Over reliance on the internet and e-mail may be stopping many hotels from talking to their customers or to each other, according to Classic British Hotels, the consortium of independent hotels.
Sales are being lost as personal contact becomes increasingly remote. “The relationships customers used to have with General or Sales Managers was a big influence on many hotels’ repeat business” says Len Louis, Classic British’s CEO.
“Nowadays, customers’ primary point of contact is the hotel’s website, and if he or she cannot find what they want quickly, or at the right price, the sale is often lost without the hotel having a chance to recover the situation.”
Louis’ sentiments are echoed at hotel level too. David Hunter, GM of Classic British member Matfen Hall, near Hexham in Northumberland, explains: “Nobody has time to talk any more and people assume that once they’ve sent an email the job is done! This can often be very dangerous when people do not always pick up their emails straight away! Our business has always been very much down to personal contact and relationships and we mustn't lose sight of this.”
Gavin Elliott of Chilworth Manor near Southampton agrees. “E-mail is too easy a cop out to picking up the telephone and actually, in a number of cases, causes more work. Communicating with the guest is a fundamental of good hotel keeping. We ensure that there is a duty manager on the door at key times to welcome customers in and out of the hotel, which has had lots of positive feedback.”
Britain’s travelling public may be better informed, but Classic British’s Len Louis also believes that total reliance on websites to fill hotel beds is not the best strategy. “A high occupancy market is driven by yield management, but most of our customers don’t understand things like last room availability, best available rate and so on. They just want to buy simple, clearly priced products.”
Tim Bell, General Manager of Classic British member Lancaster House, picks up the theme. “We need to follow the low cost airlines in basing our prices on supply and demand, without the need for a published tariff. An airline seat is the same as a hotel bedroom and subject to the same market forces, yet the public understands that Ryanair and Easyjet’s prices fluctuate. Their sell-cheap-early policy focuses on the fact that any money for a seat is better than none. The hotel industry has been slow to learn from this.”