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Rick Wolf and Peter Scherman (that’s Rick on the left and Peter on the right) are both experienced speakers who have presented on a range of innkeeping related topics at the state, regional, and national level. They gather and analyze research for the Innkeeping industry and welcome the opportunity to share it with others. Contact Us

The B&B Team

Booking Online or Phone – It’s still 50/50


phone reservations

Phone = Talk

Booking online

Convenient and Immediate

With the popularity and convenience of booking online, the ‘art’ of taking a phone reservation may not seem as important as it once was. Communicating by email, smart phone messaging, twitter, Facebook has reduced actual talking on the phone.  I hear some people say they don’t like talking on the phone anymore! But if you are an innkeeper, you better like it. Taking reservations by phone is still so important and many guests prefer it. The stats are still 50/50, phone vs online. We must keep alive the art of giving good phone.

AAA has their Hospitality Standards. It is part of their Four and Five Diamond service expectations. Reservations Services (in other words, booking by phone) is the first important standard on this long list.

Let’s take a look at what they are looking for when they rate a property. I’ve added my comments and recommendations following AAA’s bullet points.


  • Answer the phone within 3 rings. That means not letting the call go to phone messaging unless absolutely necessary.  Call forwarding to your cell when away from the property is a must.


  • Extend an appropriate greeting.  “Good afternoon and thank you for calling The Cheerful Inn, my name is Janet, how may I help you?”


  • Thank caller for contacting the property. (I think I just did this, I’m way ahead of AAA)!


  • Provide an appropriate introduction to guest. Make it personal from the beginning by telling them your name and asking for theirs. Be cheerful and NEVER sound rushed. The caller must not hear that in your voice. Give the potential guest the feeling that you have been anticipating their call all day with delight!


  • Address caller by name as appropriate. This may be a good time to ask them if they have stayed at the Inn before. If yes, you can pull up their name on your system. It is also appropriate to ask the name of their traveling companion. Good idea to know who is staying with you so you can communicate with both parties.


  • Anticipate caller’s needs or offer personalized recommendation. Listen, listen, listen. THEN provide the information you feel they are looking for. Anticipating their needs is also accomplished by asking them questions to determine their needs.


  • Provide rate structure and room availability.  The caller may have this information already from your online reservation system. They also may be calling because they feel they can get a ‘better deal’ by calling direct. If you are comfortable giving them a different rate or upgrading them to a better room, do it. If it is your high season and you know you can book the room at the regular rate, then no. I recall many times when we would stick with our regular rates, and the caller would call back within minutes and book. You can tell when a caller is just ‘rate shopping’ vs ‘inn shopping’.


  • Provide an overview of facilities and services. They like to hear about the extras you provide, that added value but… recommend brevity. You don’t want to over sell.


  • Exhibit competent/accurate knowledge of property and hours of operation. As an innkeeper/owner you would of course have this knowledge and be glad to share it. Important that any staff that you have empowered to take reservations would also be competent and knowledgeable.


  • Review reservation request. So important to repeat all the data that your reservation system requires. Correct any miscommunications before the call ends.


  • Exhibit a sincere desire to comply with all guests requests. And you know there can be many unreasonable requests. The awful two letter word ‘no’ should not be part of your vocabulary at this point. Unless it is a truly impossible request.  This would also be a good time to ask if they have any special dietary needs.


  • Be efficient and sensitive to the manner of the request.


  • Provide an appropriate closing. “Thank you for choosing The Cheerful Bed & Breakfast for your week-end getaway. Is there anything else I can do for you before your visit or any further questions you might have at this time?”


  • Provide follow-up reservation confirmation in advance of arrival. Good reservation systems will have this. You can always add a personal note with the automated email.


  • The guest feels well served.


phone reservations

Not a good technique for taking a reservation Jerry!

Remember the other line from the movie Jerry McGuire, “You had me at ‘hello’?” Think about what this means.  If you don’t give a potential first time guest that  personalized and cheerful greeting from the first ‘hello’ then the room and rate information they really want to hear may fall on deaf ears. You have lost them.  They will go on to the next choice they have on their list.

A personal story to end this post. We had an assistant innkeeper, Steve, who was and still is the most upbeat, cheerful person. Steve spells hospitality. We had a visit from a  travel writer at Yankee Magazine one week-end, and we ended up getting an award from them. Great, right? But we were away that week-end and Steve was running the Inn for us. That is how good he is. At the Inn he works at now there are guests who check-in with one of the owner/innkeepers  and they will look around and ask; “Where is Steve”? He gets you at ‘hello’.

Thanks for Listening,

Janet Wolf

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One Response to “Booking Online or Phone – It’s still 50/50”

  1. Matt says:

    Janet, Thank you for sharing these tips. Even as our world gets more digital and connected I think people will always want that personal connection over the phone.

    One point I might add would be that a few simple questions to find out why they are coming for a visit early on in the conversation can help to shape the rest of it. For instance an upcoming anniversary could shape your room recommendations or extra packages offered. More revenue for you and a better experience for them!