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Tahoe 800 number has too may hang ups

South Shore’s central reservations number is generating more revenue for lodging owners since the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association began answering the phone about 15 months ago.

You’d think tourism officials would be ecstatic.

They’re not.



The dark spot on an otherwise bright background is primarily a consistently high abandonment rate – the percentage of people who hang up before talking to a reservations agent.

In January, the NLTRA abandonment rate was 18.16 percent. In February it was 21.45 percent. It is improving. In February 1998 the rate was 35 percent.




The standard for central reservations operations is about 10 percent, according to Kris Collins, NLTRA’s director of operations.

Some consider that number high. Some hotels expect no more than a 4 percent abandonment rate from their reservations desks.

“Our goal is to get it as low as we can,” Collins said.

NLTRA began answering phones for the 1-800-AT-TAHOE number, owned by the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, in December 1997, after BASS Tickets decided to get out of the business.

Revenues have increased significantly during that time. In February, revenues were up 114.6 percent compared to the year before. Room nights increased by 110.8 percent and the number of reservations increased by 51.4 percent.

February revenues were 18 percent above BASS’s highest rate. January was 80 percent more than BASS’s best.

“Revenues – the bottom line – is significantly higher,” LTVA board member Debra Howard noted during Thursday’s board meeting.

Then there’s that abandonment rate.

“The revenue is up there, but the abandonment rate is really, really bothering people because it’s a huge abandonment rate,” said LTVA Director Terry LeBan.

The 1-800-AT TAHOE number is on all LTVA advertising and promotions.

“If you get the phones to ring, you’ve got to answer it,” said Board Member Jim Rafferty.

With over 21 percent of callers hanging up, lodging officials wonder what revenue reports could be like.

But the abandonment rate, as recorded by NLTRA, is not that simple.

“We need to really fine tune our reporting,” Collins said. “We’re a visitors information service as well as a reservation service.”

Many callers just want to know what the weather is like or what entertainment is available. When all the reservation agents are busy, or at night when no agents are on duty, the recording provides some of those answers.

“If their question gets answered, they hang up and that’s an abandonment too,” Collins said.

Other callers who hang up call back later. Some call and hang up repeatedly before getting through. The previous calls are recorded as abandons.

The NLTRA “needs an analysis of what’s being tracked,” LeBan said. “A lot of systems don’t track calls if they hang up in the first 30 seconds or for night calls.

“Those numbers are in our tracking numbers.”

Similar problems stain the conversion reports, the percentage of callers who actually make reservations.

The conversion rate for February was 11 percent. That’s actually above the industry standard of 10 percent, but it might be even better.

“An information call is not converted,” LeBan said. “That tracks against them. Their conversion rate could be higher if we take out the information calls.”

Whatever the actual numbers, NLTRA is working to make them better.

A task force made up of representatives from lodging, LTVA and NLTRA are massaging the kinks out of the system.

In September, the NLTRA remodeled their building in Tahoe City, moving administration to another location, and adding more reservation stations.

But the 26 stations now available have never been full. The average number of agents working at any time is 18.

“We have a problem with getting (qualified applicants) to walk through the door,” Collins said.

“This year there’s been a lot of jobs available out there and not a lot of people looking for work, or else they have their choice of jobs.”

While looking for additional agents, the organization is also making systems changes to speed transactions and allow agents to take more calls.

“The new computer system, reduces the amount of key strokes needed and speeds up a reservation,” Collins said.

“The fact is, they are vastly outperforming BASS. There’s no question of that,” said LTVA Board Member Bill Chernock at Thursday’s meeting. “Maybe what’s causing us to be so demanding is because they so quickly surpassed BASS.

“On the other hand, we need to make sure we’re looking at all the resources available to us.”


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