Click to Call: Turning Online Lookers into Bookers

By Cid Jenkins Vice President, ATG's eStara | January 27, 2012

Despite dramatic growth in online bookings over the last decade, many hospitality companies continue to struggle with delivering quality customer experience online. The Internet can be a double-edged sword for hotel owners. It presents potential travelers with easy access to products and services, but it also gives them an incentive to look elsewhere for a better deal. It's important for hospitality companies to establish brand loyalty with online travelers and lessen the chances of Web site abandonment. According to Forrester Research, 47 percent of those who research their travel plans online don't actually complete their travel arrangements online.

Online travelers generally abandon Web sites because they have pricing issues or technical support issues. During the infancy of e-commerce, many online travel and hospitality companies felt they could address these concerns by providing prospective customers with self-service tools, such as FAQs. However, with more complex sales, like making hotel reservations or booking travel packages, companies are beginning to understand they need to be more effective at securing, supporting and retaining their online customers.

To do this, many companies are turning to click to call technology. Click to call lets users click an HTML button embedded on a Web site, e-mail, banner ad, search engine or online directory listing, and immediately launches an automated call between the consumer and the contact center.

Overview: What is Click to Call?

Click to call services integrate web-based channels with contact centers by allowing customers to initiate live voice conversations with customer service representatives. Using VoIP technology, customers have the option to escalate from site browsing, search or research to conversation, either directly through their PCs, or by immediate callback to a mobile or landline phone. Because the service operates in a fully-hosted model, calls are routed to customer service representatives without any additional investment in call center hardware or software.

Companies are getting smarter about Web visitors, and are taking aggressive steps to optimize every visit in order to maximize sales conversion, increase customer loyalty and reduce website abandonment. Click to call provides the ability to track online sessions, detect trends and provide a dynamically placed assist if a prospect has lingered on a single page for a specified amount of time, or exhibited signs of website abandonment. This data garnered from a customer's online browsing can be viewed on its own, or integrated with existing data sources for a complete view of the customer and a seamless, online transaction experience.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.