Despite how great our websites are, and how prominently we post our 800-numbers, there are always those guests who prefer to inquire via email. Of course many of these come over from partner “listing” websites, but quite a few come directly from guests who find our email addresses from our website or who fill out a contact us form.
Too many reservations sales agents in the resort and vacation rental market view inbound email inquiries as an interruption. Instead, we should celebrate those days when we have an extraordinary number of inquiries.
Actually, managers and leaders should be doing all they can to encourage more of these! Too many companies hide their email address, or require guests to fill out complex inquiry form with too many mandatory fields. Instead, we should post the email address prominently and embrace this as what it is, which is actually a unique distribution channel. There are reasons to love email as a channel actually. For one, it costs nearly nothing, as opposed to the costs of customer acquisition via a third party channel such as an Online Travel Agency (OTA) or Global Distribution System (GDS). Also, although a prompt response is required, we have at least a little more margin than we do with a caller who might abandon their hold if it goes beyond 30 or 45 seconds.
Here are some tips for training your colleagues to respond in such a way as to secure even more bookings via inbound email.
- Personalize the response, especially the opening remarks. It definitely makes sense to have a few versions of templated responses to typical inquiries, such as one for families, couples and girl’s getaway types of vacations. However, be sure to use personalized openings and endings that speak to the purpose of their visit.
- Paraphrase and restate anything you have learned from the body of their email message, or if they are using a Contact Us form, from the “remarks” or “comments” section. Experience shows that some guests take time to share details about their plans. Some agents see this as being irrelevant, but smart sales agents take a moment to connect with the email sender with an opening remark that references what the sender shared.
- Respond with questions when necessary. Some senders gush out all of their details, but others are very vague about their plans. Don’t hesitate to respond with a few questions of your own, but be sure to explain why you are asking. Example: “I know you had asked about what there is to do in terms of area activities, so please let us know a bit more about your interests so we can recommend just the right options. Are you interested in sightseeing? Shopping? Visiting a spa?”
- Offer local “insider’s tips.” Be sure to pro-actively offer some suggestions and recommendations for the “uniquely local” experiences which today’s guests crave the most. Rather than clicking over a response that includes links to tourism websites, take a moment to personally suggest they check out an off-the-beaten-path tour, an overlooked historic attraction, a hole-in-the-wall gourmet restaurant, or hipster place for a hand-crafted cocktail.
- Provide personalized contact details. Of course this is harder for very large companies, but it is ideal if the email is signed by an individual reservations agent who includes his or her headshot, phone extension, and direct email.