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Phone calls in hotels: how to manage them to turn them into bookings

Don’t make the mistake of underestimating hotel phone calls and find out how to use them to increase disintermediation

How to manage hotel phone calls and turn them into bookings | Smartpricing

Over the past two decades, OTAs (Online Travel Agencies) have revolutionized the hotel industry and the booking habits of travelers around the world: while they have offered numerous advantages to accommodations and provided a decisive boost to the digital transition, they have also established themselves as a preferred channel, leading to an inevitable decline in direct bookings.

At least, this has been true until 2020. But with the pandemic, accommodations have witnessed a temporary reversal: according to the latest Hotrec annual report, around 60% of bookings in Europe in 2021 were made directly with the hotel (by phone or via the website), while 29% were made through intermediaries.

Although OTAs have already begun to re-establish their dominance thanks to the complete reopening of international markets (supported by sky-high investments in marketing), the habit of using OTAs to compare establishments and, afterwards, contact them directly, has become increasingly popular among travelers.

Which is why, for hotels, now is the best time to defend the ground recovered in recent years and establish a more profitable balance between booking channels. The key word is "disintermediate," not being afraid to take advantage of all available means, even those that seemed to have become obsolete. One example? The telephone!

In this article, we will find out why phone calls are still important in hotels and how to succeed in turning them into reservations.

The benefits of bookings via telephone

There can be many different reasons why a customer makes a reservation by phone, such as wanting to get a better price than seen on the web or having encountered problems during the online booking process. But not all customers who call are immediately ready to book: many have specific questions about the hotel, cancellation policies, or available activities, while others may want to verify the level or style of service offered before confirming the reservation.

In all these cases, it is critical not to underestimate the importance of the phone call. In fact, it is a booking channel with negligible costs, when compared to OTAs or other available channels, and one that requires little attention to turn out to be very valuable in three respects:

  1. improving the reputation of the accommodation
  2. increase sales opportunities and generate a higher ADR

collect useful information about potential guests

How to manage phone calls to improve hotel reputation

The initial phone call between a potential guest and the hotel is often the first point of contact between the two parties, and, you know, making a good first impression is crucial!

At this time, the customer's goal is not only to obtain practical information, but also to evaluate the hotel based on the courtesy, professionalism, and helpfulness of the staff answering the phone. In a word, test the character of the hotel.

A guest who calls and finds a welcoming and enthusiastic receptionist on the other end, who shows sincere interest, answers questions patiently, and provides detailed information, will have a positive perception of the hotel from the start.

This can help create a relationship of trust and satisfaction, capable of influencing not only the booking that is the subject of the phone call and the subsequent stay, but also that guest's future choices and word of mouth with friends and family.

Expectations are a key part of the travel experience, and the telephone conversation is capable of influencing those expectations more than any brochure or description on your website.

Here are a few tricks to ensure you meet these expectations, contributing positively to both your hotel's reputation and the guest experience.

1. Be timely

It may happen that you are busy with another guest while the phone is ringing. In such cases, write down the phone number and be sure to redial as soon as possible. This shows your full dedication and attention to the customer. Absolute no-go: ask the customer to call back later. Most customers will not, and you will have lost a potential sale.

2. Introduce yourself

Starting the conversation by introducing yourself clearly, with name and job title, is not only a rule of good manners, but is the best way to humanize the call and create a personal relationship with the caller. Likewise, make sure you understand the potential customer's name and use it during the conversation.

3. Create a list of frequently asked questions

want to follow up with questions that are often very meticulous. How large is the in-room mini-bar? What is the minimum settable temperature of the air conditioning? Together with your staff, collect the most frequently asked questions and put them in a list of FAQs along with their answers.

This will prevent you from the unpleasant situation of being caught off guard and having to leave the customer on hold on the phone while you or your receptionists look for the answer.

How to manage hotel phone calls to sell more rooms and increase ADR

The telephone, after walk-ins, is the most direct channel possible to communicate with potential guests, and because of this, it provides a unique opportunity to fully understand the customer's needs, wants, and preferences.

