The Imminent Influx of Call Volume
Get the Most Revenue from Each Call
The hospitality industry has never faced a challenge quite like this. COVID-19 has brought the industry to its knees, and despite lockdown measures being steadily eased, it's clearly going to take time for the hospitality sector to recover.
Yet travel demand will inevitably grow (as we're now seeing in our call volume at Travel Outlook), which means US hotels need to capitalize on all new reservation inquiries. But will hotels have enough onsite staff to pick up the phone?
Reassuring Guests in Uncertain Times
Some US hotels have already started reopening their doors, but occupancy levels remain low - most are operating at around 5-10% of their normal capacity. These figures indicate that, despite the ability to do so, many people feel a sense of trepidation about travel, and it's likely they will for some time.
Before booking a trip, it's reasonable to assume that a significant number of travelers will call the hotel to ask questions and address potential concerns, such as:
- What is your hotel's cancelation policy?
- How are you enforcing social distancing?
- What are your cleanliness protocols?
- What attractions are open/closed in your region?
Hotels need to have the ability to field an influx of calls and answer these kinds of questions. Giving guests reassurance to book will truly become an integral part of driving bookings - not just in the coming months, but through next year too.
"While it will be critical that every person who might interact with a guest knows how they have made preparations for guests' safety, engaging with the fundamentals of true hospitality -- preparing for each guest as we would for our own family -- will likely contribute to a property's early success and translate into bookings based on trust."
Emily Bowen, CRME, CHDM - Adjunct Professor and Director of Revenue, Reservations and Channel Distribution - Penn State University
How Can Hotels Prepare?
As the pandemic subsides and travel demand grows, hotels need to be ready to pick up every call. But more than that, they need to demonstrate empathy and understanding to every caller - giving them the time and personal service required.
Naturally, this represents a major challenge. Hotels have had to lay off huge numbers of employees and placed many others on furlough. Bringing back a full team of front desk staff may not make sense, and probably won't be possible for logistic and financial reasons, until occupancy levels pick up.
This is where a dedicated call center can play a key part in a hotel's direct booking strategy. By outsourcing calls to an expert reservation team, the onsite front desk won't be overwhelmed and every one of those precious incoming sales calls will be picked up.
John Smallwood, CEO of Travel Outlook, highlights how an effective distribution of calls to right team member can pay multiple dividends.
"When reservations calls are answered by multi-tasking front desk staff, guests at the front desk tend to fall to a second-class status, while the reservations calls are rushed to an ineffective conclusion. Have the right team perform each task: the front desk staff engage with the person right in front of them and have the trained reservations team to get the most revenue from each call received."
Looking to the Future
For now, at least, the hospitality industry needs to live with a new normal. Staying at a hotel is not going to be the same experience as it once was, but guests need to know they'll still receive the best possible experience and, most importantly, that their personal safety will be prioritized.
As more and more hotels open up, the trickle of reservation calls will grow. When they do, having the capacity to field all of those calls and reassure guests will help hotels maximize bookings and begin their own journey on the road to recovery.