Although there are multiple methods of communications, it still pays to pick up the phone, says Pride of Britain chief executive Peter Hancock
Those who attend marketing events these days could be forgiven for thinking that all our customers care about is being engaged via online social networks and getting cheap rooms through online travel agents. That is because these are the "new" developments and so come high on the list of topics for discussion.
We all know real people in the real world also converse in person and by telephone, but because this has been happening for rather longer, it seldom features on the agenda.
Automatically generated reports can give hoteliers a mountain of data about visits to their websites and bookings via third parties, and some think this is all the data they need.
All credit, then, to the National Hotel Marketing Conference, which took place in the Midlands at the end of June and where I listened with interest to a presentation by Roddy Whiteford of the Feversham Arms in Hemsley. He had commissioned a survey by students at the Strathclyde Business School to find out how good hotels are at dealing with phone calls between 5pm and 10pm. They called 120 hotels of mixed size and price, both independent and group owned, ostensibly to make a room reservation.
The results were shocking. Some 17% of the calls were not answered at all. In over 50% of the calls, there was no attempt to describe packages or upsell and in 35% the customer's specific needs were not asked about, such as room type or number of guests. In only 7% of the calls was the business actually asked for and in just 3% the customer's contact details were requested. Presumably that is when the students' cover would have been blown.
It is easy to see why this happens. The phone rings while guests are checking in and dinner is under way, the person who answers may have lots of other things to do and is probably keen to get the call over with as quickly as possible.