Hotels Should Be Doing More with IVRs
A recent report from IVRS World, an interactive voice response system-related blog published by Uttam Pegu, charges the travel and hospitality industry with neglecting the benefits of IVR systems and urges hotels and travel agents to move quickly to deploy them. Most still have people performing tasks that could be handled more easily and cheaply by automation, according to Pegu.
IVRs can be used to manage almost all functions associated with hotel and airline bookings, Pegu notes. Through their IVRs, hotels can provide information on rooms, availability, rates, amenities, hotel services, shops, restaurants, and area attractions, all with the goal of simplifying the reservation process for customers and the hotels themselves, he says.
Pegu adds that the IVR can take reservations, accept payments, and provide confirmation numbers. By tying in other back-office systems, the IVR can even be personalized for repeat guests. If the caller had stayed at the hotel before, then caller ID can identify her quickly, she can be greeted by name, and she can be offered preferred customer perks, such as a complimentary spa treatment, discounts on purchases at the hotel gift shop, or a room upgrade, according to Pegu.
And the technology’s usefulness doesn’t end when the guest checks in. Once a guest begins his stay at a hotel, an internal IVR can connect him to specific services, such as room service, the health spa, the laundry, or the concierge’s desk, and the same system could be used to send and receive messages, pay bills, or schedule wake-up calls, Pegu says.
With the help of voice search technology, the IVR could also be tied into the guest registry to help callers from outside the hotel trying to reach guests in their rooms. It’s a good idea to link the system to voicemail for when the guest is not in her room, and to provide the option to receive an email or text message to her cell phone letting her know that she has a new message.
Jenni McKienzie, a voice user interface designer at online travel agency Travelocity, agrees that the industry could do more with IVR technology, but argues that a human operator frequently is required. “When people call us, it’s largely because they have a problem, and you want to have a person for that,” she says.
Travelocity, McKienzie states, already provides an IVR and online service for people who have booked their trips through the Web portal, and tries to steer people to self-service as much as possible. She is quick to point out, however, that while Travelocity does a lot with its IVR, “it’s probably ahead of the curve” compared with the rest of the industry.
But, she and others add, with the implementation of a simple IVR system along with a voicemail system, travel agents and hotels of any size could easily operate 24 hours a day and increase their revenue.
News Editor Leonard Klie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.