Hospitality sales pros: how and when to answer the phone

Hospitality sales phone ringing

Hospitality sales managers know that answering the phone at the right time helps sales.

In my hospitality sales training company we are called upon to study the telephone ringing in your hospitality sales office. We don’t actually answer your phone, of course, but we make dozens of test calls every month to different hospitality sales departments around the country. This includes big hotels, small hotels, hotels with a lot of meeting space, hotels with zero meeting space, rooms only events, and so on.

So let’s start at the very beginning. The phone rings at your hospitality sales office and it’s an inquiry call from a real customer. How many rings should you allow before you answer that telephone?

As it turns out, between two and three rings is exactly right. If you can answer your hospitality sales phone between the second and third ring, it shows professionalism. It also establishes your credibility —you’re projecting an image of an administrative skill set that says you can answer the phone in a timely and efficient manner. This is the first step in showing the caller that he or she should be comfortable trusting their event, business, group, or travelers with you. It impresses the caller right from the start. It’s a nice first step to helping distinguish yourself from your hospitality sales competition — just answer the phone in a timely manner.

The second best answer is between the first and the second ring, but evidence shows that callers are actually a bit distracted at that point. They’re still coughing, chewing, smoking, drinking their coffee or tea, or whatever, so you’re actually a little too soon.

Answering even sooner (as the first ring in still echoing) shows that you’re not very busy. It gives an image of desperation.

But what happens if your hospitality sales phone isn’t answered until the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, fifteenth ring? It’s about the worst image you can project as it shows you can’t even answer the phone in a timely and efficient manner. So in the customer’s mind, how could you possibly trust their business, group, event traveler to you?

Try to make sure there is always someone there to answer the hospitality sales phone. This is often difficult in the smaller hotels. If you’re out on outside hospitality sales calls (which you should do if appropriate to your market), then who should be answering the phone when it rings and you’re off property? If you’re lucky enough to have a catering manager, use him or her as a backstop. Even the G.M. of a small hotel can take on that duty.  In very small hotels, the general manager is probably used to backing up just about everyone on the property.

You should try to tell whoever will be fielding your hospitality sales calls, “I’m going to be on outside calls (for whatever time period), so please answer the phones. Please don’t let it go to voice mail.”

We don’t really want it going into voice mail. Evidence suggest that if the customer knows you already, they may well want your voice mail to leave you a message, an inquiry, feedback, etc. But we have to give them that choice…

For more on how to handle calls that do make it to your voice mail, check out another of our hospitality sales blogs here.


Posted 7/30/13


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