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Is Your Hotel Team Ready For Guests Experiencing Cyber-Fatigue?
By Doug Kennedy
As a hotel industry trainer, I am of course on the road frequently and when in the office I'm often online planning travel to my future engagements. Fortunately, my hotel reservations arrangements are usually taken care of by the client. This leaves me "only" with having to book my airline and rental car arrangements. Each time a client says "Okay, I would like to schedule you for a training," results in what has become an arduous task for me to book my travel.
It is during these times that I find myself missing the "good old days," when I first started my career as a hotel trainer I had a wonderful Travel Agent named Michelle. Since my daughter had not yet been born and my mom had long since passed away, at that point in my life Michelle was the third most important woman to me, after my wife and of course my sister! All I had to do back then was to place one call to Michelle. It usually went like this:
"Hi Michelle! How ARE you! How's your daughter, good? That's good. Well listen I need to go to NYC on these dates."
Michelle knew me as a client; she knew what flight times; my preference of airlines, that I always would prefer an aisle seat even if the last row by the bathrooms, and that I went Avis first but Hertz as a back-up if needed. She knew for example, that if I was flying to New York I would prefer LGA, but would take JFK if necessary but almost never EWK. All it took was a 90 second call to Michelle and she would take care of the rest. Unfortunately, Michelle's corporate travel agency went out of business during the years that airlines where undercutting their GDS fares with online specials.
Now I find myself surfing online for hours. Let's say I have a "simple" trip from Ft. Lauderdale to NYC. I check times first, then fares, which tend to be the same these days. Then all the questions flash through my mind. Do I want to fly JetBlue and be able to watch TV? What sports are on TV that night? Do I want to take Delta and possibly get my free upgrade as a frequent flyer? Or how about Spirit non-stop, if it's just a day trip with no luggage to pay for? Next thing I know I have wasted 30 or 45 minutes looking at options, not to mention the data entry time to book.
Although my hotel clients usually provide the room, when I'm training call centers or traveling personally I also have to make hotel reservations. Like many guests today I usually start out by looking online, but increasingly I'm finding it to take a lot more time than to simply call.
For example, I recently had to make a trip to a small town in Kentucky to train a call center there, so I needed to book my own room at the hotel they recommended. First I searched online with the hotel name, city and state. Yet when the list came back from Google and I clicked on the top links, I did not end up at the hotel website but instead at a various landing pages created by OTA's, showing a phone number that rang to an agency and not the hotel. It was even confusing for me as a hotelier to make sure I was on the right website.
Having found and verified that I was at the real website, I figured I would just book the room online as it was only a one night stay. But when I tried to enter my guest contact and payment info, I kept getting various error messages. Finally, I was one click away from confirming. Fortunately I double-checked the information, because somehow I had accidentally selected an advance purchase, non-refundable rate. Fortunately I caught this, especially since I ended up cancelling due to a late flight, but it cost even more of my work day. I didn't have a timer on, but I'm sure this whole experience took up at least 10-12 minutes to make a one night reservation online. Now I'm thinking that the next time I need to go there I'm going to call the 800 number and get it done in about 2 minutes.
Based on what I'm hearing from hotel reservations and front desk agents these days, I am apparently not alone as many of today's guests are growing weary of the time and challenges of booking online and just want to do it the old fashioned way. Here are some training tips to help prepare your team for these callers:
About the Author
Doug Kennedy, President of the Kennedy Training Network, has been a fixture on the hospitality and tourism industry conference circuit since 1989, having presented over 1,000 conference keynote sessions, educational break-out seminars, or customized, on-premise training workshops for diverse audiences representing every segment of the lodging industry.
His articles have also appeared worldwide in more than 17 prominent international publications including the HSMAI Marketing Review, eHotelier, 4hoteliers, Hotel News Resource, Hotel Online, Human Assets - Dubai and Hong Kong, Hsyndicate worldwide, BAHA Times - U.K., Hospitality - Maldives, and the Hotel Expert Magazine Hong Kong. Since 1996 Doug has been a regular contributor to the lodging industry's number one rated publication, www.hotelmotel.com , where he has been a regular monthly columnist since 2001. Visit www.kennedytrainingnetwork.com for details or e-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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