A Guide to Mobile Keys for Independent Hotels

In the hospitality industry, mobile technology is rapidly modernizing operations and changing guest expectations. Our mobile phones can do almost anything these days, including unlocking doors!

Mobile key (or digital key) technology is no longer reserved for global hotel chains and luxury resorts. Thanks to a growing number of keyless access providers and ease of implementation, mobile keys are now accessible to independent properties, from hotels to vacation rentals to hostels.

How Do Mobile Keys Work?

Using Bluetooth or NFC (near field communication) technology, mobile key applications turn a guest’s mobile phone into their room key. Mobile key solutions work best when integrated with the property management system (PMS) to automate room key delivery for an efficient, secure and modern check-in process that elevates the guest experience.

It works like this: Once a booking has been made, a booking confirmation email is sent to the guest, containing a link to download the mobile key app before arrival. Upon guest arrival, the PMS automatically lets the mobile key platform know when the guest checks in and the mobile key platform responds by sending a secure digital key to the guest’s mobile phone. The guest can then use the mobile key app to unlock the door with the tap of a button on the phone screen, or simply by holding the phone close to the door. The mobile key can also be used to access other hotel facilities, such as the gym, elevator or parking garage. Upon check-out, the PMS automatically alerts the mobile key platform and the digital key is disabled.

Mobile keys can be implemented without replacing existing lock systems, making this exciting technology easily accessible to independent properties. Existing locks can be upgraded by installing a Bluetooth device, for example, enabling mobile key compatibility while also maintaining keycard functionality.

Advantages of Mobile Keys

Guests want mobile applications that enhance the guest experience through self-service and personalization. From convenience and efficiency to sustainability and security, mobile key technology unlocks various advantages for both guests and hotel operators.

An Efficient, Personalized Check-in Process

The check-in experience is a major contributing factor to overall guest satisfaction scores. Integral to a seamless hotel self-check-in process, mobile key solutions allow guests to skip the front desk entirely and head straight to their room upon arrival. While that might at first seem counter-intuitive to the concept of hospitality, self-check-in improves efficiency and reduces friction by removing the obligatory stop at the front desk, and results in a more personalized experience where guests gain immediate, secure access to their room without having to identify themselves at the front desk first.

Self-check-in with mobile key greatly reduces the manual administrative load on staff. Instead of looking up reservations, charging credit cards and assigning keycards for every guest, staff can focus on actual hospitality—any hotel self-check-in experience should be supported by personnel who are available to assist guests as required and to welcome every guest with a smile.

Eliminating the need to manage keycards, mobile key technology not only speeds up the check-in process, but also improves the entire guest experience and automates access management for more efficient, secure operations.

Guests appreciate the convenience and security of mobile keys throughout their stay. Physical room keys and keycards have a way of getting themselves lost, even if only in the abyss of a handbag, but our mobile phones are always within easy reach. Which leads us to our next point…

Improved Security

Offering several layers of security, mobile key technology is the safest form of hotel access today. Physical keys and keycards are easily misplaced or stolen and can be used immediately to access a guestroom, but guest’s mobile phones are unlikely to go astray. Even if a phone is lost or stolen, the mobile key is protected first by the password, passcode or fingerprint ID required to access the phone, then by the password, passcode or fingerprint ID required to access the mobile room key. On top of that, mobile keys are protected against hacking by the latest encryption technology and transmitted in real time (only within range of the door lock) via a secure channel.   

As much as for improvements in efficiency, hotels are adopting mobile keys to enhance guest and hotel security.

Sustainable & Cost-Effective

Magstripe keycards are still the cheapest form of hotel room access, but they are prone to demagnetization, negatively impacting the guest experience. For this reason, hoteliers have been turning to more dependable RFID keycard systems, despite the greater cost. While mobile keys are more expensive than magstripe keycards, they deliver a positive return on investment when compared to RFID.

