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.