At Simplotel, we have worked with hotels for 3+ years now. We have learned a lot about the behavior of consumers online and about the importance of the phone channel in direct hotel bookings.
Since we began our journey we have transformed the e-commerce capabilities of thousands of independent hotels. We found that as we grow the traffic for hotels, their phone calls also grow. To learn more about what is happening on the phone channel, we took calls for 50 hotels. Our findings were insightful and are listed below.
About 10% of the customers coming to a hotel website end up calling the hotel. Given our previous experience with eCommerce, this number is high (the intent of customers coming to the website is high). Not surprisingly about 50% of the calls driven from the website are for reservations. The calls are a gold mine but about one in five calls go unanswered – causing revenue leakage.
We believe that such a high percentage of calls is driven largely by:
New consumers coming online are looking for a human touch before transacting online. Bunch of the calls are to seek a further discount than the online published rates. This consumer behavior is reinforced by hotels that offer an additional discount to convert the callers on the phone.
Growing traffic on mobile websites makes it convenient for consumers to call. This is perhaps a global phenomenon – research indicates that worldwide 7 out of 10 bookings from customers visiting a hotel website on mobile devices happen via phone call.
Phone bookings are perhaps also driven in India by higher payment failure rates driven by additional password verification required for online transactions. With slower internet connections and the need to go through the bank website to complete the transaction can result in abandonment on that channel.
Most hotels when contacted for reservations on the phone ask the guest to send an email and then respond with a quote. This is driven mostly to weed out the callers who are just price shopping or to validate that the caller is indeed from the corporate he is claiming to be. When the guest sends an email, the front desk usually takes a few hours to send them a quote and almost always does not follow up on such leads.
If calls are monitored, managed and followed up properly our data indicates that phone calls originating from the website can generate 6 times more revenue than the website booking engine. We have also found that some hotels have a higher conversion on the website. In our findings to drive more online bookings, hotels should:
Maintain parity in prices and deposit policies on the hotel website and the rates offered on the phone (perhaps even offer a slightly higher rate on the phone) and encourage guests to book on the website to free up the front desk’s time.
Equip the front desk with tools that make the front desk more efficient and make it easy for them to convert phone calls better. Such tools include workflows that make it easy for consumers to pay for phone reservations online, automated confirmations and follow ups – freeing up the front desk’s time.
At Simplotel, we are glad to announce the launch of Simplotel Reservation Desk – a product that will Simplify the life of a hotel reservation agent. Using Simplotel the agent can:
Track and monitor phone calls – get notified about missed calls.
Send out hotel branded and actionable invoices and quotes to customers who contact the hotel via phone call, chat or email.
Optionally hold the inventory for the guest and offer phone only rates and promotions.
Determine the deposit required to reserve the room. Provide a great guest experience by enabling the guest to pay easily via credit, debit and net banking.
Once the guest pays, they receive instant and automated booking confirmation and voucher via Email and SMS.
Automate the follow up with the customer.
Over the years we expect more customers will book online directly without calling the hotel. But until then hotels need to manage their calls better and convert more such leads.