Why Outsourcing May Be In Your Hotel’s Best Interest
As hotels slowly reopen in parts of the US, it’s time to question the future role of hotel call centers. In the following interview, we’re speaking with Travel Outlook’s CEO John Smallwood and its Vice President Operations Brett Puffenberger, about the challenge’s hotel-based call centers are facing today and in the coming months and maybe years.
Can you talk about the challenges’ hotel-based call centers are facing today?
John: A major issue for hotels that are starting to reopen is having enough on-property staff to field incoming calls. A lot of hotels still have employees on furlough, and many have sadly had to let people go. In these situations, a limited number of front desk agents are being asked to attend to a queue of guests and answer booking inquiries over the phone. This is a serious burden that needs a viable solution.
Brett: I think this is why outsourcing is a really attractive option right now. Outsourcing the call center gives hotels the ability to maximize bookings over the phone while the front desk staff get to focus 100% on the needs of on-property guests.
What’s to stop a hotel setting up their own remote switchboard, using their own staff to remotely answer calls?
Working from home has its challenges with unpredictable interruptions
John: Well, it comes with a lot of complications. You need to give your staff the right training and the right technology so they can answer calls from home in a slick and professional manner.
And let’s remember those work-from-home realities we’re all dealing with — like the kids bounding into the room where you’re working, or the dog barking in the background.
Maybe these kinds of interruptions can be laughed off, but if your own staff are trying to complete a guest booking and sound professional in this environment, well that’s a challenging situation.
Brett: Setting up operative contact center telephony with the right reporting structure is expensive and time-consuming, and, when being used effectively, requires ongoing attention and management.
In the past, some hotels may have been put off by the cost of using an outsourced call center. Given that hotels need to be more cautious than ever about their bottom lines, why is outsourcing now a good option?
John: There’s no doubt that hotels need to be mindful of their expenditures. But they also need to maximise bookings. A remote hotel call center offers a way for hotels to answer every incoming call, and then convert those calls into paying guests. We know that every missed call represents a potential lost booking, which can have a serious impact on booking revenue. Which is clearly far from ideal in these lean times.
Brett: The other thing to say is that a remote hotel call center can be entirely focused on the conversation. They’re not being swamped by all the other demands that on-property staff are facing, and this kind of extra attention can prove crucial — whether it’s reassuring an older guest about your hotel’s rigorous cleaning policies. or letting a family know about the child-friendly local attractions that are still open in your destination.
How can a remote call center agent understand the nature of the hospitality industry and attend to the specific needs of hotel guests?
John: I understand this concern. But it’s important to say that hospitality call center agents are specifically trained to speak the language of hotels, and they know exactly how to sell a property’s unique benefits and features.
Brett: And the other thing to consider is that if a potential guest calls up and speaks to a stressed-out front desk agent who’s too busy to answer all their questions, that’s a lose-lose situation. That potential guest has a poor customer experience, and maybe doesn’t book, and the front desk agent maybe feels like they’re not able to do a good job.
John: That’s actually a really good point that deserves more attention. If a front desk agent at your hotel feels overwhelmed and that they can’t do their job effectively, that’s undoubtedly going to impact their morale. And morale is something we really need to keep up right now.
Finally, what do you think about the prospect of outsourcing as a long-term solution for hotels?
John: Well, it’s definitely something that warrants serious thought. The future feels incredibly uncertain, and until we get back to some form of “normal”, hotels need a solution that can weather any storm. To me, that makes outsourcing a potentially long-term solution.
Brett: I agree. If we see a resurgence of COVID-19 further down the line, a team of remote call agents can carry on regardless. They’re already in place and able to give a hotel a reliable and seamless level of customer service. That’s the kind of reassurance that I think has enormous value in the new world we’re living in.
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John Smallwood, President
About John Smallwood, President of Travel Outlook
A veteran in the hospitality industry, John has owned, developed, and managed hotels for many years. After earning a BBA from New Mexico State University, he started his career with AT&T, gaining invaluable insight and experience in the early years of the data revolution. His experience in technology and hospitality merged in his development of Travel Outlook, the world-class hospitality contact center. More recently, he has branched out with the creation of ExpressRez, the premier contact center for the Bed and Breakfast industry, and with the creation of Annette, the first AI-powered voice bot for the hotel industry.
Given its progressive approach to the voice channel – in terms of performance, training, transparency, testing and the tools used to measure performance – Travel Outlook Premium Hotel Call Center has become the premier voice reservations team in hospitality. Travel Outlook’s valued client list includes Viceroy Hotel Group, Outrigger, KSL Resorts, Proper Hospitality Group, Pacific Hospitality Group, Highgate Hotels, The Irvine Company, Catalina Island and many others. Travel Outlook’s team and approach increases sales conversion and helps to create more effective voice communication between hotels and their guests, resulting in improved social scores in addition to increased voice channel revenue. For more information, visit www.traveloutlook.com.
Annette is an AI powered virtual call center agent that represents the next generation of voice bots designed specifically for the Hospitality industry. Annette has been programmed using a breakthrough approach to voice bots, a system built from human conversations. Using social media, chat forums, and movie dialogue, Annette learns from billions of casual human conversations to understand human inflections and multi-turn queries. This revolutionary approach means Annette understands callers no matter what they say, when they say it, or how they speak. Annette can answer FAQs specific to your property, understand multiple languages, route calls, send follow up texts, and more.