H & A Report, Volume III, No. 4 October/November 1995

Few hotel reservation departments operate as efficiently as they might. Arguably, with only a handful of staff available to answer calls and complete all the administration associated with individual and group bookings, doing everything well is difficult. There is often, however, room for improvement.

In our last article we identified several performance gauges applicable to every property reservation office. Now we will look at their application, and steps to take if these measures reveal less than fully satisfactory performance.

The three measures we identified were:



Hold Time Before Answer Average time calls are on hold before being answered
Talk Time Length of telephone call
Conversion Rate Percent of calls which result in a booking


Lets look first at how we can apply each of these, and then at our options if we find a need for corrective action. First, the measurement process. In a manual reservation office – one not equipped with a automatic call distributor (ACD) or a call sequencer, performance measurements must be made by hand. To determine:

Hold Time Before Answer – For a different 30 minute period each day for 2 weeks, have the reservation manager or someone else write down the length of time in seconds that each call on the primary reservation line is on hold after it has been answered and before a reservation person begins the booking conversation. Calculate the average Hold Time Before Answer in seconds. If it exceeds 20 seconds, there is room for improvement.

Talk Time – Again, for a different 30 minute period each day for 2 weeks, have the reservation manager or someone else write down the length, in seconds, of each call (excluding hold time) on the primary reservation line. Divide the total number of seconds for all calls, by the number of calls to product the Talk Time. If it is below 120 seconds, or above 200 seconds, there may be room for improvement.

Conversion Rate – Have the reservation staff count the number of calls they answer for 2 weeks. Make sure they count every incoming call. Count the number of new reservations booked during those two weeks. Divide the number of calls by the number of reservations to produce the Conversion Rate. Under normal circumstances it should be 25-35%. If it is lower than 25%, or much lower than you expected, there could be room for improvement.


Poorer than expected performance can be the result of one or several reasons. Once the reason(s) are identified, a selection of action possibilities are available.

Hold Time Before Answer –

Reason Corrective Action
Insufficient staff Review and adjust staffing. Consider having PBX or Front Desk staff answer calls and take messages for Reservation staff callbacks when a backlog begins to build. Consider overflowing calls to the chain’s CRO.
Staff scheduled inefficiently Rework the reservation staff work schedule.
Talk time too long See below.


Talk Time –

Reason Corrective Action
Poor conversation control Control each conversation to keep it brief and sales-focused. Prevent the caller from rambling. Provide telephone sale training for reservation staff – from the hotel chain, the local telephone company or a specialized phone skills training organization.
Ineffective at closing sale Train reservation staff in telephone sales skills. Available from the hotel chain, the local telephone company or a specialized phone sales skills training organization.
Staff not getting to point Same as above.
Sales information not conveniently available for retrieval Collect, review, revise and distribute property and related information. Ensure all needed data is at each reservation person’s fingertips.
Product structure or pricing too complex for easy explanation Revise hotel descriptions, requirements and pricing to allow their clear, concise and appealing explanation to prospective guests.


Conversion Rate –

Reason Corrective Action
Poor sales skills Provide telephone sales skills training.
Product sold out If a frequent situation, reconsider product pricing.
Too many modification or cancellation calls Training needed to avoid insufficient product explanation, overselling or misunderstandings.
Too many information only calls Is the promotional material about the property and its programs generating too many questions, and providing too few answers?
Too many personal calls Tighten management policies and control in the Reservation Office.


Hotel Reservation Offices are hectic units in complex and challenging businesses. They are also a primary guest contact point — essential to the accommodation sale and satisfactory guest experience. An efficiently functioning Reservation Office is vital and an important key to a property’s overall success.