Speech Technology Magazine

 

Sleeping Easy with Web and Phone Integration

Travelodge multiplies occupancy rates with 24/7 phone bookings.
By Jessica Davies - Posted Nov 9, 2006
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Travelodge is the United Kingdom's number one budget hotel chain and has over 290 hotels throughout the U.K. It was the first budget hotel brand to launch in the U.K. in 1985, and today employs over 4,500 staff throughout the U.K. Its rooms are priced from as little as £10 per night, but maintain a high quality of accommodation and standards of service. Travelodge achieves this careful balance of price and value by remaining one step ahead on cost efficiency, so that service is never compromised and customers remain loyal. Thanks to this practice, the company expects to make substantial savings in its first year of using a virtual call agent application from Fluency Voice Technology. It has also further boosted customer service and exceeded expectations for increased room occupancy.

Travelodge has implemented the technology to bring all of the functionality of its Web site to the telephone, giving hotel customers the ability to find and book its hotels by phone, 24 hours a day, from any location.

"A large proportion of our business comes from last-minute bookings made from the roadside or by customers who find themselves in a city center suddenly needing a room for the night," explains Shona Fraser, Travelodge's director of revenue and reservations.

To capture more business from these customers, Travelodge wanted to extend the benefits from its Web site to guests making phone bookings. These include the ability to quickly identify the nearest Travelodge hotel, locate the best rate for a room, and make reservations at any time of day or night.

Travelodge deployed applications from Fluency's Virtual Speech Agent (VSA) Suite. The VSA Suite is made up of a series of applications, each of which can work independently, but can also be deployed together throughout the enterprise depending on specific business requirements.

Travelodge and Fluency worked together to determine the suitable applications for the demands of the project. Three applications from the VSA Suite were selected to meet the business challenges: Fluency's Locator, which gives the caller the ability to quickly identify the nearest Travelodge hotel(s) based on a given location. Travelodge can advise callers regarding latest availability, offer them the best rate for a room. Fluency's Payment Capture can make reservations at any time of day or night. And, using Fluency's Contact Capture, the virtual agent will then capture the full contact and address details for the reservation.

"What impressed us the most was the fact that it could use our Web site as its platform," Fraser says. "We have invested extensively in our Web site over the last 18 months, and are very proud of some of the innovative features on there, such as the ability to find the best-rate room in the area at the touch of a button. Fluency has allowed us to maximize this investment by extending the same capabilities to the phone, without any impact on the cost of handling the enquiry."

The ease of integration also meant that the Fluency application could be implemented at great speed. "We scoped the project in April 2005, the solution was built by July, live in August—in 270 hotels!" she says. "We were extremely impressed, and everything went very smoothly."

Travelodge expected the Fluency tool to handle 300,000 calls between August and January, yet the application doubled that figure. "Take-up of the facility by customers has been excellent," Fraser adds.

Following such a successful start, Travelodge is now planning to roll out a series of new services based on the application over the coming months. These include the ability to cancel and amend bookings using the virtual agent and to request hotel directions to be received by email or SMS message. Customers will also be able to identify themselves as previous customers, so that every hotel will know their preferences automatically.

"Our philosophy as a company is to reduce the cost of customer acquisition so that we can increase our room occupancy by selling more rooms at lower rates," Fraser concludes. "Fluency has enabled us to do that. It is an excellent fit with our business."



Jessica Davies is a marketing manager at Fluency.

 

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