Both magstripe and RFID keycards come with a high cost to the environment however, and this is where mobile keys beat all keycards hands down. Eliminating plastic keycard waste (it’s estimated that a typical 200-room hotel disposes of approximately 12,000 keycards per year), mobile key technology significantly reduces a property’s environmental footprint and is preferred by increasingly eco-conscious travelers too.

Mobile technology is changing the way we operate as we use our phones for managing more and more aspects of our lives. Elevating the guest experience and security, and saving hoteliers time by automating guest access, mobile keys are steadily becoming mainstream in the hotel environment. WebRezPro PMS integrates with a growing list of mobile key providers, including OpenKey, STAYmyway and Lynx, to automate mobile key delivery for seamless guest check-in and effortless access management.

WebRezPro PMS Named in Capterra’s Top 20 for Hospitality Management Software

WebRezPro Property Management System is catapulting up Capterra’s Top 20 Most Popular list for hospitality management software, moving up to #7 this year! The leading online resource for business software buyers, Capterra combs through hundreds of vendors every year to determine the Top 20 most popular products based on user reviews and online search activity over the previous 12 months.

WebRezPro now has over 100 reviews on Capterra. We greatly appreciate the time our customers take to provide feedback that helps other hoteliers make a decision when implementing new software—and guides us in making WebRezPro even better.

According to the reviews, the top three things our customers love most about WebRezPro PMS are:

WebRezPro Customer Support Team

Based throughout Canada, our customer support team can be reached by telephone or email. Our customers consistently praise our support team’s responsiveness, knowledge and genuine helpfulness.

The customer support is the best that I have seen—quick and responsive, easy to understand and, more importantly, helpful.” – Liz I., Owner/Operator, Hessenland Inn

We really enjoy knowing that when we have a problem, question, or need to make changes, that our service team is so easy to work with and will help in any way.” – DeEtte V., Owner, Primrose Inn & Suites

I have worked with other hotel systems that were run by programmers. It’s obvious that WebRezPro is run by people who know the hotel business.” – Ben S., General Manager, Viamede Resort

Powerful yet User-Friendly Functionality

From reservations to housekeeping to reporting, WebRezPro is a full-featured cloud PMS for properties of all types and sizes. While WebRezPro offers comprehensive functionality, we also strive to maintain one of the most user-friendly systems on the market. And according to most of our customers, we’re getting this right!

WebRezPro does a great job at building a PMS that combines functionality with a user friendly UI.” – Rick G, General Manager, Rushmore Express Inn & Family Suites

This is, hands down, the easiest PMS system we’ve ever used. During implementation, our staff became comfortable with it almost immediately. It also significantly reduced training time for new hires because it is so intuitive.” – Lucy C., Director of Development, Riversage Inns

Our system is more complicated than most with different minimum number of nights, houses that can hold 18 people and rent only Sunday-Sunday, extra person charges, etc. but WebRezPro could do all of that and more.” – Michelle W., Stowe Motel & Snowdrift

At first WebRezPro was a little daunting, the scope of the program seemed so vast, but with all the instructional videos accessible from inside the program, it became increasingly easier to navigate.” – Kelley H., Owner/Manager, Alamos Hotel Colonial

Extensive Integrations

WebRezPro PMS offers over 100 integrations (and counting!) with other hotel systems, including GDS and OTA channels, payment gateways, revenue management systems, POS systems, lock systems, CRM solutions, reputation management platforms, and more. Our customers appreciate our extensive selection of integrations and the time saved by automating cross-system processes.

The integrations with other companies is outstanding and that’s what initially attracted me to WebRezPro.” – Christopher S., Owner, The Fred

Love that developers are constantly improving the software and are flexible, willing to listen to feedback and open to developing new interfaces.” – Jennifer M., Revenue Manager, Guest Services Inc.

