Short guide to purchase: how to choose the management software for your hotel
The most frequent mistake is to buy a new software and expect it to adapt to our way of working.
Those who are nostalgic will certainly remember with affection the large sheet of paper in every hotel desk that showed the bookings: the management software were simple tools used by a few privileged hotel chains. There were no OTAs (but there were agencies), letters arrived with booking requests with a stamp inside for the reply; there were many walk-ins, reviews did not exist and .... I could go on but I would become unnecessarily nostalgic.
Technology is running and today it is almost unthinkable to manage a medium-sized structure without software. Simple and economical, with a few basic functions or with advanced Channel Manager, Booking Engine, CRM and Business Intelligence modules. Still in Cloud or web-based: the choice is really wide and sometimes it is difficult to orient with confidence towards a product.
Let's talk today about PMS (Property Management System) that is the software for the management of a hotel structure.
Sometimes I enjoy reading the responses on a social group of industry insiders (and presumed insiders) when a neophyte naively asks for advice on buying a Property Management System: a voluminous list of more or less well-known names begins. The basic mechanism is: "I use the xxx software and for this reason it is the best".
Logic wants that, before being able to compare different products to your own software (maybe the only one you know) you must have a wide technical knowledge. And believe me: I've seen people comparing software worth a few hundred euros, developed with outdated architectures to platforms with impressive functionality.
To avoid that to "win" is simply the best salesman, here are the questions that (in my personal opinion) we must ask ourselves before making a choice.
What do I want from PMS ?
It may seem like an obvious question but it's not: in most cases you end up chasing functionality that will remain unused (but paid for).
If what I need is simply an aid to daily operations then I'll have to look for lean, young and cheap products. Be careful though: avoid handcrafted solutions developed by individuals. How many installations of this software are there? How many people are behind this company? The next year I want to change software will I have all the statistics and data I need? Will this handcrafted solution be able to adapt to the continuous development required by the technological race and regulatory compliance? But most importantly, won't I be left "hostage" to one or two people? These are the fundamental questions to ask yourself before purchasing.
If, on the contrary, I need advanced functionalities, a Booking Engine and a Channel Manager and maybe also a tool to manage communications with customers in a professional way, Yield functionalities, then it will be necessary to move towards high-end products: it is useless and dangerous to waste time evaluating small software houses or the cousin who is a programmer.
What features should be evaluated when choosing?
- Channel Manager module and Booking Engine integrated (not therefore connected to third party products)
- Customer Relationship Management: it will save us a lot of time and gain in professionalism
- Complete reporting with the possibility to filter the requested data in an advanced way.
Let's start from Channel and Booking. Always on the already mentioned pages of experts and professors of the sector are dispensed for free (but sometimes not disinterestedly) hundreds of advices where it is clear that this channel manager is better than others. But really few times I've had the fortune to read some technical motivation to support such affirmations. So let's try to make some clarity. Personally I prefer all-in-one solutions: connecting a channel to a pms means to increase the probability that something goes wrong: they are complex systems and it is not always easy to establish what did not work properly and whose fault it was.
Try to ask, for example, what is the time interval with which the channel updates availability. This - just one of many - is a fundamental technical aspect that affects the performance of a Channel. But hardly any “expert" will be able to answer you. Try to see also how the Booking Engine appears in its mobile version. Is it easy to finalize a reservation from a cell phone? Is it user friendly enough? Does it convey the idea of trust that will convince a potential guest to insert a credit card? Does it allow the creation of offers for registered users only? Can it be integrated with electronic payment systems (e.g. paypal, etc.)? Does it interface with Google Analytics and Adwords?
Now let's move on to Customer Relationship Management which has been all the rage lately. Basically and minimizing, it is a module or software that manages communications with the customer. Now think about how much time we spend on communication by making a practical example. An email arrives requesting information. We go to our management software and check the price and availability. We go back to the customer's email and send them our offer. We wait for the reply and perhaps continue our correspondence until the booking is finalized. Obviously, if a colleague has to manage the reservation, he/she will have to research all previous correspondence with our guest. All this work could be lightened and rationalized by using a CRM. In this case, with just a few clicks we could send our offer, confirm the booking or the crediting of a deposit, but above all have all our communications grouped together (if the CRM is integrated with the PMS) in the client's file.
