Operating an Effective Outsourced Reservations System
Handing responsibility for your reservations to an external provider is not something to be taken lightly. There are several natural inhibitions – will my property be represented professionally? – how are bookings delivered? – are up-selling opportunities captured? – will my group and corporate segments lose opportunities?
Let’s first address the instances that reservations are likely to be outsourced:
- Complete outsourced solution – Full control for reservations are handed to an outsourced provider. This is more likely suited to an independent property or a small group of hotel properties that are seeking to drive efficiencies operationally as well as increase direct conversion and repeat business
- Peak time solution – Those key times of the day that front office personnel are engaging with customers, likely around check-out and check-in times, enquiries are put on hold and often the focus is terminating an enquiry as quickly as possible
- After hours solution – A significant proportion of telephone enquiries occur between 6pm and 9pm, just after your primary day front-office personnel have clocked off and non-conversion focussed personnel are manning the phones
Now let’s talk about the ideal outsourced process to alleviate concerns:
- Augmented representation – Answering the call with a professional greeting specific to your property such there is seamless transition to the reservations department. This is generally established by configuring the on-site phone system to forward the call externally – when dialling 2 for reservations for example – property specific caller identification is retained permitting personalised and augmented representation
- Call transfer – Outsourced reservation systems often lack the ability to transfer back to the property. This can be of benefit for other specialised services that are located on-site such as a restaurant or leisure centre and can be achieved with a suitable VOIP telephony system
- Onshore solutions – There is often an assumption that outsourced reservations occur in off-shore call centres, but what if an on-shore solution has managed to achieve efficiencies of scale to answer with a professional home-grown accent?
- Conversion focussed – Trained personnel with full-service, upscale hotel backgrounds are a must with particular areas of specialism across groups, corporate and leisure. Couple this with professional sales, up-selling training and technology to bring direct booking conversion to the next level
- Off-line outcomes – All too often, telephone enquiries are not left with something tangible. The ability to send a prospective customer that is not quite ready to book a tangible link or proposal that matches their enquiry that can be executed at their leisure in an off-line context contributes to increased conversion
- Chat-bots – Love them or loathe them, an increased proportion of the market are engaging with chat-bots to make enquiries. In a hotel reservations context, what is desirable is complete integration with the booking engine such that it becomes an automated channel that can actually convert bookings
- Instant & tailored proposals – Getting a proposal to a customer does not have to be labourious with a time lag between the call and proposal. Hitting the send button on the proposal before the end of the telephone enquiry is the name of the game. This involves using an exceptional proposal and reservation system connected to your channel manager
- Complete openness – One way to monitor quality is to record every call and make it openly available to the property. Another way is to track proposals sent and understand where the customer is at – have they looked at the proposal? – has it expired? – is there an opportunity for a future sale? With tracking and contact details embedded with a proposal, all data remains open and the property of the hotel
- No missed opportunities – In some properties with sufficient scale, there is a clear benefit from outsourcing with the ability to access the service at below what it would cost to be provided in-house with increased direct conversion. In other properties the immediate benefit is less obvious as the reservation agent role is often assumed by whoever is on duty – the duty manager, restaurant manager and sometimes, nobody. Having somebody, always, is what is desirable from an outsourced reservations service to not miss an opportunity
- Improved customer service – Consistent, friendly and professional customer service with conversion and up-sales at the forefront of the process is the ultimate outcome with tangible benefits that actually reduces the overall cost of acquisition of hotel customers
At Nuvho, we spent a lot of time selecting our systems, staff and establishing our processes to be able to achieve the brief that addresses all of the likely concerns and barriers that serviced accommodation providers may believe are present when considering the option to outsource their reservations function. We are committed to the provision of service excellence with the responsibility of representing serviced accommodation providers and managing their customers at the early stage of the guest experience. We would love to start a conversation on helping your business excel and improve direct conversion rates.