On hold? Give us a break!

You know the situation. You call a restaurant or a hotel and are immediately put on hold, often before you get an opportunity to speak to an operator. Annoying at best, but quite understandable given the peaks and valleys in call rate and the fact that telephone staff has its limits.

But hoteliers have a way of making a bad situation worse. How? By adding a pre-recorded script trying to sell you on a variety of items offered at the property or to give you details about property features. Because these nuggets of useless information are interspersed with bland music, such sound bites become increasingly irritating — the change from music to voice commands your attention as you anticipate a live operator, then the pre-recorded message twists your hopes into frustration.

Having to put a guest on hold is not what anyone of us would call great guest service. Shoehorning in a sales message is what I call guest disservice. An on-hold message is required, but it would be prudent to disregard any further voice scripts.

Whoever sells these pre-recorded message programs has made a lot of money selling something hoteliers simply do not need. This superfluous use of technology does nothing to enhance guest service. I encourage you to test your own call center and listen to the on-hold soundtrack for any such perturbations.

In the end, however, you still have to promote your wares. They aren’t going to sell themselves! But this is not the way.

Instead, I’d recommend you train your telephone operators to inform callers about new property features or promotions after they’ve handled the initial inquiry. People are harried and might not want to be haggled with an ancillary sales pitch. But if you’re polite about it — for instance, by asking them first — they’ll respect your efforts. Operators should approach this as an opportunity to continue the conversation first and foremost, and not with the outright intention of forcing an additional sale.