First impressions count

Mark Williamson, Sales and Marketing Director for PH Media Group explains why good call handling is essential in shaping positive customer perceptions.

Have you ever been put off a company due to a poor telephone experience? If so, unfortunately you are not alone.

In fact, recent research of 1,000 British consumers by PH Media Group discovered 73 per cent of respondents wouldn’t do repeat business with an organisation if their first call wasn’t handled to expectations.

It’s easy for hotel managers to shrug off this statistic given industry’s shift into a digital age where booking accommodation has become a largely online process.

However, given that the same survey found that 42 per cent would still rather have enquiries answered quickly over the phone than look online, this attitude towards call handling could prove detrimental for the hotel industry.

First impressions are important and telephone presence can be one of the largest determining factors in shaping perceptions of a business, with many customers developing a lasting opinion based on how they are dealt with on the phone.

If they are greeted by an unenthusiastic employee or the query is handled in an unprofessional manner, it can be extremely off-putting for the customer and your hotel could end up losing a potential sale.

Providing telephone training for your staff and developing a set format for call handling ensures inbound leads aren’t wiped out at the first hurdle, rather developing a best-practice approach which enhances the caller experience and creates a positive lasting impression.

Make the most of time on hold

Unfortunately, not every call can be answered instantly. Customers often need information about the hotel or their booking which isn’t always to hand.

Horror stories where callers have spent hours on hold in an automated queue regularly crop up in the news but hold time needn’t be an inconvenience or a negative experience.

A study by PH Media Group of 3,630 UK businesses discovered the hotel industry leaves callers on hold for an average of 28.83 seconds, enough time for callers to become bored and unengaged, especially when left listening to uninspiring, poor-quality music or repetitive beeps.

To expand on this, further research has found 50 per cent of consumers will hang up within 20 seconds when faced with silence, spelling danger for hotels.

On those occasions where callers need to be put on hold, it is essential to create a positive experience that prevents them from hanging up and even instils a good brand image and values in their mind.

This is where on-hold marketing – tailored voice and music messaging – can help.

The hidden benefits of audio branding

For most businesses, visual branding is often at the forefront of every marketing strategy. From the website and email communications to stationery and room design, a lot of consideration goes into what a hotel looks like on first glance.

However, audio branding often falls by the wayside and many businesses are unaware of the commercial benefits it can bring to the company.

On-hold marketing offers an ideal chance for highly-targeted advertising conducted in a completely unobtrusive manner and speaking directly to the intended audience. They have even been shown to reduce caller hang-ups by 79 per cent.

When hotels are putting customers on hold for nearly 30 seconds per call – around the length of an average television advert – on-hold marketing serves as a golden opportunity to up-sell, cross-sell and communicate highly-relevant information to attentive customers.

For example, the messages could inform listeners of seasonal promotions, such as a spa package for Mother’s Day or a bed and breakfast deal for Valentine’s Day.

Equally, the messages might simply provide additional information on the hotel’s range of facilities and amenities or encourage guests to enhance their stay by promoting available suites or leisure facilities.

The benefits for a hotel are clear. By hearing bespoke messages from a voiceover artist which perfectly represents the business and its callers, it provides a more professional company image and can lead to increased enquiries for the mentioned products and services.

It also helps to improve customer service standards by speaking directly to the client, providing them with useful information through a personable and friendly service.

Research has shown 20 per cent of callers make a buying decision based on information heard while on-hold. Therefore, hoteliers should be giving careful consideration to the way they sound and create a positive overall caller experience.

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