Consider how much money hotels and resorts around the country spend on marketing to solicit “group business”. Besides staff, their budgets are consumed with sales trips, trade shows, print advertising, internet marketing, website maintenance, phone soliciting, direct mail, group sales blitzes, client entertainment, and the list goes on and on.
All that personal time, effort and money spent to educate meeting planners about their property and the benefits of booking business. Hundreds of thousands, millions, spent to get interest and make the phone call happen. Then the disconnect. As a meeting planner I am calling hotels and resorts around the country about a meeting I am planning for a client. I need questions answered, rate information, and most importantly dates confirmed. On many occasions a call to the hotel sales office is like calling an airline reservation line. You ask the operator for the sales department and get a random voice message from a sales manager who you are not aware of which market they handle.
Ok, recall the hotel and ask for a “live” voice. You now get someone in catering who informs me that all of the sales team is in a meeting and she will have someone call me back later. I wonder why the phones aren’t covered during the meeting? That is another matter. I have also called hotel sales offices, and the receptionist takes down my name and meeting information and puts me on hold. Then I am connected to the proper sales person and am asked to repeat my information over again. I am also amused (but not really) by voice messages by the sales manager that they are not available but give out their assistants name and extension. You call that number and get a voice mail from the assistant.
Certainly, I don’t expect hotel sales managers to be at their desks 24/7 and be able to answer their phones. However, I do expect the Director’s of Sales to understand the importance of covering their phone calls and implementing a system that works well and is efficient. The perfect solution, and many hotels who understand this, is to hire a full time receptionist that answers all sales phone calls and routs them throughout the day. When they go to lunch, another person covers their shift. Under these circumstances if you call a sales persons’ desk directly and it rings three or four times it automatically goes back to the receptionist to answer. This system is the proper way for calls to be answered.
Certainly, smaller hotels that don’t have a budget for a full time receptionist need to revise their protocols. Maybe sales and catering share a receptionist. Maybe, after the sales office phone rings and is not picked up it rolls back to the operator and they take a message. Maybe the sales office hires an answering service. One thing is for sure: how your sales phone is answered and the professionalism of the person on the other end speaks volumes to meeting planners on how your hotel manages guests and provides service. Spending money wisely on marketing is only the first step in generating group business. Fine tuning your phone coverage may mean the difference between booking a meeting and having the planner contact another hotel and you will never know why you lost the business.
*If you’re a meeting planner, I’d love to hear your hotel phone stories. Leave your comments below.