How to get payment and booking systems right

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Critical to the day-to-day running of a successful hotel is organisation; it’s necessarily a keystone in operational management from back of house to front of house.

But once you’ve got a potential guest about to book, how well can you manage it? The software you choose to deploy for organising your records of guests’ bookings, stays and managing their payments, will make a huge impact on how tight a ship you can keep.

Property management systems give hoteliers a diverse, but simple, range of features to use. From booking systems and management features to digital marketing, choosing the right system can drive up occupancy and boost revenue figures, while simultaneously allowing more time for your hotel and its staff members to flourish. Kate Fuller, marketing manager at Guestline, which offers the Rezlynx property management system says: “[It is about] providing users with an easy-to-use system, enabling them to deal with guests quickly and efficiently, enriching the overall customer journey.”

THE CAPABILITIES

Many systems available are rather more than high-tech diaries – they have virtually become essential for anyone running a hotel of any size, be it a large branded chain or an independent boutique. A property management system is the core of the operation of a hotel, while payment and booking systems are essential to the smooth running. Payment and booking systems keep track of both current and future guests, from check-in to check-out, laid out clear designs, and these systems will show hoteliers how many rooms they have left for a particular day, and using algorithms help to determine at what rate any vacant rooms should be sold for to maximise occupancy.

Not only does this make the organisational life for a hotelier much easier, it also clearly lays out what days and what price range of consumers still need to be targeted to maximise revenue. Craig Stewart, co-founder and director at Freetobook, an online booking system, says: “Freetobook helps independents make sense of and bring together the whole of the online marketing space – offering new and exciting services that help them grow their business and save time on the manual stuff.”

Using one of these systems will allow you to place a booking button on your website, allowing guests to visit your website, check availability and rates, before ultimately making a booking. In return the hotel will be notified about the guests’ contact details and the booking will be entered onto the diary. Fuller adds: “By managing your rates, Guestline systems enable hoteliers to increase direct bookings, improve rates and reduce OTA commissions. Hotels will also benefit from operational efficiencies and improvements in rate parity.”

ACCESS ANYWHERE

Owning a hotel is often a stressful intense job, and for hoteliers that are on the move – perhaps they may have another job or a second hotel in another part of the country, or they are heading away for a business meeting, keeping on top of things while you are away from the hotel can be tricky.

Fortunately there are payment and booking systems offer access on the road. This allows hoteliers to organise operations and deal with any problems or changes quickly and easily. Chris Petty, managing director at Newbook UK, a property management system which offers an array of features, including access to its system on handheld devices, says: “Being able to login to your property management system from any location and device gives the general manager or hotel owner the ability to react to any problem, or pricing change, on the go.”

Peter St Lawrence, GM and shareholder of The Crown at Amersham hotel in Buckinghamshire, says that he will be making the most of “cross-selling opportunities” by bringing his smaller affiliate properties onto the Newbook system as well. Having everything on one system will not only help your organisational skills, it will also encourage you to cross-sell, driving revenue to any other properties that you own.

Using a cloud-based system, Newbook allows hoteliers to use its system with only an internet browser required. Not only does this allow the ease of access, but according to Petty it also helps hoteliers save on costs. “This allows for a much lower setup cost,” he says, “as no on site server or support is necessary, saving in some cases thousands of pounds a year.”

DIGITAL MARKETING

Property management systems can also offer a variety of other functions to help improve the running of a property and drive guest demand to the hotel, including digital marketing features, helping to increase occupancy.

Some property management systems allow you to conduct and track your own email marketing campaigns. Running these campaigns will enable you to reach past customers with deals and offers improving your chance of returning guests. Marketing campaigns will allow you to target specific consumers with exactly what they are looking for, at the time that they are looking for it.

Stewart recommends that hotels also use a mobile-friendly site. He says: “Hotels using the mobile-friendly website and booking process can increase conversion across multiple devices.” Using a mobile friendly site allows guests to book a room at your hotel, at any time, and anyplace. With a large amount of booking now coming from handheld devices this is an investment that will be sure to pay dividends. Booking systems can also support Google Analytics, meaning you will be able to track your conversion rate, and analyse where your marketing is going right, and where it is not going as well as you’d hoped. The hindsight this provides helps to plan better marketing strategies over time.

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