Generate more direct bookings with automation: booking inquiry

Generate more direct bookings with automation: booking inquiry

22 January 2019Justyna Urbaniak

When a guest sends you a stay query, it is like an invitation to a date. Whether the meeting will take place, depends on the steps you take. Why is it you do not “click”, despite your efforts? Check the results of our study, and find out how to overcome all the obstacles.

In mid-October 2018, we sent stay queries to 101 facilities in Poland. They included bed & breakfasts, hotels, aparthotels and resort hotels. We sent the following email to the addresses provided on their websites:

“Hello, have you got any double rooms available between 15 and 17 October (double bed). Please provide the total cost of the stay: 1. with breakfasts, 2. with breakfasts & dinners.”

We wanted to check how the hotels prepare their offers for potential guests, and what poses the greatest difficulties.

No response means no booking

We sent the emails to the available addresses of reception desks and booking departments provided on the websites of the facilities. We did not receive answers to nearly 10% of our queries, which means that one in ten hotels lost a booking opportunity.

What if we were real potential guests?

We would feel ignored, and would not be interested in staying there. Posting a negative review on the Internet is also an option.

The situation might have been caused by an outdated email address on the website or, maybe, the person operating the inbox could not answer the queries.

A tip: To avoid such situations, check whether the email addresses on your website are up-to-date, and who receives the queries. Moreover, check whether the telephone numbers are correct. Remember that some guests prefer calling to writing e-mails. Make sure that all the stay queries, sent both via e-mail and the contact form, reach one destination (just connect the reception desk e-mail or booking department e-mail to your CRM).

Long response time means a smaller chance of booking

Response time on the Internet translates directly to the results. Like no other form of communication, the Internet requires fast replies to queries, mainly because it is extremely easy to send your query to the competition.

The fastest reply in our study reached us after 4 minutes, which is excellent reaction time. Unfortunately, it informed us that there are no rooms available on the dates we had specified in our query. That’s all. No other options, no encouragement to check out special offers no alternatives.

The average reply time was nearly 6 hours, but it is worth noting that we sent out queries at the weekend, between 8:00 p.m. and midnight. Booking departments handle queries on weekdays (during business hours), while at weekends emails are either not handled, or are handled by the reception desk staff in a spare moment between the usual tasks related to attending to hotel guests.

A tip: There are simple ways to make handling emails with queries more efficient, First, at weekends, it is worth redirecting the booking department inbox to the reception desk, so that the queries sent at the time could be handled on an ongoing basis. Given the scope of responsibilities at the reception desk, it is advisable to streamline those related to handling queries, by providing quick access to information about room availability and current offers (the module for adding stay opportunities is available in the CRM). We also recommend setting a time limit for a reply.

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Long response time means a smaller chance of booking

The better the reply, the higher the chance of booking

The fact that a given room type is unavailable on the requested date does not mean that the potential guest will not make a booking. They can still book a room, provided that they receive an appropriate and interesting offer.

As a result of our study, we were able to identify several most frequent problems related to the incorrect ways of replying to queries.

  • Treating the query as a “closed-ended” option – sending a quote only for the cheapest rooms (70% of the replies in our study). We did not state that we were only interested in a budget option; the hotels were free to present several possibilities, including the more expensive ones (perhaps we were interested in a higher standard). By giving only the cheapest option, you have no possibility of selling more expensive stays.
  • Outdated offers on the website and on Booking.com – in two cases, we received information that the rooms were unavailable, though they were shown as active on the Internet.
  • No straightforward answer to a straightforward question – in numerous cases, we received quotes which did not match our request (we wanted a quote for the whole stay; however, we received quotes per room/night/person). One of the replies included an offer for a stay without breakfast, although we wanted a quote for a stay with breakfast, and a stay with breakfast and dinner.
  • A sloppy reply – numerous replies seemed to be a combination of accidental excerpts taken from previous emails, as they had different font types, colours and sizes.

The main cause of these errors is the hectic pace of guest service at weekends. With a view to making the reply process more efficient, the reception staff use previous offers, which often results in sending an inadequate, random reply. Such an e-mail significantly reduces the chance of booking, and contributes to a negative image of your hotel.

A tip: If you wish to avoid such situations, use pre-defined reply templates accessible from the CRM, which can be used by every reception desk, sales department or booking department employee. Thanks to this:

  • managers will have direct access to the replies / handled queries,
  • all the answers are based on the same template,
  • the reply is tailored to individual queries sent by guests, as relevant options can be clicked.
  • an attractive, professional layout builds a positive image of the hotel.

In Profitroom CRM, you can prepare various templates, depending on the type of query, the season, the most popular special offers and of course an all-purpose reply template. This is how replying can look like thanks to applying this automated solution.

Your guests receive e-mails with specific replies to their specific queries, and can confirm their booking online using this e-mail. Automated replies to queries, utilising pre-defined templates, have many advantages.

  • Guests do not have to switch between their e-mail and browser, saving time.
  • The reception or booking department staff choose a ready-made template and quickly prepare a reply suited to the query. They do not need to search through archives, so the risk of a mistake is reduced).
  • Better booking management (a booking confirmation automatically blocks the room for the given date).
  • There is no need to check whether the booking has been paid for (which is displayed the moment a given booking is confirmed on your website).

Striving towards an increase in the percentage of direct bookings is one of the most notable trends in the hotel industry. It is a task which requires effort, which brings substantial benefits in the long run. It is sometimes enough to improve only a few tiny details to see the results.

The hotel image is built from the moment the first contact is initiated. The steps you take afterwards include building long-term relations, which are discussed in other parts of this series.

Check how your facility replies to stay queries:

  1. Send a stay query from your private e-mail address, and see how it is handled. Have you received a reply? How long did you wait? Was the reply exhaustive and well thought-out. Did it cover various room options, including the more expensive ones? What about the e-mail layout?
  2. Perform a response time test. Send e-mails with your queries to the reception desk/booking department on various times of the day / week. Find out the times the e-mails are handled most effectively.

Find out more about the hotel guest journey in our article here.

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