Perfect Reception Ringing in the Changes in Hotel Sector’s Busy Reception Desks
Jim McCoy’s company Perfect Reception may not look like a new idea on the surface of it, but there is no doubt that in today’s hospitality market, it’s nothing short of revolutionary.
Ostensibly, it’s a call centre service that picks up the slack for hotels who simply don’t have the ability to handle all their incoming phone calls. It is, however, something more than that and it is also something that nobody else is doing. Even more importantly from an industry standpoint, it is providing a much-needed service that is quietly improving the telephone-answering ability of hotels.
“I’ve been outsourcing all my professional life,” says McCoy from his company’s base in Douglas, on the outskirts of Cork city. “There is nobody else doing what we do. I know that might sound hard to believe but it’s the truth.
“The concept of taking calls for somebody has been there for a while – call centres exist on the back of that,” adds McCoy, who is in the call-centre business for some time with a company called COS (Complete Outsource Solutions). It provides a call-answering service for a range of companies, including Dunnes Stores and DPD couriers.
It was while he was standing at reception four years ago in a hotel in Manchester that it struck him just how difficult it was for some of the best hotels to simply answer the phone.
“I was booking into a Radisson hotel and there was another customer parallel to me and we were checking in at the same time. There were two very nice receptionists looking after us, but the phone kept ringing and ringing… and ringing. The receptionist started to assist me, then stopped to answer the phone, deal with that enquiry and then back to me and so on. The same thing happened with the next guy in the queue.
“In fairness to the staff at reception, they were working hard and diligently and trying to find a solution. They didn’t want to lose the contact with either of us but at the same time, they couldn’t leave the phone ring.”
McCoy could clearly see that this kind of problem was only going to get worse for hotels. In recent years, many of the larger hotel groups in particular have been trying to steer customers away from the aggregator sites such hotel.com and towards taking up direct contact with the hotel. This was a niche market and one with strong growth potential. With the advantage of already running a call centre, McCoy could see that it was a matter of some fine-tuning of a new service product that would be the solution for handling incoming calls in the hotel sector.
“That’s where it spawned. When I got back, I did a bit of research, created some literature, and targeted a few hotels that I would have known locally myself. That’s how it started.”
If staff at a hotel reception are busy for whatever reason, McCoy’s service gives them the safety of knowing that any incoming calls will be picked up (after a length of time of the hotel’s choosing) as if the caller was being answered by someone in the hotel.
From the hotel’s point of view, they never miss a call. They never miss out on that all-important call with a booking that will almost certainly go to one of their competitors if the phone isn’t answered by them within a certain amount of time.
From the customer’s point of view, the effect is seamless. The phone rings and a professional-sounding employee answers the phone on behalf of the hotel and deals with the enquiry. They even have direct access to the hotel’s booking system so they can take a booking and credit/debit card details there and then from the customer.
“It sounds simple,” says McCoy, “but nobody specialises in hotels as we do. We don’t do contracts – you stay with us as long as you’re happy with the service and we haven’t lost a customer yet.”
The growing list of clients includes such landmark establishments as the five-star Aghadoe Heights in Kerry, Castlemartyr Resort in Cork and Breaffy House Hotel in Mayo while management have eyes now set firmly on the UK. After barely four years of operation, Perfect Reception now employs 120 staff. Significant year on year investment has been made in IT since the company was established which has allowed the company to provide a seamless service to its growing customer base. Bespoke software and solution driven IT programmes have allowed Perfect Reception to provide a tailor made solution for each customer.
The business model of Perfect Reception works on the basis of charging the client only for calls that come through to specialised call centre in Douglas.
“If you’re hotel is perfect and your telephone-answering service is sailing along fantastically, then you won’t be getting an invoice from me because I won’t be taking any of your calls,” says McCoy. “If, on the other hand, that isn’t the truth, then we’ll be picking up calls you mightn’t have realised that you had.”
McCoy calculates that hotels lose up to €100,000 per year on unanswered calls. Using the Perfect Reception service lays bare the number of calls that a hotel would ordinarily have missed, and it allows the hotel to recoup any business that would otherwise have been lost, whilst improving their image and quality of service.
“Every hotel gets a breakdown at the end of the week of the number of calls that we took,” says McCoy, “as well as letting them know the nature of the call, whether it was a reservation or relating to the spa or the leisure centre or dining or whatever. It works out that around 25% of all calls are reservation-related.”
The growth has been strong, fuelled by the ingenuity and simplicity of an idea that has met a growing need in the hotel sector and the powerful word-of-mouth promotion via the network of GM’s around the country that all know one another.
The timing of Perfect Reception couldn’t have been better. As the hotel and catering sector is getting moving again after 18 months of enforced hibernation, the staffing shortages are even more acute than ever. Depending on each hotel’s business model and circumstances, there’s no limit (in theory) to the percentage of incoming calls a hotel can outsource to Perfect Reception. Instead of struggling to find a team of new receptionists, the solution is already there in a format that doesn’t involve a recruitment process or a contract. A hotel can simply use the service for almost all of its incoming calls without having to bring in new staff.
The company is now about to launch a service in the UK. Once that is up and running, their horizons for expansion are going to lift and there’s no shortage of markets seemingly ready for their service.
You can check out Perfect Reception at www.reception.ie.