How your on-hold message may be letting you down

Marketing in the hotel industry has advanced rapidly, yet at most hotels and brands, the message on hold scripting is stuck in the 1990s.

Whether you call a hotel directly or call into its central reservations office, after the auto-attendant places you in queue, the message on hold (MOH) nearly always direct callers back online again and again throughout the scripting. Here are some common phrases:

  • “Did you know that the fastest way to book a reservation is online? It’s the easy and convenient way to plan your experiences.”
  • “For faster service, you can make a new reservation online at
  • “Have you downloaded the new (brand name) app? It’s the fastest way to reserve your room.”

When you think about it, this is a major fail for several reasons. For one, most callers found the 800 number they are calling by visiting the same website or app that the MOH is directing them back to!

[pro_ad_display_adzone id=”27469″ align=”left” padding=”10″]Usually, such as in the first example paraphrased from a leading brand, the scripting is written in a borderline insulting way, as if it’s informing someone for the first time that there’s this thing called a hotel website where you can book your own room online. Duh!

Secondly, from a customer service perspective the MOH message almost sounds like “please do whatever it is you need to do online because a) we don’t want to talk to you and b) we don’t staff enough agents to take care of your needs” rather than making it sound as if the time spent waiting will be worth it.

Perhaps the biggest fail of this outdated MOH scripting is that it is missing the chance to tell a captive audience something that really matters to them and that can simultaneously help the hotel generate additional revenue and reduce the costs of customer acquisition.

When you take time to listen to what today’s callers are actually asking once their calls are answered, you will find they most often fall into one of these profiles, all of which require human assistance.

  • The Confused. These are the callers who have read online guest reviews and social media postings, especially those with “one star” and “five stars,” and who are concerned about specific issues mentioned. Callers might not actually say they read it online, but agents who stay familiar with their most recent reviews always report they start getting questions about what has been recently mentioned. These callers need a real person to reassure them about quality.
  • The Overwhelmed. These callers have researched multiple hotels on OTAs and/or have viewed room types and rate options online. They already know what is available; they need help in deciding on the best option for their needs.

The above two prototypes represent the hottest opportunities to increase call conversion and capture more bookings.

  • The Value-Driven Deal Seekers. These callers are leaning towards booking the hotel they called, but want to make sure they are getting the best rate or to re-check fees and surcharges. These callers are perhaps the most frequent prototype these days. When agents are properly trained in engaging them with questions, they represent a huge opportunity to channel-covert some OTA guests into booking directly. This requires more than saying “do you want to book it?” again and again.

In all of the above scenarios, the person holding actually needs a real live human being to assist them, not a self-service experience at a website. They cannot be fully assisted with the AI voices and chat-bots that some brands are working on so diligently to completely replace human agents.

So instead of forcing callers to listen to MOH messages that at best annoy and at worst insult someone’s computer skills, marketers should update their MOH to ensure callers that their wait time will be well invested. This requires more than saying “we are assisting other callers and will get to you when we are able to do so.” Here are some examples and suggestions:

  • “You have reached our reservations department and our team of expert reservations representatives (or even better – reservations specialists, travel consultants, vacation planners) is ready to assist. We promise to make your brief hold time worth the wait.”
  • Continuing on… “Be assured, our staff will be quoting you the best available rates that meet or beat whatever you are finding online at our travel partner websites such as Expedia and”
  • Continuing on… “Best of all, we can answer any questions you have about room categories, views, and rate-options such as our advance purchase rates and bed/breakfast options. We will also be able to field any special requests and answer questions regarding special needs you might have.”
  • Continuing on (for destination type resorts)… “Be sure to ask about dining / spa / golf reservations so that we can help you schedule key moments and memorable events for your upcoming visit.”

MOH scripting for those calling directly to an in-house, on-site reservations office should go even further and promote the value of reaching a local area expert. The above sample scripting should be revised to emphasise the increasingly unique advantage of being able to speak with someone who really knows the answers a caller seeks. So instead, start the above sample script with: “You have reached our in-house, on-site reservations office…”

In summary, take a moment to review the MOH that your hotel’s callers are hearing right now every day while they wait patiently for assistance.

Chances are that you can provide a more welcoming message, while encouraging callers to hang in there instead of hanging up.

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