Browsing the website of a newly opened luxury hotel, I clicked on the “Contact Us” page and came across a surprise. After the hotel phone number, the following appeared: “A $10 processing fee will apply to reservations made by telephone. Avoid this fee by booking your reservations online.”
I was taken aback that a high-end property touting its personalized service on its landing page would directly request that potential customers not call them. In a business built on relationships, are hotels at risk of losing their personal touch, little by little, by relying more on technology?
As a Gen Y-er, I can relate to wanting to avoid picking up the phone. Many times, it’s quicker and more efficient to send an email or use an online booking system. And circumstances exist where automated systems are perfectly adequate. When was the last time you called Delta to book a flight, for example? But in the case of a new, relatively unknown hotel, it may not be productive after all.
Steve Tobak, management consultant and executive coach, wrote about the value of customer service in a recent Entrepreneur magazine blog. In a complex industry where competition is fierce, Tobak explains, companies have to be just as innovative with customer service as they are with their products. “Often, your quality of service is the only thing that keeps customers coming back,” he says.
His statement holds for the hospitality industry. In a saturated hotel market, it’s not the swanky nightclubs, expensive decor, and concept luxury suites that create repeat customers. The personal touch from the hotel staff—from the director of sales to reservation clerk—keeps guests returning. And yes, that starts with a cheerful, helpful voice on the other end of the phone.