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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Hotel Spa: Oasis Unplugged

The driving force in current hotel spa trends is the effort to manage unprecedented levels of stress experienced by their clients. Feeling increasingly overwhelmed by demanding careers and technology overload, people are craving places where they can go to momentarily escape the rigors of their daily lives. As a result, spas are positioning themselves as oases of unplugged human connection, where mindfulness and contemplation activities are becoming increasingly important. One leading hotel spa offers their clients the option to experience their treatments in total silence - no music, no talking, and no advice from the therapist - just pure unadulterated silence. Another leading hotel spa is working with a reputable medical clinic to develop a “digital detox” initiative, in which clients will be encouraged to unplug from their devices and engage in mindfulness activities to alleviate the stresses of excessive technology use. Similarly, other spas are counseling clients to resist allowing technology to monopolize their lives, and to engage in meditation and gratitude exercises in its place. The goal is to provide clients with a warm, inviting and tranquil sanctuary from the outside world, in addition to also providing genuine solutions for better sleep, proper nutrition, stress management and natural self-care. To accomplish this, some spas are incorporating a variety of new approaches - cryotherapy, Himalayan salt therapy and ayurveda treatments are becoming increasingly popular. Other spas are growing their own herbs and performing their treatments in lush outdoor gardens. Some spa therapists are being trained to assess a client's individual movement patterns to determine the most beneficial treatment specifically for them. The July issue of the Hotel Business Review will report on these trends and developments and examine how some hotel spas are integrating them into their operations.