But CRM is not only this. Well exploited, it can become one of the main disintermediation tools. Let's think, for example, of wanting to send a personalized offer to all clients of type x (e.g. couples) who stayed at our facility on the weekends in June, residing in province y, and who spent or bought services z. Well, with a good CRM integrated with the PMS we can send a communication with a discount code to all the clients that match these filters.
I could tell you about the possibility of checking in on line, to stimulate a review to our guest, simply to remind him that the day of arrival he will have the porter service available and much more.
Often underestimated is in my opinion a fundamental discriminator in the choice of a software. Having effective reports available, complete and customizable with the appropriate filters allows us to know our route at any time. Many will say that all software now has reports. No, this is absolutely not true. I have seen reporting systems that are completely unusable. I'll tell you about the latest episode. Analyzing the situation of a structure, I was looking for a simple report in its PMS (a well-known brand) that would give me the ADR divided by Sales Channels. I couldn't find it (I don't know how the software in question works), so after several attempts I called assistance. The first response was "Excuse me, what is this ADR"? Disconcerted, I try to explain that it is simply the average selling price and that I needed it divided by "channel". Answer: "No, it's not there. But no one has ever asked for this report!".
It's really important to have a quantity of data (few but good) that allows us to understand the real trend of our structure, the net production of OTA Channels, the comparison with previous years. Honestly, it is not easy to find software with reliable reporting systems.
If your first question is "how much does the software cost" then there is a basic misunderstanding: leave it alone and keep working with the excel sheet made by your software engineer friend. The cost parameter is really relative. Even if a software costs a few hundred euros and does not do what you need, it would still be hundreds of euros wasted. If your booking engine is able to convert visits into bookings, then it will be enough to make a simple calculation of what you could earn (or save on commissions). If, thanks to the reports of your PMS, you are able to understand what is happening to the sales of your structure, if the front office staff does not waste time on operations that a good software could do by itself, then it will be easy to understand that the work tools are fundamental and, as I always say, you must not save money. Thinking about medium-large structures, the difference in cost between a mediocre product and a high performance one is really negligible: it is not an investment that will be replaced after one or two years (hopefully): changing the PMS means training the staff, reinserting all the reservations, maybe losing the master data and much more. So let's focus and buy the best for us.
Having overcome all the previous questions, the last hurdle remains to be faced. If you've rightly decided to invest in a current software and then plan to use it on a home client, then let me give you some advice. Because of the criticality of the work we do, we need to have a high degree of reliability for the data we will have to manage. Imagine if one summer morning all of a sudden, maybe due to a virus, you were unable to access the management system; it is obvious that this eventuality must be avoided. You will therefore need two professionals: a system administrator and a hardware supplier. If your usual supplier passes off a workstation as a server, then it's time for a change. If, on the other hand, you're going for a cloud solution, you need to keep in mind that you need reliable connectivity. Simply translated, if you have an Internet line that is not really performing in terms of speed or even stability, abandon the idea of working in the cloud. Otherwise, buying a server in the cloud could be a good solution both from the point of view of performance and economy of the operation. Even while pursuing this solution, some technical aspects must be evaluated on which the speed and reliability of your daily work will depend.
This is the last (not least) question we need to ask ourselves. When we make a demo of an advanced software with the features we have described, it's easy to get excited. And it's also right because making a leap in quality with a new PMS can be an important stimulus for the growth of our structure. A "jolt" in short. But we must also be realistic.
Setting up and managing the strategies of a Channel, creating filters and rules for a CRM, correctly interpreting report data are not operations that everyone can do. But I don't want to be misunderstood. By now these softwares are developed to be used in a sufficiently intuitive way by most people. But even a Ferrari can be driven by most people. We will see the difference when that tight double turn comes, when we rightly want to use the full potential of our new software. If our head of reception happens to block the Booking account when the password expires, then it is better that he does not make the double tight turn.
The last clarification
Last but not least is the following reflection to be conducted with a calm but above all critical mind.
As mentioned before, the purchase of a new PMS must also be seen as an opportunity to improve one's working procedures. If we are looking for a software that fits perfectly to our way of working, that offers us endless customizations, that is willing to create reports and features that are not provided then follow a disinterested advice: do not buy it.
Behind a software product of medium-high range there is a work of years but above all of expert advice on how it is more appropriate, correct and intuitive to manage certain operations. The most frequent mistake is to buy a new software and expect it to adapt to our way of working.
In conclusion, before deciding, carefully evaluate the aspects we have discussed and, in case (likely) we have generated even more confusion, contact us for a comparison!