|Hotels Should Not Hide Their Phone Numbers And Email Addresses.|
By Doug Kennedy
Thursday, 28th February 2013
A new trend I’m noticing is that many hotel marketers are making it increasingly difficult to find the hotel 800 and local phone numbers, as well as email addresses.
For example, in conducting a random spot-check of five of the major hotel brands, three out of the five “brand.com” websites I visited did not have their 800 reservations number posted on the front page. A fourth brand did have its 800 number posted, but it was a vanity number only and did not show the numerical version.
Also, it was posted in a very small font that was hard to read on a laptop, let alone a smartphone display. Only one of the five brands I randomly selected did have their 800 reservations number posted prominently, in a large easy to read font in the upper right hand side of the screen. (Kudos go out to Intercontinental Hotels Group!)
In checking the direct property websites of a few major independent hotels and resorts, it seems most still do display their 800 and local numbers, but all too often it is displayed at the bottom of the page and in such a small font that it is difficult if not impossible to read, especially for those of us with “over-forty” eyesight, or those searching on tablet devices. Similarly, these hotel companies are using the same methods and making it hard to locate an email address or contact us form.
To me it is an obvious attempt to force guests to book online versus calling or emailing. These hotel marketers apparently do not understand the interplay between all distribution channels. Using myself as an example, there are times when I am perfectly happy to book on a hotel website, such as when it is just me traveling for a short period, or when I am returning to a hotel I’ve already experienced.
Yet if I’m planning an important meeting, a memory-making vacation, or when I have special needs for a particular visit, I am much more likely to make at least one phone call even if I book online. At other times I prefer to email my reservations-related questions, such as when I am inquiring after hours or just plain tired of talking after a long day of training facilitation.
Smart hotel marketers know it’s the customer’s choice of how they want to book. They understand the interplay of voice, web and email and they make it easy for potential guests to use their preferred channel. Some guests might prefer to call directly, such as those who have read negative online guest reviews, those with special lodging or dietary needs, or those who just do not believe the rate online is the lowest. Some want to look online first and then call; others want to call first and then book online. Still others want to do it all in writing, for whatever reason, such as wanting a paper trail or experiencing a language barrier.
Why make it challenging for potential guests to use their preferred method of communication? After all they are the customer! What’s worse, at the same time hotels are hiding their phone numbers, “cyber-squatters” are out-bidding some hotels on their own key words so that they come up before the hotel on a Google or Bing search. These companies are prominently posting a phone number that is answered with a generic greeting such as “Central Reservations.” Thus, many guests are tricked into booking via a third party channel, costing the hotel commissions and booking fees.
If you have not done so recently, check out your own website and make sure your phone numbers and “contact us” email addresses are prominently displayed, and in a font that is large enough to be easily read. Here are some other tips:
Doug Kennedy is President of the Kennedy Training Network, Inc. a leading provider of customized training programs and telephone mystery shopping services for the lodging and hospitality industry. Doug continues to be a fixture on the industry’s conference circuit for hotel companies, brands and associations, as he been for over two decades.
- Post both 800 and local numbers. Remember some guests might be calling internationally from regionals where your 800 number does not work. Still other guests prefer to call a local number as they sense they are getting more localized assistance.
- Post direct dial numbers for specialized departments such as hotel sales, purchasing, lost and found, and executive offices. Doing this will help syphon-off numerous “service only” calls that may otherwise be going to your hotel reservations department or off-premise call center.
- Similarly, post direct contact email addresses for these specialized departments.
- If you do not post an email address and instead only use a “contact us” form, provide an option for the inquirer to indicate if they prefer a response by telephone or email-only. For those who indicate that the telephone is okay, your salespeople can reach out by phone to make a personalized connection, instead of just emailing back like most of the other hotels will likely do.
- If you have a “contact us” form, chances are you have an open text box labeled “comments.” Instead this should be labeled “Tell us more about your lodging needs.” This will encourage those who prefer to make email inquiries to provide your sales and reservations sales staff with more detailed information that they can then use to provide personalized email responses.
- Use a unique 800 number for mobile searches. Our industry is already feeling the effects of the explosion in mobile searches from smartphones and tablets. This will help your hotel’s marketing efforts and you will be able to identify the increase in calls we are about to experience from those who search on a mobile device but who do not want to complete the transaction that way.
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