What I’ve learnt about the future of online bookings

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By Steve Milner

I’ve done my fair share of globe trotting like many others, but I never set foot in a travel agency to book my trips, even after working as a travel consultant. I use Hipmunk’s great “agony” feature to find the best flights and I pay as little as possible by using Skyscanner or Kayak. With HotelsCombined I find the best hotel deals and I know what to see and do thanks to TripAdvisor.

57% of all hotel reservations are made online and 65% of same-day reservations are made on a smartphone

The tourism industry is leading the way when it comes to online bookings because it’s been commonplace for quite a number of years now. Travel agents make all of their commissions from hotels and tours and the internet allows anyone to create a website and take their piece of the commission pie. For me, these sites are great because I can do my own research, see all of the options and most importantly, I can spot a great deal.

When out and about, making a dinner reservation is a whole lot easier now. Sites such as Google and TripAdvisor allow customers to make a reservation instantly thanks to their integration with restaurant booking marketplaces. The last time I made a dinner reservation was with Groupon (I’m a sucker for a great deal), which conveniently offers online reservations due to their integration with Naked Bookings.

Online bookings are now the norm in the tourism industry and if your business doesn’t offer online bookings or reservations, I can guarantee you’re missing out!

The On-Demand Economy

The On-Demand Economy is defined as the economic activity created by digital marketplaces that fulfil consumer demand via immediate access to and convenient provisioning of goods and services.

If you haven’t heard of the “on-demand economy” before, you soon will. Uber and Airbnb have ushered in a whole new way of doing business, which has now created a whole new insatiable demand for instant gratification.

 

I’m young enough to be classed as a “millennial”, another term that you may have heard more of in recent times and as much as I love to chat with businesses owners to understand their challenges to make sure they get the most out of our booking software, I hate calling them as a customer.

If I can get what I want without speaking to someone I will and some surveys show that 25% of millennials will only book online.

If your customers are under the age of 35, online bookings is a must for you, but don’t think they’re the only ones you have to consider. While us millennials account for almost half of on-demand consumers, it’s those in the 35 – 54 age bracket who make up the next 29%!

Customer Convenience

Consider your customers. Their life is just as busy as yours and if you’re only taking bookings over the phone, what happens when your work day finishes at the same time as theirs? With 35% of the population wanting to book after hours, there is clearly a great opportunity if you’re in the 95% of local service business without online booking software.

Convenience for me is getting home late in the evening after a big day of work, having a meal then retreating to the couch at about 8.30pm. During an ad break, I’ll jump on my phone (as I always do), only to realise I haven’t booked an appointment that I’ve been meaning to! Thankfully the business offers online bookings so I can book myself in before the ad break is over.

The medical industry is already seeing more than half of their bookings coming through after hours, but when online bookings in not available and making a call is the only option, only 1 in 3 leave a voicemail.

I make a lot of phone calls to business owners as part of my job and it amazes me how many calls go unanswered. Even worse is the number of return calls I actually receive The number of times this has happened can be counted on the fingers of my hands!

As a customer, if I’m forced to call your business and the call goes unanswered, you can be guaranteed that I’ll move right along to the next business because I don’t have the time to wait for your potential response.

Some reports state that over 40% of bookings are made within 24 hours. So if you’re not answering all of your calls, surely you’re losing customers?

How Can Online Bookings Help Your Business?

So you’ve read this far and you’re still not convinced? I can understand why. Plenty of my discussions with business owners start that way. You’ve survived this long without online bookings and you don’t really have the time to get it setup and maintained. But if we were already friends I’d be telling you “trust me, you won’t believe you used to do business without it”.

You can customise the software to suit your business and direct your customers to your website. Everything will be handled automatically so you only have to worry about greeting them when they arrive. Even payment can be collected at the time of booking.

By giving your customers what they want, you can expect to increase your bookings anywhere in the range of 5% to 25%. On top of this, your customers will be happier, you will save time as your bookings are set to autopilot, you can reduce no-shows and you will have a wealth of data from your bookings and customers that can be used to grow your business even further!

If the day comes that I need to utilise the services of your business, I hope you’re able to provide me with the convenience to make a booking while I’m on the train, at the shops or on the couch, no matter what time of day it is, because this is the first step to providing a great customer experience.

If there is anything that we can learn from the tourism industry, it’s that past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour.

It all makes sense, doesn’t it? Get started with a 1-month free trial, you won’t believe you used to do business without it.

 

Original article: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-ive-learnt-future-online-bookings-steve-milner

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