Opportunities for travel are finally opening up. With travel restrictions easing and consumers finally willing to take a break, the hotel industry is beginning to feel confident about the future.
Hotels in the UK were quickest to feel the effects of the lifting of restrictions, with many holidaymakers choosing to stay in the UK in 2021. But Europe also enjoyed a surge in bookings. According to a report from the Boutique Hotel Barometer of independent hoteliers, more than 60% of independent hoteliers in the Mediterranean said bookings rose faster in the second quarter of 2021 than at any time in 2020. This figure rose to 80% for Greece and Spain.
The growing appetite for travel can also been seen in our call tracking data. Since the introduction of the Green List in May, we’ve seen calls to travel brands shoot up dramatically. As our last Pulse Check showed, there’s been a whopping 133% increase in calls this October compared to last.
Despite this appetite, the industry still has ground to make up after a devastating year and every potential booking counts. That’s why it’s crucial that the hotel sector capitalises on all opportunities, across every channel. And, with customers needing to feel safe before they travel, the human touch of the call centre makes it a key area where gains can be made.
Here are three ways in which hotels can differentiate themselves by harnessing the power of phone conversations:
Understanding who and where your customers are
There are multiple online and offline touchpoints through which customers or prospects can reach you. But, the channel that holds the most valuable insight into all of these journeys is the phone.
With call tracking technology, you can see exactly where calls are coming from and what’s triggering them. For example, was the call driven by a PPC ad or was a particular search term used before the caller landed on your website? It also enables you to see where each caller is located, or the last page of your website they looked at before they called.
Linking previous online visit history to the eventual phone call gives you a much clearer picture of the customer’s journey and their preferences – meaning you’re already in a better position to serve them.
Adding value with every call
The path to purchase has changed considerably over the past few years, with online travel bookings becoming increasingly prevalent. Online travel aggregators have opened up new revenue streams for hotels, but that hasn’t come without a price. Many charge a commission, meaning, where possible, it’s more profitable for hotels to sell rooms themselves. Ultimately, direct sales can make a big difference to the bottom line.
Once customers are engaged on a phone call, agents can cross-sell to increase the value of each booking – by including spa treatments or room upgrades, for example. Using information gathered from their offline history, it’s also possible to see which offers they might be receptive to.
Call tracking technology empowers call handlers by highlighting which marketing campaign drove the call. Immediately the agent is more knowledgeable. They’re made aware of the reason for the call which gives them a stronger chance of completing the booking.
The same is true for the marketing department and the wider business. Understanding which campaigns are driving phone calls, when they’re resulting in sales and whether the average booking value has increased due to a particular promotion helps to inform future decision making.
Hotels can delve even deeper to analyse patterns that emerge from conversations with Conversation Analytics. Do specific keywords keep cropping up in calls, for example ‘upgrade’ or ‘concierge services’? Can you use this information to plan future promotions or to tailor agent training so agents can answer queries as effectively as possible?
Consumers crave reassurance
There’s plenty of pent-up travel demand to meet. But, after COVID-19, customers want more reassurance than ever – on everything from testing requirements to cancellation policies, and the safety measures in place within resorts. This is true of those travelling for both business and pleasure. There’s no better place for companies and individuals to get those assurances than over the phone.
While hotels can differentiate themselves on factors such as location, quality and facilities, customer service is still key to conversion rates and repeat business. The better the initial experience, the more likely the customer is to show loyalty.
From the moment the call is connected, each customer should receive the best possible experience. By understanding what happens when holidaymakers speak to agents, and identifying key turning points in conversations, you can give the nuanced training necessary to ensure callers have a positive experience – and calls end with positive outcomes.
This has been a catastrophic period for the hotel industry. And, even as we emerge from the pandemic, the challenges aren’t over. The sector now faces staff shortages and ongoing social distancing measures. But, the insight available to hotels through their phone calls is one way in which they can emerge stronger and seize every opportunity to get closer to eager, but cautious travellers.