In 2019 there will be approximately 73 billion calls from mobile search. That’s up from 30 billion in 2013 according to a study by BIA / Kelsey¹. The impact of the mobile web has been huge across a range of industries including hospitality. Importantly, this trend counters a common assumption that calls might be of less important web form bookings.
With the rise of the online booking platforms like Expedia, Kayak, Hotels.com and Booking.com it would be easy to assume that calls no longer play a critical role in the hospitality industry. But because of the prevalence of mobile search and the ease of click-to-call this assumption is hypothesis is proving incorrect.
Here we will explore why phone calls need to be a central focus in any hotelier’s marketing strategy. We will also explain why it is critical that those phone calls are being tracked.
Optimizing for Pay per Click (PPC) advertising
Whether someone is booking a hotel for their dream vacation or for business, they will more often than not begin their journey with a Google search. Typically, this a geo-specific search with the name of the location appended to “hotel” or “accommodation”. As a result, one of the best ways of reaching these potential bookers is with Google Ads. The ad is tied to specific keywords (search terms) that the potential customer has entered.
If the person is looking for accommodation on a mobile phone – and as shown above they probably are – then the mobile ad will have the option to include a click-to-call option. This means that the person can click directly from the Google Ad and be connected with the hotels phone number. Studies have shown that include a phone number as an extension with your ad sees a 6 – 8 % lift in your click-through-rate (CTR)².
Of course, you could include a phone number without having call tracking in place. Where call tracking becomes essential in establishing which keywords lead to bookings. Google Ads has become very competitive over the past few years in the hospitality industry. Hotels are no longer just bidding against other hotels. They now need to bid against huge e-commerce platforms like Expedia and Hotels.com as well. This has driven prices steadily upwards.
Hotels can’t afford to waste budget on ads that don’t result in bookings. And the only way to connect the dots and find out which keywords result in actual bookings is using call tracking.
Discover where and when bookings are coming from
Concerns over privacy have made it more difficult to obtain detailed demographic information about customers. Google now anonymizes a lot of data which used to be publicly available. Call tracking allows you to recapture some of that very useful data.
Call tracking can show where calls are coming from. These calls can then be assessed on the number and value of bookings that they produce. This information could be used to produce a targeted marketing campaign in that particular vicinity.
You can also use call tracking to assess both the time of day and length of phone calls. This can be used to ensure that there are sufficient staff available to answer calls during peak periods. If someone tries to call but can’t get through, there is a very good chance that they will simply book with a competitor that does pick up the phone.
Improve your landing pages
Conversion optimization allows you to produce more bookings from the same advertising spend. That’s a powerful way to get more bang for your marketing buck.
Imagine for example, that 5% of people who visit a particular page make a booking inquiry. You make improvements to that page, for example by making the call-to-action clearer and more prominent. This lifts your conversions to 7%. If that page gets 50 visitors a day over the course of a week that means 7 more bookings. Over a year this ads up 364 more rooms booked. This shows how even relatively small improvements to a page can compound. And all of this can be achieved without having to spend more on your advertising.
To achieve those kinds of results you need the right metrics to measure success. That metric needs to include all of the ways people begin a booking inquiring – including calls. Once call tracking is in place you can perform A / B tests on your website’s landing page. This involves taking a “control” or the original version of the page and testing it against a new version of the page. After sending a statistically significant amount of traffic to the page you can see which results in the most phone calls.
If you are using call tracking in connection with CRM, you can attribute the exact revenue that those phone call produced. This takes out the guesswork from deciding what changes you need to make to your website to increase booking revenue.
Enhance customer service
What happens after one of your customer service teams picks up the phone will have a large impact on whether or not a booking is made. Often customer service staff are unaware of the factors which lead to a customer failing to make a booking. Staff that have other responsibilities in the hotel may not fully understand the impact or importance of handling that phone call correctly.
Call monitoring allows you to improve the performance of your call handling. As with optimizing the quality of your hotel’s landing page, improving your call handling process allows you to produce more bookings without having to invest more in marketing.
Call monitoring lets you record the phone call so that it can be played back at a later date. You can also introduce customer surveys so that they can provide feedback on how well they felt a call was handled. Because calls can be attributed to a specific team member, it is easy to identify which employees may require further phone training.
The continued popularity of phone call hotel bookings is a natural extension of the popularity of mobile search. People want to call because they can have their questions answered and book during the same interaction. No hotel can afford to ignore the importance of phone calls and in an increasingly competitive environment they need to be tracked. Call tracking should be considered an essential component of every hotel marketer’s strategy.