefer a response by telephone or email-only. For those who indicate that the telephone is okay, your salespeople can reach out by phone to make a personalized connection, instead of just emailing back like most of the other hotels will likely do.
- If you have a "contact us" form, chances are you have an open text box labeled "comments." Instead this should be labeled "Tell us more about your lodging needs." This will encourage those who prefer to make email inquiries to provide your sales and reservations sales staff with more detailed information that they can then use to provide personalized email responses.
Use a unique 800 number for mobile searches. Our industry is already feeling the effects of the explosion in mobile searches from smartphones and tablets. This will help your hotel's marketing efforts and you will be able to identify the increase in calls we are about to experience from those who search on a mobile device but who do not want to complete the transaction that way.
About Kennedy Training Network Inc.
Kennedy Training Network (KTN) is the lodging industry"s best source for customized hotel trainingworkshops, conference presentations, and private individual hotel team webinars. KTN specializes in reservations sales, hospitality and guest service excellence, hotel sales training, and front desk upselling and profit optimization. KTN is also a leading provider of hotel telephone mystery shopping for hotel brands, management companies, and individual hotels from all market segments. Contact KTN at email@example.com or call (866) 922.4662 or visit www.KennedyTrainingNetwork.com