1-800 numbers used to be a big thing because they enabled your guests to call you, from any state, at no cost to them. Sure, the innkeeper would foot the bill, but at the time, those calls likely turned into bookings. The 1-800 number offered a solution to a problem or barrier between the inn and the sale. But are 1-800 numbers still necessary?
Most people no longer worry about domestic long-distance calls. Gone are the days when callers check the time before dialing. It seems to use or not use a 1-800 number is more of a personal preference. Bed & Brunch pr talks with Chris and Beth Roenker, innkeepers at the Seafarer Inn in Rockport, Massachusetts to learn why they chose to switch back to a local 978 area code.
Why did you decided to get a 1-800 number?
Chris: It came with the house when we bought the inn a couple of years ago. The previous innkeepers had the number for a long time and with people calling long distance, we thought 'OK we'll keep it' but it turned out to be a real pain in the neck.
Beth: Most calls were cold calls or marketing calls.
Chris: And the other thing is our number was one number different from a wine country basket store, we'd get a lot of wrong number calls. And we were paying for those calls. The number also seemed to be the same number that was on barricades in New York, so people would be calling us to pick up a barricade and that's not us, and we'd have to explain that.
When did you decide to get rid of the 1-800 number?
Chris: We kept it for the first 2 years, just to see how it was going. It brought us more wrong calls than guests, so we said it was done.
Was it a difficult decision?
Beth: No, no one's worried about toll calls anymore and we would prefer guests make a reservation online anyway.
How much have you saved by eliminating your 1-800 number?
Chris: Most of it again was just cold calls, robo calls, where they bill us 2 cents or 5 cents and the phone would ring twice then stop. It was computerized. It added up to about $10 a month just on the computerized scam. I don't think I ever got one call from an actual customer.
What else did you have to change as a result?
Beth: It didn’t' change the business but we did have to take our 1-800 number off our marketing pieces, our website, and business cards. Last year we took the number off our brochure, we really didn't want people using it. We have caught it on other places; a local innkeeping group had the old number and we recently updated it. It made sense.
Do people ever say they've tried calling your 1-800 number?
Chris: No, it's only been off for about a month and a half but everything is electronic now.
Do you think 1-800 numbers still make sense?
Beth: I'd say they're obsolete. We do know some innkeepers that don't have online booking and they may get more use out of it, but once you have online booking you really don't need it.
What , if anything, surprised you about your decision?
Beth: It really wasn't an asset to our business. We used to get computerized calls during the summer time in the middle of night, at 2 am. It was constant.
Chris: It was a detriment.