Charging into the new year is a way to look at your personal life and your inn. For yourself, what areas of your life would you like to improve? Decide on one tiny step you can take in those areas that will move you forward to more joy, success, good health, and all the things you may want more of in your life.
This is the third of the three-part article series on effectively using technology and treating it as your cash register so that the approach and training everyone takes is with the level of seriousness that is needed to keep your inn business growing and operating smoothly. This is an continuation of etiquette guidelines.
This list is just a reminder of the polite way for you to conduct your telephone business. Following these rules of thumb will give you the reputation for being professional, considerate, and organized. Here are some tried and true phone manners to follow to keep your hospitality front and center:
- Don’t use a speaker phone.
- When calling others, let the phone ring ten times to allow enough time for it to be answered (ten rings is only about one minute). Be prepared; have relevant correspondence and other materials at hand, have note paper and pencil for jotting down notes.
- Identify yourself; use your first and last names, and maybe your inn’s name.
- Return calls — promptly. If you couldn’t talk when you were called, weren’t in, or didn’t have the information that was being requested, and you say you will call back — do.
- When you leave messages, include the times that you will be available so that you avoid phone tag.
- Begin and end phone conversations with your name.
The computer and internet version of these rules are:
- Don’t type in all caps (it’s the equivalent of yelling).
- When responding electronically, allow ample time for responses since not everyone is as email- or internet-centric as you must be in your business. Be prepared; have relevant correspondence and other materials at hand, have note paper and pencil for jotting down notes.
- Use a Signature Block in your emails that identifies your and provides contact information.
- Respond to queries and reviews — promptly.
- When you respond electronically, give as thorough an answer as you can to what was asked and be sure to include the times that you will be available so that you avoid “phone tag”, be it by phone or email.
- Always identify yourself.
…to help you deal with irate callers or reviewers:
- Hear them out.
- Be patient.
- Be tactful.
- Empathize (Feel, Felt, Found — this technique helps diffuse unpleasant situations if you are sincere and use it judiciously).
- Don’t interrupt.
- Acknowledge the problem.
- Strive to find a solution together.
Your phone is an information center for more than potential guests. You place and receive other business calls from there. Information that you definitely need to keep by the phone includes:
- What you are (“Tell me something about your inn.”).
- Where you are (directions from various locations — airport, train station, highway exits).
- Your prices and other information you want every caller to have.
- Important and frequently used phone numbers.
- Emergency numbers.
Your technology is a tool. Use it for what it’s meant for — exchanging information and taking reservations. Don’t let an untrained person answer your phone or respond to your email, just as you don’t let an untrained person work your cash register. Responding to the technology queries you receive is putting money in the cash register, so treat it accordingly — with great respect, professionalism, and hospitality.
This is the second of the three-part article series on effectively using technology and treating it as your cash register so that the approach and training everyone takes is with the level of seriousness that is needed to keep your inn business growing and operating smoothly. This article covers etiquette around replying to phone and internet queries and how much time is reasonable to allow between query and response, and some training guidelines.
If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, start there for a more cohesive read.
Here are some tips I learned about phone etiquette that I think can be translated to communication in general.
- Lower your shoulders before answering the phone or responding to electronic messages to relax your body which relaxes your mind and response.
- Smile as you answer the phone or electronic message.
- Train your mind so that your voice — spoken or typed — is calm, quiet, and well paced.
- Focus on what is happening in the communication, especially on the phone; we only retain 20 percent of what we hear so give your undivided attention.
- Make a note of the person’s name and use it, though not too frequently.
- Nurture the potential guest.
- Ask for the sale.
- Be memorable.
- Be positive and confident.
Remember that a man’s name is, to him, the sweetest and most important sound in any language. —Dale Carnegie
- Say you are sorry (find a positive way of conveying the same message).
- Say “Bye bye”.
- Hang up or end the electronic conversation first.
- Use argumentative or defensive statements, or unpleasant words.
- Avoid phone calls or bad reviews.
- Be without pencil or paper, or calendar for that matter.
- Neglect your Reputation Management browsing.
- Have barriers to communication (background noise, slang, jargon, or speaking to someone else while you are on the phone).
- Get involved with guests’ vacation planning.
In the phone-reservation world, some people feel that a busy signal indicates it is a busy place and worth waiting to get through for reservations. Others feel a busy signal is too frustrating and won’t try the call too many times. Some people won’t leave a message on voice mail, even in our fast-paced lives of today. Similarly, in the online-reservation world, people don’t want a delayed response when they ask about your availability; they want to inquire and book or move on. Make sure your online reservation systems are prompt and accurate.
