Have You Listened To What Your Hotel Team Is Saying To Real Callers?
By Doug Kennedy
Friday, 20th July 2012
In the busy world that hotel marketing and revenue managers live in these days, there are many distribution channels calling out for our attention.  

It's a constant effort to stay on top of the latest trends and new opportunities especially regarding electronic channel management.  Yet one often forgotten distribution channel is for many hotels still the one that hand-delivers the best sales inquiry opportunities every day.   No, it's not the latest OTA funded by an IPO; nor is it really a new channel at all. 

We are of course talking about the good old fashioned hotel voice channel.  My regular readers know well that I have often said "The Telephone Is Your Hotel's Storefront Window," which is as true today as ever.  

The good news for all hoteliers is that it's easier than ever to manage this important, first-impression making channel.  

Step One:  Find A Way To Access Recordings Of Inbound Calls. 
Due to emerging technologies, hotels and call centers of all sizes and market segments can take advantage of affordable tools for listening-in to what real-world callers hear daily.

Mega call centers, such as those with upwards of 50+ agents, have had this technology in place for over a decade now, with equipment based call monitoring and tracking solutions.   These solutions usually provide the most detailed tracking and sorting of calls, such as on a "by agent" basis.  In recent years the cost of these systems has come down, but price can still sometimes be a barrier for mid-size and smaller call centers. 

Now in recent years new emerging technologies have provided a way for hotels and resorts of all sizes and market segments to be able to record inquiry calls.  One example is the growing number of options for purchasing a unique 800 number from a pay-per-click advertising provider, most of which provide the option of recording the inbound calls.  This option at least provides some access to real-world inquiries, however it can become cost prohibitive at US $1 per call or more.   

More recently, there are now options for using inbound 800 providers that provide call tracking and recording features as part of their service.  Since hotels are already incurring a per-minute cost on their inbound 800 lines, the additional cost can be nominal.  Although the costs vary greatly, a quick Google search will turn up companies that both track and record all inbound 800 calls for under US $.10 per minute. 

Besides recording all calls, some of these systems also provide data on the geographic origin of the calls, the phone numbers of the caller (for follow-up purposes if needed),  useful call traffic data such as time of day, day of week, lost calls, etc…  The call tracking data and recordings can be accessed online.

Step Two:  Make The Time To Listen To Calls Regularly
These call monitoring tools won't change performance alone.  Despite how busy it gets as a hotel marketing or distribution manager, it is critical to schedule-in time on a regular basis to listen to a random mix of calls. 

There is much marketing intelligence to be gained from listening to how real-world callers are reacting to pricing, promotions, or operational procedures as they are being explained.

Step Three:  Score and Assess Guest Services and Sales Calls On A Regular Basis
Once you have access to real world call recordings, you can assign an in-house manager or supervisor to score both guest services and sales calls.  Create a scoring criteria that ensures consistency, yet still allows for a conversational sales style and is not so rigid that it creates scripted, transactional sales and service exchanges. 

Make sure that all sales and service staff receive regular monitoring assessment, including the "superstars."  Too many managers spend most of their time monitoring and coaching the lowest performers; the reality is that associates of all levels can benefit from the feedback.

Aside from just reviewing the written report, make sure associates have the opportunity to listen to their call recordings to that they can hear how they really sound on the phone. 

Step Four:  Use An Unbiased Third Party To Calibrate In-House Results
It is important to avoid one potential pitfall of in-house call monitoring assessment, which is that those doing the monitoring can often become biased due to their personal relationship with the person being monitored. 

As a result a poor call performance might be overlooked because "She was having a bad day that day; she usually does better" or "That's just how he sounds on the phone."    There our outside companies that will score and assess a sampling of your in-house calls to ensure that the scores are calibrated with the in-house results.

By implementing an ongoing call monitoring assessment process at your hotel, resort, or call center, you will be assuring that your sales prospects and guests receive an excellence call experience every time they pass by the "storefront window" of your hotel.

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. 

Visit KTN at: www.kennedytrainingnetwork.com
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