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The Telephone as Your B&B Cash Register

September 21, 2008

by Kit Cassingham

Think of your telephone as a cash register and improve your business. Telephone sales skills may require training or education, but they are an important part of customer service and your inn's hospitality. There are a lot of outstanding customer service tips available for the hospitality industry, and your bed and breakfast can benefit from a few found here. Your customer service skills start with the first contact and extend beyond the guest's stay.

The pause of the potential guest after receiving requested information can be filled by the innkeeper responding to, or inquiring about, their needs. You should answer more than just the asked question -- also answer the implied question. This is your first chance to illustrate your inn's hospitality and style. Don't blow this chance -- you have spent so much money to create your inn's atmosphere, to advertise your business; you have spent a lot of money getting the phone to ring so don't waste or throw away that investment!

The telephone is a powerful sales tool. Because the telephone is so important, it is vital that everyone who answers it know how to use it properly and effectively. Your phone is your life line. It is your cash register. It is an asset, not a detriment (though there are days you will argue with that statement). Whenever you use the phone, you are illustrating the inn's hospitality by what you say and how you say it. The first three to five seconds set the stage, the mood, and atmosphere of relationships. Take at least this much time with every caller, no matter how rushed you are.

When the phone rings, there is another person on the line -- a person with needs. Educating your employees in this art is one of your most delicate and important training tasks. Call various hotels and inns to ask a question, like "what are your room rates" or "do you have a romantic room". Listen to the answer -- the voice tone, interest level, service orientation, etc. You can learn from positive
and negative responses. Apply what you learn.

Communication is 80 percent tone and 20 percent words. The words you will have available by the phone. Tone is very difficult to teach, but the use of tape recorders will help. Teach and practice these helpful hints for better phone presence and more successful sales.

You have one mouth and two ears, use them proportionately.

    DO:
  • lower your shoulders before answering the phone
  • smile as you answer the phone
  • train your voice so that it is calm, quiet, and well paced
  • focus on what is happening at the phone; we only retain 20 percent of what we hear so give your undivided attention
  • make a note of the caller's name and use it, though not too frequently
  • nurture the caller
  • ask for the sale
  • be memorable
  • be positive and confident
Remember that a man's name is, to him, the sweetest and most important sound in any language. --Dale Carnegie
    DON'T:
  • say you are sorry (find a positive way of conveying the same message)
  • say "Bye Bye"
  • hang up first
  • use argumentative or defensive statements
  • avoid phone calls
  • be without pencil or paper, or calendar for that matter
  • have barriers to communication (background noise, slang, jargon, or speaking to someone else while you are on the phone)
  • get involved with vacation plans

Some people feel that a busy signal indicates it is a busy place and worth waiting to get through for reservations. Others feel a busy signal is too frustrating and won't try too many times. Some people won't leave a message on voice mail, even in our fast-paced lives of today.

This topic is a controversial one because of the complexity of phone systems and inn styles. If the phone call sets the mood of your inn, you must decide what mood is set by a busy signal, an unanswered phone/too many rings, voice mail, or being put on hold. One solution is to quickly get the second caller's name and number and call them back. I personally prefer voice mail with a promise to call back quickly, stating a specific time.

Nobody should answer the phone until they have been properly and thoroughly trained on:


  • room configurations and selling points as well as prices

  • food

  • rules (smoking, animals, kids, check-in/-out, cancellation, ...)

  • directions

  • local events or attractions

  • phone sales techniques


Good communication skills:

  • avoid negative feedback

  • empathize with the person speaking

  • listen between the lines

  • listen for attitudes and ideas

  • record the information from the call in a notebook by the phone

  • repeat what you hear, and in several ways


Guidelines to help you deal with irate callers:

  • hear them out

  • be patient

  • be tactful

  • empathize (Feel, Felt, Found -- this technique helps diffuse unpleasant situations)

  • don't interrupt

  • acknowledge the problem


Your phone is an information center for more than potential guests. You place and receive other business calls from there. Information that you definitely need to keep by the phone includes:


  • what you are ("Tell me something about your inn.")

  • where you are (directions from various locations -- airport, train station, highway exits)

  • your prices and other information you want every caller to have

  • important and frequently used phone numbers

Phone manners:

This list is just a reminder of the "polite" way for you to conduct your telephone business. Following these rules of thumb will give you the reputation for being professional, considerate, and organized.


  • Don't use a speaker phone

  • When calling others, let the phone ring ten times to allow enough time for it to be answered (ten rings is only about one minute). Be prepared; have relevant correspondence and other materials at hand, have note paper and pencil for jotting down notes

  • Identify yourself; use your first and last names, and maybe your B&B's name.

  • Return calls. If you couldn't talk when you were called, weren't in, or didn't have the information that was being requested, and you say you will call back -- do

  • When you leave messages, include the times that you will be available so that you don't get into a game of phone tag

  • Begin and end phone conversations with your name


Your telephone is a tool. Use it for what it's meant for -- conveying information and taking reservations. Don't let an untrained person answer your phone, just as you wouldn't let an untrained person work your cash register. Answering the phone is putting money in the cash register, so treat it accordingly.




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