How Hotels Can Capture Abandoned Bookings: Hotel websites have a huge abandonment rate of close to 85% according to 2019 research figures from SalesCycle; Is your property losing out on a huge chunk of potential business? To help remedy this situation, it’s important to know why abandonment rates in the travel industry are so high.
The way travelers search and book are changing
Finding and booking a hotel has become an increasingly long-winded process. According to research by TripAdvisor, 80% of travel purchases take longer than four weeks to complete. During this time, travelers might visit and abandon the booking process on multiple sites.
In a crowded online travel space, almost limitless choice also gives rise to a more non-committal shopper. Since there’s always a potentially better option just a click away, travelers are more likely to abandon a booking without hesitation.
So, what can hotels do to counteract this trend?
Create a frictionless user experience
In principle, booking a hotel room is relatively easy. There’s usually a limited amount of information to fill out, and most hotel websites don’t require upfront payment. However, hotels can do even more by focusing on a guest user experience, as highlighted by Graham Charlton, editor in chief at SalesCycle:
“Even though much abandonment is inevitable because people take time to research, there’s still a lot that travel sites can do to minimize the problem. Great user experience always helps, as it makes it easier for travel shoppers to find the information they need, and to complete bookings with a minimum of friction.”
A frictionless user experience can certainly help hotel websites drive direct bookings. But there’s another point to consider: if over 84% of people abandon a booking on a hotel website, it makes sense to move them to the voice channel to close the sale.
If a potential customer can’t find relevant information on your website, or they need help with a complex booking, it’s vital they have the option to call your property for assistance.
The power of the voice channel
The phone remains the number one tool hotel guests use to get things done fast. If a potential customer can’t find relevant information on your website, or they need help with a complex booking, it’s vital they have the option to call your property for assistance. And the option to call should be highly visible.
For instance, your website could include a prominent pop-up with a click-to-call link. This would encourage someone to reconsider abandoning the booking, which could save your hotel a serious amount of lost business. However, having a clearly signposted click-to-call link is just one part of the abandonment puzzle. A much larger problem is that hotels can’t often field all incoming calls in the first place.
The cost of unanswered calls
A huge 80% of all business communications take place over the phone. Extrapolating this to the hospitality industry, it’s easy to see how a hotel might lose tens of thousands (even hundreds of thousands) of dollars a year in booking revenue.
There are other long-lasting side effects of all these missed calls, including:
- Creates a bad reputation with customers
- Produces leads that don’t convert to business
- Decreases customer lifetime value
- Costs your hotel its best employees
- Generates negative word-of-mouth advertising
Why do calls go unanswered?
According to John Smallwood, CEO of Travel Outlook, there are often numerous reasons;
“Hotels are frequently overwhelmed with work and just don’t have enough staff to handle the overload. They might be dealing with a hectic front desk, focusing on digital communications, or trying to handle any number of other customer service issues. It’s very hard to consistently pick up the phone when your staff are faced with so many other priorities.”
Smallwood also notes that the problem can be down to technology, “A hotel might not have the right tools in place to handle an influx of calls. And if a customer is put in a long call queue, they might just get bored and hang up. Equally, some hotels rely on voicemail, but sometimes voicemail can kick in too soon, so the hotel staff don’t have chance to catch the call.”
Given all of these potential issues, hotels need a better way to answer, and close, more incoming sales leads. This is where a voice reservation team can play a vital role.
Overcoming abandonment over the phone
Abandonment isn’t just about someone hanging up after an unreasonable hold time. Once a customer gets through to your hotel’s voice agents, there are numerous things that need to be done well to secure the booking, including:
- Making it Personal: An expert voice reservation team should seek to understand the specific needs of each potential guest. By asking the right questions, they can understand the caller’s “story”, identify where they are in their travel journey, and address their needs in a personalized way.
- Building rapport: Adopting a conversational style is a great way to build rapport with guests. Customers don’t want to feel like they’re being read a sales script, so the more natural and fluent a voice reservation agent sounds, the more likely it is they’ll form a genuine connection with the customer, thus incentivizing them to book.
- Promoting relevant benefits: When a voice agent gets to know more about a caller’s needs (through intelligent questioning), they can promote the specific perks and benefits that will help convince them to book. This could be related to the hotel, but it could also involve selling the destination, for instance, telling a parent about all the family-friendly attractions in the local area.
Steps to Address the Unanswered Call Problems
Are you unhappy with the amount of abandoned calls you receive? Beyond lost revenue, a lost call can have a negative impact on guest satisfaction, loyalty, and more.
The first step is to have a comprehensive understanding of your voice channel’s KPI’s. Start by reviewing KPI’s like Total Number of Abandoned Calls, Average Wait Time, Average Call Time, all the way through Average Call Conversion Rate.
Now ask yourself:
- Are we leaving money on the table for every call we miss?
- Is my hotel’s rating being compromised?
- Are we seeing guest loyalty attrition?
- Are we staffed appropriately to meet demand, even on off-hours?
- Are calls being transferred to the front desk agents who may not be expertly trained to handle voice reservations?
- Should we consider outsourcing our overflow (and service) calls to a professional hospitality call center?
This is one in a series of essays by John Smallwood, CEO of Travel Outlook Premium Reservations Call Center about voice reservations, the second most profitable revenue channel.
About Travel Outlook Hotel Reservation Call Center Services
In addition to the unique use of world-class call center technology, Travel Outlook is the only call center certified by Kennedy Training Network, the hotel industry’s best source for sales training and guest service excellence. Its luxury call team is tested by Forbes and Kennedy each month. Travel Outlook is a hospitality company that takes reservations calls, not a general call center with a handful of hospitality clients.