Tremendous options for interfacing with OTAs as well as other operational systems.” – Scott T., General Manager, Nantucket Inn

I love how it connects with Expedia and Booking.com; makes my job so much easier and eliminates double bookings. – Chris L., Owner, McKenzie River Mountain Resort

For complete reviews of WebRezPro, visit the Capterra website. If you’re a WebRezPro user, you can even write one of your own!

Check out Capterra’s Top 20 Hospitality Management Software report for the entire list of most popular hospitality management software solutions.

The content for the Top 20 report is derived from independent research and user testing; end-user reviews and ratings; and vendor-supplied and publicly available product and company information applied against a documented methodology. The results do not constitute an endorsement by Gartner or any of its affiliates.

A Quick Guide to EMV for Independent Hotels

It has been a while now since U.S. consumers switched from swipe-and-sign to chip-and-sign (or chip-and-PIN) credit cards back in 2015. And there’s no looking back.

EMV stands for Europay, MasterCard and Visa, and is a global standard for debit and credit card security. Designed to make card-present transactions more secure, EMV cards feature a small computer chip (microprocessor) that must be inserted into an EMV-enabled terminal (chip card reader) to authenticate and encrypt the transaction, and to prove that the card is present.  

Credit card featuring an EMV chip

Protecting cardholder data from theft and reducing credit card fraud, EMV helps lodging operators and other merchants to provide customers with a safer card payment environment on site.

It’s also important to know that with the transition to chip-and-sign/PIN cards there has been a liability shift away from the card issuer to the merchant. While at this point it is not a legal requirement for merchants to adopt EMV, the merchant can be held financially responsible for fraudulent card-present transactions if an EMV payment acceptance option is not available to a customer who presents an EMV-enabled chip card.

Merchants who do provide an EMV payment acceptance option are protected from financial liability resulting from fraudulent transactions, so implementing EMV technology is not only safer for your guests, but it protects your business too.

How does EMV actually work?

While on the surface it might not seem like a big deal, inserting a credit card chip versus swiping a credit card stripe makes a big difference to payment security.

With a traditional magnetic stripe swipe card, only the card number and expiration date is needed to complete a card-present transaction. Because this information is static (it’s always the same for every transaction), it’s relatively easy for credit card data to be copied via compromised credit card readers and used to make counterfeit cards.

When making a payment with an EMV chip card in person, the card is inserted into an EMV chip card reader to validate the card and create a unique, encrypted code for that specific transaction (a different code is created for each and every transaction). The dynamic nature of single-use codes makes it virtually impossible for thieves to steal credit card data that can be used fraudulently—even if the encryption is unlawfully captured and decrypted, it wouldn’t be valid for future transactions.

A chip card inserted into an EMV-enabled terminal

Combined with point-to-point encryption (P2PE) and tokenization, EMV is part of a robust solution that not only increases payment security but keeps credit card data out of the hotel’s property management system, greatly reducing hotel liability in case of a system breach.

To accept EMV chip cards on site, hoteliers must use an EMV-enabled terminal (chip card reader) that communicates with an EMV-certified payment gateway and processor.

WebRezPro PMS is EMV certified with Shift4 and USAePay payment gateways, which support a variety of EMV-capable terminals (chip card readers) that make it easy for hotels to implement EMV within their current operations. Both gateways are certified for EMV with various major payment processors, so it’s possible for lodging operators to adopt EMV without changing service providers, allowing properties to negotiate the best rates or make a switch if preferred.

Advantages of Implementing EMV at Your Property

EMV is currently the most secure method for accepting card payments on site, and significantly reduces card-present fraud and the associated costs. Lodging operations that adopt EMV are protecting both their guests and their business.

Providing an EMV payment option helps reinforce your business’s credibility and gain the trust of your guests, which impacts the overall guest experience of your property.

As mentioned earlier, the shift to EMV has also shifted liability from the card issuer to the merchant if the merchant doesn’t support EMV chip transactions. This alone is a big incentive for hotels to implement EMV to protect themselves from the very real possibility of financial losses due to counterfeit credit card transactions.

