Hold Please: Here’s How to Make Waiting Easier on Guests

LONDON—No one likes to wait. It can be downright unbearable. The act of not having to wait—anytime or anywhere—can signify privilege, importance or even elite status. It’s that feeling when you skip the long lines for the most coveted thrill rides at Disneyland. However, for most people, the reality is that waiting is a fact of life.

Hoteliers are also participants in the waiting game. As travelers call in to inquire or book, they may have to wait and they’re now a captive audience. Savvy marketers aren’t just playing smooth jazz to guests on hold; instead, they’re seizing the opportunity to share specials, highlight on-site amenities and inform the caller about lesser-known aspects of the hotel. It’s a prime marketing opportunity for hoteliers to upsell and cross-market their services.

“When you call in, it’s about maintaining high expectations and the reputation of the hotel. Good music and a professional voice go a long way. It can help support the image of the hotel,” said Dan Lafferty, director of voice and music at PHMG, an audio branding company based in Chicago. “We can create a script that talks about the history and heritage of the hotel, things to do and local landmarks. From the cross-marketing point of view, you can promote spa treatments, the bar or restaurant—you can talk about the things guests don’t realize are available until they come in contact with the hotel.”

On-hold marketing can help ease the pain of waiting for hotels with high call volume. A carefully crafted message can distract or entertain guests while they wait.

“A little music eases it and helps the call time go by. Designed to the hotel’s requirements, we can create a unique piece of music for each hotel based on attributes to convey their distinctive offering,” said Lafferty. “On top of that, you can underpin the hotel’s service levels and brand awareness. The main thing is to educate and entertain, rather than having guests become annoyed while waiting.”

The team at PHMG works closely with clients to hone messaging right down to the gender of the voice, intonation and specific property features to be emphasized. PHMG’s roster of hotels includes Jumeirah, Balmoral and Crowne Plaza to name a few.

“The hotel industry is a fairly broad church. We profile every client from leisure industry or outside of it to get an understanding of who they are, people they want to attract and build a profile of the business from which we can recommend and craft a piece of music tailored to that organization,” he said. “When people hear that music, even for the first time, it feels appropriate and fits the business.”

In terms of voice, Lafferty explained that it could depend on a few factors, such as a hotel with a decidedly local atmosphere.

“Say, for example, a hotel in Brooklyn may want to come across as quintessentially New York. The client might want a local accent to convey the personality of the place. If it’s the Four Seasons, you might want a more corporate and professional approach,” he said.

PHMG is looking to the future, with ongoing plans to invest more in quality of service and welcomes the opportunity to take on more hotels.

“Just as we’ve always been in business, we have a focus on the quality of our product to make sure that every passing year we improve and get better,” he said. “We are working in 39 countries and have 29,000 clients. We’d like to think we’re very good at it, but there’s always more to learn.”