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Article by John Smallwood

Hotel Agents Can Increase Reviews and Revenue

Solar Plexus Inc., dba Travel Outlook 2 June 2017
The reason? The study suggests that there is a direct correlation between the revenue increase and the explosion in online reviews. With vastly increased exposure, independent hotels can now reach more potential guests than ever before. In terms of hard numbers, the study found that for every ten reviews received, independent hotels gained a 1.7% boost in revenue.This suggests a vitally important takeaway: independent hotels that offer exceptional service can enhance their online reputation, which can have a direct impact on their bottom line.There are opportunities for creating a strong impression and incentivizing positive online feedback throughout the hotel stay. But guest perceptions, and by extension your entire reputation, can often hinge on a single interaction - the first contact with a reservation agent.Beyond a personal greeting, a well-trained reservation agent will take the time to learn about a guest's needs and preferences ahead of time, and this can dramatically impact the entire perception a person has about your hotel.For instance, a carefully suggested room recommendation, a top tip for a local restaurant, or surprising a guest with a free upgrade to celebrate a special occasion can make their whole experience more memorable.In a world of cookie-cutter chain experiences, going beyond expectations and showing a desire to help and add value carries immense weight.And over time, the impact of providing exemplary service from the first encounter can elevate your whole brand reputation - encouraging positive reviews that have the potential to create a measurable growth in booking revenue.This is one in a series of short essays by John Smallwood, CEO of Travel Outlook Premium. Reservations Call Center about voice reservations, the second most profitable revenue channel. Travel Outlook is a hospitality company that takes voice reservations calls for its clients.
Article by John Smallwood

OTAs Are Marketing Directly to Your Guests - And So Should You

Solar Plexus Inc., dba Travel Outlook 8 August 2016
If you have 60 seconds, I have 300 words that might help at the NOI line.In the battle to convert guest loyalty and guest data ownership from an OTA to your hotel, there are two important contact points that must be monitored and measured.First, well-run hotels keep close track of how the front desk captures direct contact information from OTA guests, particularly email addresses.There are many ways to ask a guest for this information. The best way for your hotel to make this request can be developed by the front desk team, but the important point is that the General Manager should measure how successful the team has been at doing it. It's also important to ask the front desk team asks the guest if he or she wishes to "opt-in" for direct mailings from the hotel. If they "opt-out", this must be noted in the database.What is a good target capture percentage for the front desk? 90% would be good target, and at the end of the month this is an ideal night audit task, with the resulting report for the previous month in the GM's inbox on the first of the month. This is an ideal place to offer an incentive for the front desk team.Second, the voice reservation team can touch an OTA booking after it has been made. OTA clients often call the hotel to confirm their bookings or to ask questions about the hotel, and if the voice team is using an effective CRM such as Track Pulse (the system we have chosen to install at Travel Outlook), it makes it easy for the voice agent to ask the OTA guest for his or email address. The agent can also enter the information directly into the PMS.Of course, the ultimate goal is to add the customer's contact information to the hotel's database for direct marketing of specials and other hotel information. You can be sure the OTAs are using the information for exactly the same purpose.This is one in a series of short essays by John Smallwood, CEO of Travel Outlook Premium Reservations Call Center about voice reservations, the second most profitable revenue channel. Travel Outlook is a hospitality company that takes voice reservations calls for its clients.
Article by John Smallwood

A Simple Way to Snatch a Booking from the Jaws of an OTA

Solar Plexus Inc., dba Travel Outlook 14 March 2016
A famous Cornell study in 2009 found that when a hotel had a first-page listing with an OTA, it received a boost in direct bookings on its own website. This came to be known as "the billboard effect".Recently, the effectiveness of the billboard effect has been questioned, because new studies show that although many customers still visit a hotel's website after learning about the hotel on an OTA site, many return to the OTA site to book.One of the major reasons for this is OTAs have become experts at mastering the user experience and making the booking process blissfully simple. But it's important to remember that the guests are still visiting your hotel's site, so you have an excellent chance to capture a booking that might be lost to an OTA by making the process on your website easier and instantly more appealing.A clear and easy way of doing this is by placing this phrase prominently on your website, above the fold:"Our agents are standing by to offer you the lowest rates and helpful local information. Click here to call us now."This simple sentence provides a compelling reason to book with you directly, and it's more personal and immediate. It gives guests a specific reason to call you. You're offering an enticing proposition, scented with the promise of possibly obtaining a better rate or an upgraded room and to learn about the local area. Instantly, this has more appeal and impact than simply placing a toll-free number on your home page and waiting for the phone to ring.Stating that you have a dedicated booking agent available also makes the process sound easier. It draws attention to your offer of the kind of personal communication customers value. And when potential guests do call, make sure you capitalize on their interest by using trained, dedicated voice agents to sell your property and close the sale at the highest possible rate.Use this simple method to convert OTA bookings to direct bookings, making the guest yours instead of belonging an OTA. And avoiding the OTA commission is nice, too.This is one in a series of short essays by John Smallwood, CEO of Travel Outlook PremiumReservations Call Center about voice reservations, the second most profitable revenue channel. Travel Outlook is a hospitality company that takes voice reservations calls for its clients.
Article by

