Use freetobook to email your phone bookings with BCC option now added

email_sean_macentee.jpgOnce you have set up on freetobook, it’s easy to email a confirmation to your customer showing all their booking details in a professional, neat and simple layout.

You take a phone booking then enter their booking into your diary. A couple of clicks later you have emailed them their confirmation. To them it will look great: from phone call to email confirmation in a matter of minutes. Wow that’s service! Fast, friendly and accurate (just like a big posh chain.) Can you hear your guests being impressed?

As if that wasn’t enough, it saves you time, eliminates errors and keeps your confirmations in one place. Oh and don’t forget you can fish out all your customer details at any time, export them to Excel and add them to a mailing list. For the many properties already using this great function you will notice we have added a BCC tag, so you can copy yourself in on any email you send to a customer.

Freetobook proudly sponsors a VisitEngland award for excellence

visitengland awards for excellence 2012Freetobook is most chuffed to be sponsoring the VisitEngland awards for excellence in 2012. In our minds it’s a great way to raise the quality bar and promote all that’s best in accommodation.

As a family business (not a giant corporation) we couldn’t afford to sponsor the whole event, so we had to choose just one category. Ah… now which one do we choose? Should we sponsor the Bed and Breakfast award? It would make sense when so many of our wonderful customers come into this category, but then we also work with lots of Self Catering providers and we can’t leave them out. Then there are Small Hotels and Large Hotels. We like them and many of them like us, so what do we do? It seemed most logical to go for the middle option and chose to sponsor Small Hotel of the Year which includes so many fabulous and varied properties throughout the land.

We are all looking forward to hearing about the short lists and the finalists and then getting our kilts on for the finale black-tie dinner. If you want to see freetobook in kilts you need to enter before 6th Jan 2012 on VisitEngland’s website: www.visitenglandawards.org

Is your website “driving” customers away?

freetobook gramaphoneDriving home for two and half hours after a great wedding party is not my idea of fun! So why did we do it?

This summer my wife and I attended a wedding in the lovely old town of St Andrews (Scotland). My wife does most of the social organising (no surprises there!) and so she set about looking for somewhere to stay. We just needed a comfortable place and were looking forward to a break away…from the kids.

It was a busy time as there were university graduations taking place. Most hotels were showing fully booked and when she came across a website that featured many of the B&B’s and guesthouses in the area she thought she’d found the answer. However, after about 30 minutes of searching through the website she stormed in and declared we would just drive back that night!

Why? The website offered a list of properties with links but the websites she visited did not offer their availability online. She wasn’t prepared to send out emails, make calls or submit requests….so we drove home that night, getting in at 2:00am.

It wasn’t that she doesn’t like talking to people, she does (I can vouch for that!), but to her the cost in time of “manually” searching for accommodation was greater than the inconvenience of a two and half hour drive across Scotland in the wee hours of the morning! That’s quite a sacrifice, but if you are already conditioned to buy something in a certain way, the frustration and reluctance to change your ways is enough to make you question whether or not it is worth it.

In the end everyone lost out. We missed the end of the wedding party and a night away and the B&Bs lost a booking … not an ideal outcome. It’s a graphic example of how people’s habits have changed online: they expect instant answers, full access to the information required to make a purchasing decision and then to be able to complete the purchase.

A much more common scenario is that you lose bookings when customers visit your website, can’t see availability and rates and therefore just move on to the next.

10 ways to add the human touch to online booking

freetobook heartEveryone offering online booking for the first time will be concerned that they’re losing the personal and bespoke service that their guests used to appreciate. So by offering online booking, will you lose “that loving feeling”?

Phone bookings by their very nature give you a great opportunity to understand your customers and their requirements right from the outset. The customers can ask questions and you get a feel for what they are expecting and hoping to get from their stay.

These are all important parts of the service chain, but we need to remember that the phone and internet bookings are not mutually exclusive. Here are some ways to over-deliver on your booking service:

  • Offer your customer a choice of booking processes. Some will want to call, but many just prefer to book online, it’s convenient and some see it as easier and faster.
  • Develop your website around your booking process, have the booking button and your contact details in the same place on every page. Ensure they are visible immediately as the page loads…that’s why your customer is on your site!
  • Answer any email queries quickly and politely. If you are away for a few hours, set an expectation as to when the customer will receive a reply. Make it personal, standard impersonal replies don’t wash.
  • If customers have booked online, feel free to call or email them for additional information. Indeed, even if you don’t require additional information it’s a great opportunity to win them over. A friendly call to follow up an online booking with relevant and helpful questions has an almost magical effect…it shows you really care. Why? Because customers don’t expect that level of attention online…it’s a nice surprise.
  • You can ask the relevant questions, what are they planning to see and do in the area, is there a special reason for their travel? Of course you have to ask these sensitively, but that’s what service is about.
  • If you are not confident, ask the easy questions first to get a feel for the customer, i.e. what time will they arrive, do they know where you are? Always explain who you are and why you are calling at the start.
  • Based on the call you can send them extra information they will find helpful, a map, list of events, restaurants you can recommend…the list is endless.
  • If you don’t feel up to calling at first, send them a “thanks for booking email… and here’s some helpful info – directions, attractions, events etc” and measure the response. These can be more template-style emails with a bit of personalisation at the top (include their booking details in the subject title, so it follows on from their confirmation).
  • Adding value to the booking process means you can ensure that your guests get the most out of their stay and you get a better idea of who they are and what their expectations are…it’s a win-win, try it.
  • Following up on online bookings is a key service differentiator for independent accommodation, the big guys don’t do it and couldn’t if they tried.

This is how you never lose “that loving feeling”! You only get one opportunity to make a first impression…