EMV reduces the risk of costly chargebacks too. Charges are harder for guests to dispute when EMV card-present transactions are considered proof that the customer was actually there.

Last but not least, because card-present transactions pose less risk of credit card fraud and chargebacks compared to card-not-present transactions (online purchases and any time a credit card number is manually keyed in), EMV transactions incur lower credit card processing fees, which can potentially save a hotel thousands of dollars per year. (The higher the security risk you pose as a merchant, the higher your fees.)

If you haven’t already adopted EMV at your property, seriously consider the benefits of doing so. Significantly reducing card fraud and counterfeiting, EMV technology protects your business from losses due to fraudulent card-present transactions, reduces credit card processing fees, and shows your guests you care about the security of their data.

What’s next? ​Contact your merchant provider to see if they work with either Shift4 or USAePay. Once you’re set up with an EMV terminal, contact WebRezPro to complete the integration process with your PMS.

YMCA Camp Keanae – Maui

Located in Kahului, Hawaii, the YMCA Camp Keanae – Maui is set along the northern coastline and offers a variety of accommodation types including dormitory-style cabins, suites, tent and van camping and cottages. This unique property has just started using our cloud-based WebRezPro Property Management System to help manage their operations. Visit their website to see how they’re using WebRezPro’s integrated web reservation software to accept online bookings!

An Independent Hotelier’s Guide to Loyalty Programs

Loyalty programs have been a part of the hospitality game for decades. And for as long as they have been around, they’ve been the subject of much debate. Like any strategy in hospitality, some consider loyalty programs an essential part of their business and others have found them to be nothing but a liability. What it comes down to is discovering the right solution for your business. With new technology and evolving guest expectations, rewards programs come in all shapes and sizes. You just need to find the right fit.

Here’s a quick guide highlighting the benefits of a loyalty program and the various options available to hoteliers:

The advantages

When implemented well, a loyalty program can do a lot for your property. Offering benefits for continued patronage builds an emotional commitment that makes a guest less likely to book somewhere else and more likely to act as a brand ambassador in-person and online.

Loyalty programs are also a great way to incentivize direct bookings, thereby improving profit margins. In fact, a recent study conducted by the School of Hotel and Tourism Management found that a hotel’s spending on these types of programs was associated with better performance and improved overall gross operating profits. They ultimately concluded that there is “strong and scientific justification regarding the investment budget on loyalty programs.”

Points-based systems

How it works >> Points-based systems are the more traditional option available. These loyalty programs award points for purchases made at the property, from room nights to products and services, which can then be redeemed for discounted services and other perks at a later date.

Tips for success >> The biggest headaches that guests have had with traditional loyalty programs came from complicated rules and annoying restrictions. To run a successful program, member points should never expire, and be easy to redeem. Avoid placing restrictions on and setting black-out periods for reservations made with rewards. It’s also a good idea to offer a variety of options for points redemption. Having scaled options (from little things like a complimentary beverage to large rewards like a free night’s stay) will make all members feel like they have a chance to benefit from the program.

In addition to creating more flexibility in the points-redemption process, you may also wish to include more options for earning points in the first place. Offering rewards for engagement on social media and online reviews can be an excellent way to generate valuable UGC (user generated content), and members will appreciate the opportunity to score points in other ways.

Instant rewards

How it works >> Instant rewards is a much newer concept in the world of loyalty programs. Many travelers today (particularly Millennials), are looking for immediate value. The idea of a free stay in the distant future just isn’t compelling enough to sign up now.  For this reason, many hotel brands that cater heavily to a younger cohort have adopted models that forgo traditional rewards for smaller perks (like free wifi, room service vouchers, or a complimentary beverage) that can be earned through immediate actions taken (like booking direct, sharing on social media, or signing up for the rewards program). Members get the instant gratification they’re looking for and don’t have to worry about earning points and navigating the redemption process.

