The Conundrum

The conundrum is:  Should CapeInfo be putting customers/readers and what’s easiest for them first; or should advertisers come first — and what’s easiest for them?  We’d appreciate your thoughts and comments.

Customer-focusedBecause so few hospitality businesses have a marketing background, there’s often the belief that marketing is telling the customer what you want them to hear, rather than what the customer wants to hear. And equally, businesses often follow processes that suit the business, rather than the customer — losing custom in the process.

When CapeInfo started over 17 years ago, there was no such thing as “online booking”.  The biggest challenge then was just getting people to use email and overcome their fear of adding content online.  Well… for some people, the latter still hasn’t changed.

The advent of online booking systems introduced the ultimate convenience — bookings became automated and businesses could just sit back as business just flooded in… or did it?  Did any successful businesses close their call centres and just sit back?

Online bookings also have the advantage that you know exactly where your business comes from… but do you know how much you’re actually missing out on?

At CapeInfo, we’ve always given advertisers a choice — our Full listing allows an advertiser to provide almost every possible direct link — landline, mobile, fax, email, website, social media, videos, attachments — to make it easier for the customer to get the information they want in a seamless manner.

If a customer wants to make contact or place a booking, they can do so immediately with no waiting, response times or further searches.  Shouldn’t that be the ideal?

Online booking systems are great, but they only cater for a percentage of potential business.  There are a few areas where online bookings do not work:

  1. If you’re also marketing a restaurant, conference facilities or a spa, for example, and you cater for walk-in business too, relying solely on online booking is not going to help you.  Customers need your phone number or email address.
  2. If you’re in a town which has little discretionary tourism and relies largely on business tourism, you’re dealing with a corporate market.  And many corporates need an invoice before they can make a booking.  So they need to call or email you first.
  3. Last-minute bookings usually occur after the deadline for online bookings that most businesses have, so that phone number becomes critically important.  If you’re lucky, they’ll just arrive at your door.
  4. And then there are those people who want to make contact before they place a booking.  It could be about facilities for kids or neighbourhood amenities, or your pet policy.  If making contact is difficult, they’ll try someone else who is less difficult to get hold of.

The downside of business that comes by phone, email or social media is that you don’t really know how it ended up with you.  Even if you ask everyone, you’re lucky if they remember the last place they got your contact details, rather than the first place they learnt about your business.

There are essentially two kinds of portal websites — those who retain “ownership” of the customer and those who put customers directly and immediately in touch with service providers.  And there are some who fit in between these, giving customers direct access to you after they have completed an enquiry.

Whenever advertisers ask for better stats on where there bookings come from, we’re tempted to introduce enquiry forms, but we know that’s not what customers always want.  They want as much info upfront as possible.

What do you think we should do?

3 responses to “The Conundrum”

  1. My personal experience is that prospective guests (or customers in some instance) prefer to have up-front info and if their juices are starting to run they want direct access to whatever product takes their interest/fancy
    John Cooper @perfect Holiday Apartments

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