Booking.com is a sales leader and you can see that every month due to the amount of bookings that it generates. One of the cornerstones of its success is its customer orientation, a highly used concept in marketing –occasionally unfounded- but that in this case it’s put into practice in all of its processes with great skill. This is exemplified by having achieved the first place in satisfaction in a study by J.D. Power and Associates.
There are key situations in which the user is boss and there is no doubt that he “has to be given what he demands”, but in other cases, in the ones where there’s a conflict between the interests of the user and those of the hotel, Booking.com always sides with the user, winning him over and gaining customer loyalty even more, occasionally in detriment of the hotel.
Let’s see some examples of actions of Booking.com that pose “situations of conflict”:
1.- Guarantees the best price, although at the expense of the hotel
Booking.com guarantees the best price on its website and offers to match it to its users if they find a better one. However, when a user claims the payment for the difference between both prices, Booking.com sometimes charges that amount to the hotel.
- In practice: When you renew your contact with Booking.com, try to change that condition. Also, if you are convinced that your direct channel is the best option, make it just as competitive by making the message of “lowest price guaranteed” reach the users of your website.
2.- Its restrictions are “less restrictive”
When a hotelier charges prices with minimum stay or in-advance restrictions on Booking.com, he applies them in a way that they can make certain searches be more competitive. For example, when a hotelier makes an offer of a package with minimum stay, the booking system of Booking.com understands that this minimum stay is for the totality of days of the booking, not necessarily for the days that the offer is valid for. Meanwhile, other booking systems understand that the minimum stay is ‘on offer’, in other words, that for a minimum stay of 3 nights, all 3 must have the tariff of the offer. Here’s another example for the in-advance situation: a hotel has an offer for an in-advance booking of minimum 15 days. With a search for 2 nights 14 days in advance, it would offer a night with the price of the offer and another night with the normal price, while other systems would not show the offer because they understand that it’s the check-in day that marks that the offer can be applied. The way of interpreting the restrictions changes from one channel to the other but what you should know is that, even with equal charges and almost without noticing, in some cases the offer through Booking.com is more favourable than through other channels, generating a competitive advantage.
- In practice: First you must understand how each channel applies the restrictions to act consequentially. So that your website offer is just as attractive as the one on Booking.com, choose an engine that allows you to configure these details.
3.- Frees availability automatically with cancellations
Last September, Booking.com took the unilateral decision of freeing availability automatically when a booking is cancelled, which could mean a problem for hoteliers if they had counted on selling that room directly or through another channel, at the same time making the hotelier who wants to close availability to enter his extranet once again. This way, a new client of Booking.com can benefit from this room in detriment of other channels, especially your website.
- In practice: It’s not good nor bad that the rooms are freed automatically, but be coherent and don’t just do it with Booking.com, since you’d be favouring them as a channel. In any case, you can ask Booking.com to deactivate this function so that whether you open or close, you do it equally in all channels, always trying to benefit your website.
4.- Tries to convince the hoteliers so that they ‘overlook’ the penalties.
Occasionally, Booking.com tries to persuade the hoteliers so that they don’t charge the penalties for non-reimbursable booking cancellations or cancellations outside the date limit. If the hotel accepts, Booking.com wins over the client, who will undoubtedly book again with them. However, will the user book the same hotel? Booking.com has managed to gain loyalty from clients at the expense of the hotels, but the benefit for the hotel is unclear.
- In practice: By rule, the non-reimbursable rooms should not be reimbursed. In case of making exceptions, although by contract Booking.com prohibits it, do not discard a dialogue with the user, since sometimes it’s the user himself who contacts the hotel. This way, since the effort is yours, you are the one who wins over the client. In any case, you should assess it with a general policy for all your clients and in all your channels, always favouring your direct sales and not doing it only because Booking.com asks you.
5.- Favours your ‘Pro’ clients
To their best clients, those who book a lot through their website, Booking.com distinguishes them with the title of ‘B. Pro’ Client. And to the hotelier, they send ‘highly captivating’ messages to favour them, offering them, as they say, “something special as a good will gesture (for example, a welcome drink, fruit in the room, an improvement in the room type…)”, gaining a positive comment in exchange. In practice, it’s highly profitable for Booking.com, since they gain even more trust from their best clients and this increases their position of power.
- In practice: This action is part of the customer loyalty strategy by Booking.com, not of your hotel, and therefore it is them who should offer the incentive to the client, since they are ‘their’ clients, not yours. The fact that they book frequently on Booking.com does not mean that they book a lot in your hotel. However, increasing customer loyalty is a good initiative from which you can learn, but you will have to invest in it. Have you thought about making the Booking.com client come back to your hotel as a direct client?
6.- Does not hesitate in publishing negative reviews
There are still hoteliers that censor reviews on their websites, using a non-automatic system to publish them and deleting those with the slightest negative aspects. Booking.com, facing this same conflict, decided to publish all the comments, both positive and negative, being transparent with the user. If a client publishes a negative comment, it will stay on the website but the hotel does not have the option of publishing a response to that comment.
- In practice: In order to sell online, it’s unavoidable that your hotel exposes itself to comments by clients: if publishing comments was negative, Booking.com would not sell you. Think about publishing comments on your website too and choose a system that allows you to go further and participate in the conversation, replying to the client and publishing your response. A well-handled criticism is a good sales chance.
7.- Offer the user to choose preferences
To allow the user to choose preferences such as type of bed or smoking room, can also be a conflict for hoteliers in practice, since if they offer a double room without specifying the type of bed, they have a bigger margin to complete their rooms. In the opposite case, it forces them to be more precise in the inventory control and it can become a problem with the client if they do not ‘comply’ with their preference.
- In practice: If you offer it through Booking.com, it would be only logical to do the same with the rest of the channels, especially in your direct channel.
These are just some examples of how Booking.com always sides with the user in any case of conflict between him and the hotel, but there are infinity of cases and new ones continuously emerge. By consenting to all of them and allowing for these advantages only to be applied to the clients that arrive through Booking.com, you are giving them a competitive advantage regarding the rest of channels and you are increasing the dependence that you have on them. To avoid this, in case of doubt between interests, remember of Booking.com’s success and benefit the user of your website in equal measure.