Tips for success >> Like anything else in business, you need to analyze the numbers to ensure you’re creating a model that benefits your business. You need to know how much an action (like booking direct or posting a positive review) saves or makes your business and then choose an appropriate reward within that margin.

Partnership Programs

How it works >> For many independent hotels, running your own rewards program isn’t particularly feasible. With just one property, it can be difficult for members to accrue enough points for it to be meaningful. This is where partnership programs come in. Companies like VOILA and Stash Rewards allow independent hotels to sign up and benefit from a shared loyalty program. Members benefit from more property options worldwide, and your hotel will gain access to a much larger pool of (already incentivized) customers.

Tips for success >>  All partnership programs are different, so make sure you know what you’re signing up for. If they take a commission for all bookings made using the program, you need to know that it’s going to be worth it. You’ll want to look into the demographic that the program caters to, the number of members, and the traffic the website receives. Be sure to read lots of reviews⏤paying particular attention to those from properties similar to your own.

A loyalty program can help your business build a dedicated base of returning guests and maximize direct bookings. Consider implementing one at your property today.

300 Clifton

Located in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota, in the Loring Park Neighbourhood, the 300 Clifton is an historic bed and breakfast listed on the National Register of Historic Places – NPS! This meticulously restored 1887 Queen-Ann Victorian mansion offers a variety of beautiful guest rooms and the home is filled with many original fixtures and furnishings that date back to early 1906.

300 Clifton has just started using our cloud-based WebRezPro Property Management System to help with their operations. Visit their website to learn more about this historic mansion and to see how WebRezPro’s integrated web reservation software enables the inn to accept online bookings!

The North Hero House & Restaurant

The North Hero House Inn & Restaurant in North Hero, Vermont, is a historic, beautifully restored country inn on Lake Champlain that has been welcoming guests since 1891. The inn’s wide range of amenities include 26 romantic rooms, an acclaimed restaurant, two full bars, beautiful event sites, a sandy beach and a marina. The North Hero House Inn & Restaurant has chosen to use our cloud-based WebRezPro Property Management System to help with their operations. Visit their website to see how they’re using WebRezPro to accept online bookings!

Ranguana Caye

Accessible by boat from Placencia, Belize, Ranguana Caye is a two-acre private island getaway that is the perfect place to unwind. The resort offers three authentic island cabanas that can accommodate up to three guests in each. All-inclusive packages are available and amenities include free WiFi, a beach bar and restaurant and use of water sport equipment including snorkel gear, kayaks and paddle boards.

Ranguana Caye has chosen to use our cloud-based WebRezPro Property Management System to help with their operations. Check out their website to see how WebRezPro’s integrated web reservation software is enabling the resort to accept online bookings!

The Independence

The Independence Hotel in Independence, Oregon offers 75 guest rooms and suites equipped with free WiFi, microwaves, refrigerators, fine bath products and luxury robes. The hotel boasts an impressive array of amenities including an onsite restaurant and bar overlooking the river, a fitness center, a business center and a hot tub.

The Independence has just started using our cloud-based WebRezPro Property Management System to help with their operations. Visit their website to see how WebRezPro has enabled the hotel to accept online bookings that are commission free!

How Hoteliers Can Turn Negative Reviews into a Positive Online Image

Responding to negative reviews is the key to creating a positive online reputation for your business.

***Guest post from BlueJay Reviews, a WebRezPro partner***

Many hoteliers dread negative reviews, however it’s important to know that when negative reviews are managed correctly, they can actually help to create a positive impression among your existing and potential customers.

When your property does receive the unfortunate negative online review it doesn’t mean that your property and service is actually terrible. The truth for any business is that no matter how great your business is, not all customers are going to leave happy. While you can’t prevent all bad reviews, you can have a game-plan for when it does happen.

