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To Call Forward or Not Call Forward

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June 19, 2009
John Burns - John@burns-htc.com

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© 2009 Hospitality Upgrade. No reproduction without written permission.

Many hotel brands and reservations representation companies offer the properties they serve the option of having some or all of their reservation-related telephone calls handled at the organization’s central call centers.  This service is termed call forwarding and has been implemented by many hotel companies in the last five years.

Why would a hotel choose not to answer all of its reservation calls at its on-property reservation office?  The reasons are persuasive.

  • Outstanding guest service since each call is answered promptly and handled by a highly trained reservationist – day and night – whose single duty is answering calls and converting them to confirmed bookings.
  • Reduced on-property operating cost, as sufficient staff to answer and handle peak volumes of reservation calls is not required.  Properties pay for activity, not for staff hours that may or may not be used.
  • Higher conversion and higher ADR, as reservation calls handled by call center reservationists are consistently converted to bookings at a higher frequency than is the case at on-property reservation offices.  Additionally, these reservations average a higher average daily rate.

While the details of call forwarding programs vary from hotel brand to hotel brand, overall there is considerable consistency.  Generally, there is a fee which is charged on a per-call or per-booked-reservation basis.  Some companies charge an implementation fee, which may range from $50 to $500, but it is equally possible that no charge applies.

In most cases, no technology additions or upgrades to a hotel‘s telephone system are required in order to implement call forwarding.  Often the existing telephone equipment can be reset to automatically forward incoming calls to a toll-free number under specific circumstances, such as after a pre-set hold time, after certain hours of the day, or on specific days of the week.  Alternatively, incoming calls can be manually forwarded by the telephone operator or a front desk staff member.

Lodging brands typically offer simple, fast-to-complete training for property staff on call forwarding procedures.  Once call-forwarding is implemented most brands require no minimum activity level or revenue production per month and they usually permit withdrawal from the program at any time and without penalty.

Once call forwarding is initiated specifically trained call center reservation agents, who are scheduled in sufficient number so as to always answer calls promptly and to professionally apply proven sales techniques, answer the forwarded calls.  They confirm reservations at the rates available in the central reservation system.  If the caller turns out to be seeking a rate that is not available in the CRS, they will (depending on the lodging brand) either be confirmed at another rate with a notation put in the reservation requesting a rate adjustment by property staff or will be transferred back to the property.  Incorrectly forwarded calls seeking non-reservation services are similarly transferred back to the property.

When I began in the hotel business, my general manager was happiest when he walked into the reservation office and saw every incoming reservation line on hold.  That equated to lodging demand, and to full rooms.  Today, all lines on hold means poor service.  Guests want professional call answering, and they want it now.  Call forwarding is one important step to ensuring that every reservation caller is treated in the way that they, and we, want.

John Burns is the president of Hospitality Technology Consulting. He can be reached for comment at John@burns-htc.com or by phone at (480) 661-6797.

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