During a well-managed telephone conversation you can empathize, ask questions, actively listen, and provide immediately personalized answers based on the information gathered.

For example, on the phone, it will be easier to find out the motivation for the trip and guess what expectations the guest has. If they talk to you about their anniversary, you could immediately recommend your best suite, but also propose wellness packages or special offers dedicated to couples.

Ultimately, telephone booking makes upselling and cross-selling much more spontaneous and natural, with the benefit of increasing the average daily rate (ADR) without too much effort.

Of course, it is essential that those who answer the phone are trained to offer all the information and conduct a persuasive sale.

In particular, it is important to:

1. Know your services down to the smallest detail

Not only the characteristics of the rooms, but also those related to every service provided, from dining options to spa treatments. Staff should know exactly what content is conveyed on the website or booking channels and be informed of every offer in place, so as not to create misunderstandings and avoid contradictions.

2. Know the rates of the day

Memorizing the day's rates or being able to consult them in real time and accurately, for example with revenue management software, is essential because this is the minimum level of preparation the guest expects to find. Having to wait on the line while someone on the other end is making calculations or chasing after a colleague who is informed about rates will lead the guest to doubt the reliability of the facility.

3. Offer options

Never answer the phone assuming that all guests are only interested in the lowest price or standard treatment. A customer who is in the decision-making stage may not yet be completely clear about the options available to them, and the telephone conversation is the best opportunity to suggest those options. At this stage, it is crucial not to just list options ("if you want we also have the superior room for €20 more per day"), but to communicate all the advantages of making this choice before the price, such as having more space or a better view.

4. Use psychological strategies

You will hardly make a successful sale if you rely only on improvisation. If you want to upsell successfully, here are the best techniques, soft skills to cultivate, and a comprehensive program to train your staff at the front desk.

How to handle hotel phone calls to gather guest information

The ability to offer highly personalized service is increasingly crucial to winning competition with other accommodations and earning guest preference and loyalty. Gaining in-depth knowledge of your guests' needs, preferences, and travel styles will not only enable you to more purposefully structure your extra service offerings, propose special rates, and create tailored packages with high added value, but also reduce your intermediary costs.

If you are able to reach potential guests with personalized offers and services, in fact, they will be more likely to book directly through your website or by phone. This way, you will create a virtuous mechanism that will allow you to reduce OTA commissions and, at the same time, increase control over your relationship with your customers and their data.

That's why you should turn every hotel phone call, even those of a purely informational nature, into an opportunity to acquire as much information as possible.

To do this, simply follow a few simple guidelines:

1. Call the guest by name

A guest who decides to make a phone call is looking for a human and exclusive relationship with the accommodation. Therefore, always remember to ask for the guest's name and use it often during the conversation. In this way, communication will immediately be perceived as more meaningful and personal.

2. Ask questions

Do not simply respond mechanically to the questions you are asked. Instead, use them as a starting point to better understand their needs, such as the reason for the stay, the age of the children, the means of transportation they will use to get to the hotel, and where they are traveling from. Asking if they have stayed at your location before and why they decided to change facilities can also prove to be a source of valuable information for your positioning. To make sure you don't forget anything, you can prepare a list of questions that are of interest to you and find a way to ask them politely, without making it sound like an interrogation.

3. Always ask for an e-mail address

At the end of the phone call, suggest that you send the guest an e-mail containing a summary of the information you provided verbally. This will serve the potential client as a reminder, but also as a confirmation of professionalism and attentiveness. For you, on the other hand, it will serve to incorporate that contact (valuable because they are already interested in your facility) into your marketing strategies.

In this article you have seen what benefits a better management of phone calls could bring and some pointers on how to achieve that. Turning phone calls into bookings is a simple and low-cost activity, but it requires knowledge of some specific rules, which are useful to reach your goal faster and avoid any slip-ups.

That's why we have created a comprehensive guide, where you will find all the steps to follow before, during and after the phone call, as well as a section dedicated to mistakes to avoid.

After reading it you'll be all set to convert every phone call into a revenue opportunity for your hospitality business!