Negative reviews can be a blessing in disguise

It’s only natural to be upset and defensive when a customer leaves a negative review, but these feelings are misguided. Here are two reasons why negative reviews can actually help your business:

1.) They legitimize your review pages.

A mix of negative and positive reviews shows customers that your online reviews are genuine. If a review page only has very positive reviews then consumers reading those reviews will become a bit suspicious about whether the page is genuine or not. Research has shown that customers will trust reviews more if they see both positive and negative reviews. After all, no one is perfect.

2.) They bring to light valuable feedback.

Negative reviews can uncover real problems and challenges that your property may be facing. This valuable feedback can not only help you improve your systems and processes but can also give you guidance to make simple changes that can improve your business’s overall guest experience. Also, responding appropriately to negative feedback from a guest could be the key to that guest coming back in the future.

The way you respond to negative reviews both online and in action at your property can have major consequences on your bottom line. All reviews, positive or negative, have an important place in your online reputation. The key is to effectively respond to the feedback and use it to grow your business.

Why you should respond to negative reviews

Potential future guests are looking at your property’s review pages. Research shows that 92% of consumers check online ratings and reviews before making any buying decision. This is truer in the hotel and travel industry than any other industry. 40% of consumers will form an impression of your hotels’ reputation based on those reviews.

It’s critical that potential customers who are reading your property’s online reviews gain the impression you want them to have. Customer perception is shaped by how well your business responds to negative reviews. The way you publicly respond to negative reviews shows potential customers what kind of service they will receive if they choose to stay with you. Potential customers understand that sometimes people have a negative experience at a business, but what is most telling is how that business handled that negative experience. Customers want to know that they will be treated respectfully if they choose to stay at your property.

I received a negative review: what do I do?

It’s important to take a deep breath and not let the initial emotional response you may be feeling come across online in your response. Respond to negative reviews tactfully to turn the customer’s negative experience into a positive one. Don’t be overly defensive, keep the conversation going. Make sure that you follow up with the customer until the customer’s issue has been resolved. Once the problem has been solved, you can politely ask the customer to edit the review or delete it altogether.

Here are a few helpful tips on how to respond to a negative review:

Be sympathetic and apologize. While dealing with an upset customer, take a step back and put yourself in their shoes. Whether or not it’s your fault, a polite apology can help retain the customer. The words “I’m sorry” are very powerful not only in your personal relationships with friends and family, but, believe it or not, in business as well. Even if you aren’t completely to blame, offering a sincere apology has the power to defuse a situation, sometimes even instantaneously. By apologizing, you show your guest (and potential new guests) that you hear them and acknowledge their concerns. You make it clear that you are willing to provide fantastic service for all of your guests.

Provide a solution. In addition to apologizing, offering real solutions to the problem is key. The solution should show that you’ve put an effort into the response and aren’t just posting a canned response. The solution should show genuine concern and thoughtfulness. 

Offer to take the conversation offline. If a customer is very angry it may be wise to offer to speak to them offline. Explain that this will help you ensure that the problem is resolved quickly. Don’t be afraid to provide them with your direct contact information in a private message.

Say “thank you.” Show that you appreciate their time and feedback. Be sympathetic to their concerns and thank them for leaving feedback that will help you build a stronger business.

Get more positive reviews. Responding to negative reviews is very important, but it is equally important to minimize the impact of negative publicity.  It is important to get more positive feedback coming in for your property. Email or text review requests to your customers. Studies show that 70% of customers will leave a review when asked. WebRezPro with BlueJay Reviews integration can help you automate this process when guests check out.

Stay on top of your reviews with BlueJay Reviews

Staying on top of customer feedback is hard. The BlueJay Reviews platform can help. With BlueJay you can maintain a steady stream of fresh reviews, manage feedback, respond to reviews immediately (even automatically) and share positive reviews on your social media pages plus more. To learn more about the WebRezPro integrated review management program with BlueJay Reviews please visit: https://www.webrezpro.com/partners/bluejay-reviews/