Capture A Customer's Interest When They Call For Rates

Solar Plexus Inc., dba Travel Outlook 7 December 2015
As hotels face escalating guest acquisition costs, it's becoming increasingly important to find cost-effective ways to attract fresh leads. For hoteliers, this means developing "smart marketing" tactics and being resourceful in connecting with and converting new customers. When deployed effectively, smart marketing is about targeting customers with specific offers and a personalized approach that appeals to their unique preferences and requirements.Analyzing online data and website browsing behavior of potential guests is one approach, but when a person calls to inquire about rates, it presents a golden opportunity to learn more about their needs and to entice them with a tailored sales approach such as the Kennedy Training Network's multi-step sales system.Naturally, you don't want to put caller off with a heavy sales pitch. But information gleaned during a call can help to gently reel in a mildly interested client. This is where a good central reservations office (CRO) can help, by turning a lukewarm voice lead into a confirmed booking and a customer for life.By discovering the specific requirements of a customer, an effective call center agent can build desire by describing the specific amenities and features a guest is likely to find most appealing. This might involve asking whether a person wants a carefree break or an action-packed vacation, and, based on the answer, the agent could sell the alluring qualities of the spa or describe the hotel's proximity to top local attractions.Or if the potential guest is traveling on a late-night flight, mentioning the hotel's "plush king size beds" along with room rates might just sway their booking decision in the right direction.Instead of simply giving the customer the information they're looking for, a good call center can stimulate interest in your property by learning about a potential guest's needs and describing an experience that moves them one step closer to booking and enjoying a stay with you.
Article by John Smallwood

It's Time To Be Crystal-Clear On Pricing

Solar Plexus Inc., dba Travel Outlook 11 November 2015
A recent survey by Travelers United revealed that 80% of travelers want mandatory resort fees included in the advertised price. It's hardly surprising. A number of hotels do not include these fees in their room rates, and fail to make them sufficiently obvious in the booking process. This lack of transparency can be damaging when a customer realizes they have to pay extra for their room. At best, it can leave them feeling irritated and confused. At worst? Misled and overcharged.So, how can you ensure that your guests are 100% certain about the rates you charge and the amenities you offer? To start, communicate with clarity on your website by carefully noting add-on fees and clearly explaining what they cover. This will protect your brand reputation, and help to improve and maintain customer trust.Your website is an obvious first place to display the total price of a stay, but with the best intentions, booking conditions and small print can sometimes be misread. Often, customers just want to speak to a human being to quickly answer their questions.Having a dedicated call center can really help with this issue. Foremost, any applicable resort fees can be carefully clarified - so everything is made crystal-clear to guests well before check-in.But personally speaking with a guest offers the opportunity to explain why the fee is being charged in the first place, and why it's a fair and reasonable. Rather than posting generic terms and conditions on your website, you can answer a customer's specific query in a far more personal way. And of course, talking directly with a customer means you can try to overcome any potential objections they might have over additional fees.Ultimately, when guests arrive at your property, it's essential they understand what they've paid for. Answering every call and ensuring your pricing is made clear early in the booking process can play a crucial part in this process.
Article by John Smallwood

It's essential your CRO sends guest requests and sales leads to the right place, in real time.

Solar Plexus Inc., dba Travel Outlook 25 September 2015
If your hotel uses a remote Central Reservations Office (CRO) to answer reservations calls, it's critical to ensure that there is a system in place for the CRO to convey guest requests and sales leads to the right person at your property, in real time.A CRO doesn't just receive reservations calls, it receives the same calls that are handled by the reservations team in-house. This means that a CRO agent may receive a call from an in-house guest with an operations-related request, or a possible solid sales lead for the sales department. It's vital that these be sent to the right department immediately.If a system is not in place to do this, such requests may languish as a "to-do" list sent to the hotel at the end of a shift or at irregular times, possibly resulting in lost business or the perception of a lack of service for in-house guests. Obviously, these are not acceptable outcomes.Losing a sales lead to a competing hotel because of the delay in receiving a lead from the CRO is disappointing, but negative social media comments from a perceived lack of attention to guests is demoralizing. Recently, Skift's Dennis Schaal wrote, "TripAdvisor's metamorphosis is category-changing, heralding the advent of the pseudo online travel agency/booking site. Hotels that choose to be the powers behind Book on TripAdvisor are creating an alternative to the currently more expensive online travel agencies but they are making the already powerful TripAdvisor even more of a force."A simple missing or delayed guest request from the CRO can live forever on TripAdvisor for all potential guests to see, and as TripAdvisor grows in influence and in booking ability, such comments will disproportionately hurt ongoing revenues.Take the time to analyze how your CRO is communicating with your operations team, and take steps to ensure that it's being done instantaneously and accurately.This is one in a series of short essays by John Smallwood, CEO of Travel Outlook PremiumReservations Call Center about voice reservations, the second most profitable revenue channel. Travel Outlook is a hospitality company that takes voice reservations calls for its clients.

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