Simplifying Your Booking Process

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

Smart hoteliers go above and beyond what's required to provide their guests with an exceptional, personalized experience that leaves travelers feeling welcome and important. Yet, hotel executives often miss the mark by not extending this best-in-class experience throughout all of their communications channels, including the booking process. By providing a cohesive, easy and pleasant encounter from start to finish, you can arm your guests with unforgettable memories that will build customer loyalty and word-of-mouth exposure that likely cannot be replicated by a marketing campaign.

Customer Service Talks...or Consumers Will Walk

According to Forrester Research, 47 percent of those who research travel plans online don't end up making a purchase on the Web. Sure, those potential guests may have called your establishment to book a room instead, but the fact is that something prohibited them from closing the deal online and, if you want to attract more guests and encourage them to book their stays on the Web, you need to simplify the process. The best way to do this is to implement services and technologies such as click to call and click to chat to offer unparalleled customer support so that if your guests do encounter an issue online, they will be met with instant access to an associate who can help them.

Click to call and click to chat are services that can be easily integrated into your current e-commerce platform to give your potential guests direct and immediate access to representatives who can help them complete their booking and answer their questions. These technologies appear as icons on your Web site and give your customers the option of speaking with a live associate on the phone or chatting via instant messenger. Unlike toll-free numbers, these options do not include holding or wait times, or the possibility of being patched through to several individuals within a customer service center.

In fact, in a recent, independent, ATG-sponsored consumer survey of more than 1,000 respondents, we found that having instant access to live help such as click to call and click to chat, ranked third on a list of the seven most important factors of Web site when making a purchase. The other factors included usability of the site, finding the best bargains, enhanced mobile shopping capabilities, relevant product recommendations, availability of peer reviews and ratings and the ability to integrate purchases with social networking sites. Our survey further proved that 94 percent of the 1,000 respondents felt that having access to a cohesive live help strategy, via call and chat, was "useful" to "extremely useful."

Clearly, consumers have strong opinions about the need for access to customer service when making purchases online, and we can't blame them. The recession is forcing consumers to tighten their budgets and fully examine every purchase, so it's more important than ever to make those purchases as easy as possible for them.

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Coming up in June 2019...

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.