Energize telephone hold times to improve the guest experience

Did you know half of American consumers prefer to receive information over the phone rather than online? The hotel industry is in the midst of a digital revolution, whereby the process of researching and booking a hotel has become largely an instant online process. However, there may be times when information about the hotel isn’t online and customers need to speak to someone directly. As a result, it is important not to forget about the telephone as a vital method of communication between the business and its customers.

But what happens if the call is handled poorly?

When people pick up the telephone to call a business for the first time, their ears are their only means of making an initial judgment. A poor caller experience can put them off for life. In fact, research of 2,234 American consumers by PHMG discovered 59 percent of respondents will refuse to give repeat business to a company if their first call isn’t handled to their expectations.

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This could prove detrimental for hotels. The telephone is still considered a key tool in converting leads to sales so a lasting negative impression created by poor call handling could result in lost profitability.  

Developing best-practice guidelines for staff to follow and providing them with training on how best to deal with a call in a professional manner represents a good start in helping callers enjoy a positive experience.

Yet improving employee behavior is just the first step in improving call handling.

Evade Caller Boredom

Waiting on hold for a lengthy amount of time doesn’t sit well with consumers, especially if made to listen to repetitive beeps, poor music or even silence.

However, as much as businesses would like to answer each call as quickly as possible, this might not always be feasible. For example, a customer could need more information about hiring a meeting room which may not be on hand, or he or she may have to be transferred to a staff member in another part of the hotel.

A study by PHMG found U.S. businesses make callers wait on hold for an average of 29.83 seconds per call before they reach their intended destination. It is easy to think this isn’t a long time, but consider the typical television commercial. An average slot is around 30 seconds in length, enough time to convince the viewer whether to buy the advertised product or service or to switch the channel.

The same goes for on the telephone. In order to improve call retention, hotels must control what listeners are hearing in this short window of time so they stay on the line.

In such cases, on-hold marketing—customized voice and music messages—can help.

A customized on-hold experience can help alleviate common phone-based frustrations.

Don’t Risk Hang-Ups

Large amounts of a hotel’s budget is often devoted to ensure a property’s visual branding, such as websites, stationery and keycards, is up to scratch.

However, sound remains a critically undervalued element of customer service and marketing for U.S. businesses, especially over the telephone. Research by PHMG discovered 42 percent of organizations are still leaving customers listening to generic music while on hold, while 34 percent leave callers in silence and 13 percent subject them to ringing or beeps.

This presents a serious risk of hang-ups from caller irritation. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. By using an on-hold marketing solution, hotels can engage the listener and create a golden opportunity out of the blank space generated by hold time.

Brand-congruent voice and music messages work by communicating key messages and company information to a captive audience, complementing the existing company image and values constructed by the existing visual branding.  

Unlike its visual counterpart, it’s less intrusive and helps to boost client satisfaction levels in the process, decreasing perceived waiting times and reducing caller hang-ups by 79 percent.

For hotels, it is particularly effective in up-selling and cross-selling services on offer. For example, a potential customer may call to book a room, only to be told by the messages that if they combine it with a spa package they can get a discounted rate. This could help increase the number of sales enquiries and boost revenue.  

The hotel could also promote its amenities and facilities, such as a gym or a rooftop dining experience. By mentioning such features, it provides the listener with a sense of reassurance that they will be staying in a top-class accommodation.

If your hotel has won industry awards, advertising them via your on-hold marketing will also help to enhance your company image and further convince callers of its professionalism.

The Benefits

Excellent customer service is imperative for companies in the hospitality sector. Without it, organizations will simply not thrive in such a competitive space.

Considering this, it seems counterintuitive that call handling is often overlooked by hotels when comes to choosing where money is invested. Rather than potentially missing out on inbound leads, hotel owners should look at introducing audio into their marketing mix.

Mark Williamson is CEO at PHMG, a provider of audio branding services with offices in London, Manchester and Chicago.