How to tackle cancellations
Guests are only human and changes happen, so there is sometimes a need for flexibility. However, it's also important that a guest appreciates you are running a business and that booking a room when they don't really intend to travel prevents you from being able to maintain the service in the future.
If both parties understand each other a little bit better, and the cancellation happens in a timely manner and within the policy terms, then, of course, we do appreciate that life happens. Empathy is so important here.
Ultimately, we want our partners to feel in control of cancellations so that in the event it does happen you are empowered to resolve it in the right way. You can set your own terms and policies, and if you find there are cancellations that are not acceptable, then our platform is able to facilitate processes to help you manage that situation in the future.
Getting the basics right
Building on the tactics you can take to address guest indecision, there are various good practises that can help avoid a cancellation or at least catch it early on.
First and foremost: a guest that contacts you is a guest with good intent - so serve these needs. Many guests, particularly those in groups and families, have questions related to the booking. Maybe they want to check sleeping arrangements for young children, update the number of people in the group or change stay-dates to take advantage of a good deal on flights.
Responding to the customer enquiry promptly through the Extranet or Pulse, building trust in the process, usually decreases the potential for cancellation compared to a customer who is not offered a timely response. Getting the answers they need helps them make up their mind if they really want to stay or not - and if they don’t they’ll get to that decision quicker, giving you more time to refill the room.
We’re also investing in helping customers with good intent who have a genuine need to cancel do this as fast as possible, for example with self-service tools in the post-booking area. This will, in turn, reduce the operational impact on the partner and resolve the cancellation before it becomes harmful.
We know that people tend to cancel closer to check-in and that these cancellations are also having an impact on prices - there is a clear correlation. Structuring your rate plan in such a way that you don’t have to reduce prices at the last minute can help avoid these instances. For example, by offering a non-refundable early booker rate the guest is satisfied as they have found a good deal, and you can also avoid that room being cancelled close to check-in.
Invalid cards and suspicious activity
Try to avoid assuming the worst or making any impulse decisions, for example when a payment method is declined. We know that many of those customers have every intention of staying, and there are numerous logical and perfectly innocent reasons why a card may be declined. Reach out to the guest to gauge their intentions; maybe they just need to use a different payment method or allow international transactions. Not only will you build a rapport while seeking certainty, but it’s also just a great way to stay in contact with them.
A human touch is really a good solution in many cases - in fact, we’ve had partners who managed to turn a last-minute cancellation into a loyal guest that returned every year just by developing that relationship.
We're investing in our technology in order to detect bookings that look suspicious and prevent them from happening. For example, if we see hundreds of bookings being made on the same date by the same guest (which could lock a partner’s inventory), this is definitely a no-go. We are here to grow with our partners and protect them from damaging activity, so we’re making a very consistent investment in increasing security around these kinds of behaviour.
Tools and education
Understanding market specifics will help further inform solutions. Observe trends that may impact your customer base and consider the likes of country rates that can help you position yourself differently to captive markets. At Booking.com, we are spending a considerable amount of time investigating regional variations to identify what is driving cancellations around the globe.
Every property's different, every market is different, and so it really does start with what your experience is rather than a one size fits all approach. Understanding what your cancellation characteristics are and if they're harmful to your business - or not - can help inform any decisions you make regarding policies or products that could address your particular situation. Explore the learning platforms and ask questions, because there is a lot that we can do to help you address cancellations and ultimately grow your business.
Read the first part of our series on cancellations here and check out our guide to reducing cancellations.
- A guest that contacts you is a guest with good intent, so be sure to respond to messages in a timely manner and build that relationship
- Create a robust rate plan that provides guests with flexible options while giving you more control over your availability
- There are many logical reasons why a guest payment might be declined - get in touch with them to gauge intent before cancelling a booking
- Booking.com is investing in detecting suspicious activity that can impact on cancellations, along with self-service tools for guests and targeted products that help partners respond to market dynamics - all with the goal of tackling cancellations together