The Phone Call: Still An Icon
There is still magic to a phone call. Think of the big Carly Rae Jepsen hit “Call Me, Maybe.” It wasn’t “Text Me, Maybe” or “Email Me, Maybe.”
And that’s a good thing to keep in mind as more and more hotel bookings migrate to mobile. The fact is that there is less information on a mobile screen – even one that has been optimized for smartphones. And so there are those who think it’s a good idea to make it really, really easy to call – even though that seems more expensive because of the need to have someone on the other end.
One of those believers is Frank Vertolli, co-founder with Ryan Fitzgerald of Net Conversion, a digital marketing specialist with many travel clients. They measure and analyze online marketing programs to determine what’s working and what’s not.
With a strong background in the hotel business – 11 years at Universal hotels in Orlando -- Vertolli is not afraid to retain a commitment to the telephone. As a result, he’s a big fan of making phone numbers ubiquitous – and as large as they can be – on a smartphone screen. Vertolli says that many hotels make their phone numbers elusive in order to drive less expensive – in the short term – online bookings.
Consumers on the phone will spend less time and look at fewer pages. That means simplification is key. “You need big icons on a small screen,” says Vertolli, “that can be easily navigated with one finger. It’s so much cheaper to have a person click to book, but if a call is not made easy, that consumer may move to Expedia or a competitor hotel where a phone call is easier. The real comparison is making sure that the consumer can make a call easily.”
Net conversion looks at click-to-call ratio, and Vertolli says that 5% of clicks eventually turn into phone calls. When clients have implemented a prominent click-to-call design, that number soars to 25%.
Aside from avoiding any loss of consumers to competitors, calls, of course, can result in up-selling to more expensive rooms. And while Vertolli does not get involved in operational issues, he does believe that counselors at call centers might be trained differently to deal with calls from smartphones. “A human on the phone will listen to the customer and recognize if they’re open to an up-sell recommendation.”
Moreover, the phone is a much more targeted device because, while a computer or even a tablet might have multiple uses, a phone overwhelmingly has one – and a caller’s behavior can be tracked and targeted.
Of course, making it easier to book with a click continues. Choice Hotels recently unveiled RapidBook, which streamlines the search and checkout functions by leveraging customer preferences. Once a guest profile is created, there’s no need to fill in personal or preference information. That data is filled in once – then they’re good to go.
So, while it’s crucial to continue to improve the online booking process, don’t forget that telephone. Customers will still be calling you – maybe.