This topic is a controversial one because of the complexity of phone systems and inn styles. If the phone call sets the mood of your inn, you must decide what mood is set by a busy signal, an unanswered phone/too many rings, voice mail, or being put on hold. One solution when you are on a phone call and another comes in, is to quickly get the second caller’s name and number and call them back. My personal preference is, in my outgoing message, to ask the caller to leave voice mail, and include a promise to call back quickly, stating a specific window of time within which the call will be returned.
Nobody should answer the phone or email query until they have been properly and thoroughly trained on:
- Room configurations and selling points as well as prices.
- Food details.
- Rules — smoking (tobacco or marijuana), animals, kids, check-in/-out, cancellation, etc.
- Directions to the inn from a variety of locations, and transportation services available
- Local events and attractions.
- Special events the inn is hosting.
- Phone sales techniques.
Adopt these good communication skills:
- Avoid negative feedback.
- Empathize with the person speaking.
- Listen between the lines.
- Listen for attitudes and ideas.
- Record the information from the call in a notebook by the phone or a computer notepad.
- Repeat what you hear, and in several ways.
Next week’s article, Part 3, covers more on etiquette.
This is the first of a three-part article series on effectively using technology and treating it as your cash register so that the approach and training everyone takes is with the level of seriousness that is needed to keep your inn business growing and operating smoothly. This first article addresses direct communication skills and how that impacts the guest experience, starting with the first contact.
Think of your technology sources (telephone, computer, website, tablet, reservation options, and review sites) as a cash register to improve your business thinking. Technology sales skills may require training or education as phone sales skills did a decade ago, since they are a vitally important aspect of customer service and your inn’s hospitality. There are a lot of outstanding customer service tips available for the hospitality industry, and your inn can benefit from a few found here. Your customer service skills start with the first contact and extend beyond the guest’s stay.
The pause of the potential guest after receiving requested information can be filled by the innkeeper responding to, or inquiring about, their needs. You can satisfy this pause both live or electronically. Answer more than just the asked question — also answer the implied question. This is your first chance to illustrate your inn’s hospitality and style. Don’t blow this chance — you have spent so much money to create your inn’s atmosphere, to advertise your business; you have spent a lot of money getting the “phone to ring” so don’t waste or throw away that investment!
Technology, Your Sales Life Line
Your technology is a powerful sales tool. Because it is so important, it’s vital that everyone who responds to it knows how to use it properly and effectively. Technology is your life line. It is your cash register. It’s an asset, not a detriment (though there are days you will argue with that statement). Whenever you use technology, you are illustrating the inn’s hospitality by what you say how you say it. The first three to five seconds set the stage, mood, and atmosphere of relationships. Take at least this much time with every contact, no matter how rushed you are. That’s one way you can turn a contact into a guest.
When “the phone rings”, there is another person on the line — a person with needs. Educating your employees in this art of guest interaction is one of your most delicate and important training tasks. As an exercise to see the range of responses that can be made with initial guest contact, call several hotels and inns to ask a question, like “What are your room rates?” or “Do you have a romantic room?” Listen to the answer — the voice tone, interest level, service orientation, etc. You can learn from positive and negative responses. Apply what you learn.
After calling hotels to ask questions, repeat the exercise online. Are the questions you want answers to addressed on the websites and the social media sources of the properties you just called? Do other’s properties address those questions? What information is missing? How user-friendly are the sites you are exploring? These are all indications of the level and style of service you can expect from these inns. The level of detail found on the websites and social media platforms indicates the level of detail you’ll find at these inns.
Written And Spoken Communications
Communication is 80 percent tone and 20 percent words. That’s good information for personal communication, and it shows some of the challenges you are going to face with your electronic communication since the tone aspect is missing, for the most part. You can teach the words your staff will use on phone calls. You select the words you use on your electronic representatives (website, social media, and replies to comments or review sights). Tone, on the other hand, is difficult to teach for those personal communications. One hint I’ll share that’s successfully been used by various innkeepers is the use of recorders; if you video your employees (and yourself) they can hear and see the difference through their training sessions. Teach and practice these helpful hints for better phone presence and more successful sales.
Tone is a mindset issue, connecting intention with execution. Good thing, because that means you and your staff can have a friendly and service-oriented tone on your electronic communications too! That said, miscommunication is way too easy during electronic exchanges. Make “electronic tone” communication an important area for training and practice. It’s my experience that when actual tone is missing, more words come in handy to help convey they desired message.
You have one mouth and two ears, use them proportionately. You have ten fingers, use them judiciously. And keep your brain connected so that you can keep communications moving forward in a positive and helpful way.
This article continues with Part 2.