Do Toll-free Lines Increase Bookings or Cannibalize Them?
By Donald R. Smith Executive Vice President, Nor1 Inc. | October 28, 2008
Hospitality industry experts agree, offering a toll free number on a hotel or hotel brads website not only is likely to increase oval bookings, but provide an important customer service element.
Over the past decade the internet has grown to become one of the major sources of for hotels. It has also proven to be one of the lowest costs of distribution for them. Major hotel companies have marketed their Web site as the best place to book, offering incentives like frequent quest points and lowest price guarantees to entice consumers to book directly on their Web sites. As more and more of their individual leisure and unmanaged business travel booked via the web, they were able to scale back their call centers which reduced their cost per booking due to the higher cost of call center staffing.
Many travel companies made it difficult if not almost impossible to speak to a human, frustrating many consumers and resulting in the loss of bookings. There is a misconception that moving bookings to the Web lowers cost and ultimately saves both the hotel and customer time and money by elimination the costs involved with 800 numbers and call center staffing. In fact, while rates vary from state to state (some may be as little as 7 cents per minute, with others running as high as 42 cents per minute.) There are definitive costs, to be sure. Even more significant can be the costs for multiple lines and the expense to staff them.
Jason Price, Executive Vice President of Hospitality eBusiness Strategies, a New York based hospitality emarketing consulting firm, finds in his experience and research, the following trends:
Logical arguments can be made for and against the 800 numbers. But ultimately consumers want a choice, and they want to know that a human can assist with their decision making and travel booking process. While some hotel groups have hidden their toll free numbers, others have made them prominent for the following reasons:
Some consumers are reluctant to book online due to credit card concerns or lack of confidence in online transactions. While these concerns are at a fraction of what they were a decade ago, they still exist with many travelers. Purchases of expensive and detailed / complicated itineraries found that they needed to speak with an agent to be sure that they could ensure they would have the exact experience they desired (i.e, confirming the room they booked was ocean front in the Aloha Tower, making sure they could be guaranteed tee times - perhaps even specified times or reservations - during their stay... even dinner at 8 PM sharp in the fine dining room.)