Everyone 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…