Choosing a property management system (PMS) is an important operational decision for hoteliers and innkeepers. These days there’s a wealth of choices when it comes to hospitality management software (which doesn’t make the decision any easier!), so we’ve put together a handy checklist of essential features to look for and other important considerations (Part 2 of this post coming soon) to help you pick the right PMS for your property.
You’re likely looking for a system that streamlines operations by automating processes and consolidating front- and back-office data, and you are certainly looking for a system to manage reservations, invoices, room inventory, guest check-in/-out, and to help manage the overall guest experience. In respect to these core functionalities, let’s take a closer look at what a modern PMS should offer…
Visual Availability Calendar (Tape Chart)
Most modern PMS feature a graphical tape chart, which provides an overview of real-time reservations, availability and occupancy at a glance. A visual calendar helps you to better see and analyze availability, allowing you to optimize occupancy by moving reservations to different rooms, for example. Look for a calendar with a clear layout that makes sense for your property and provides necessary information at a glance, like best available rates, room status, close-outs, color-coded reservation status, etc. An interactive calendar that allows you to move and manage reservations directly on the calendar is ideal.
In the quest to personalize the guest experience, guest data is your most powerful resource. Therefore, guest profiles are an essential feature of a modern PMS — and the more comprehensive, the better. Beyond guest contact information (which is very important), look for guest profile functionality that automatically records stay history and allows you to record comments or notes about the guest, such as allergies and preferences. Comprehensive guest profiles enable the system to recognize returning guests and help lodging operators personalize future stays to increase guest satisfaction and loyalty.
Handy guest folio features include reservation alarms and pop-up reminders to alert staff of any special guest requests, VIP flagging to help staff identify particularly valued reservations, and rewards program functionality.
Booking Confirmations and Automated Guest Emails
Following up with guests manually to confirm reservations — and sending pre-arrival information and post-stay thank-you emails — takes a lot of time. A modern PMS should offer the ability to send confirmation, pre- and post-stay emails automatically, via customizable email templates triggered by parameters such as arrival/departure dates and room and rate codes. This ensures that all guest communications are delivered in a timely and professional manner.
Flexible Rate and Package Management
Look for a PMS that provides the level of flexibility you need when it comes to setting rates and creating and selling packages and discounts. Flexible rate management functionality will allow you to set up a rack or best available rate from which discount and package rates can be based, as well as completely independent rate types. Make sure you can easily change rates at any time, attach promotional codes and corporate accounts to special rates, and track package components to different revenue accounts.
Whether you want to add a temporary minimum LOS to a rate, close rates or rooms to online bookings, or close out a room for maintenance, your PMS should offer easy-to-use availability override tools for instant updates. Quick override functionality allows lodging operators to respond to and take advantage of fluctuations in demand, in the moment, to maximize revenue.
Look for a PMS that fits your property’s reporting needs. From sales reports to occupancy rates, revenue reports to night audit, a modern PMS should offer both standard and custom reporting functionality that allows you to track the right data for growing your business. Make sure reports are easily and quickly generated and exported, and if your property tracks recurring customized reports, look for a custom report templates feature that saves report parameters.
Direct Online Bookings
Because most travelers today prefer to book accommodation online, and direct commission-free bookings are healthiest for a property’s bottom line, an online booking engine is a key feature to look for in a new PMS.
Choose a PMS that offers a commission-free, mobile-friendly online booking engine that can be customized to fit the look and feel of your website. Any online booking engine included with a PMS should be fully integrated with the PMS for live rates and availability. Direct online bookings are automatically sent to the PMS and can be accepted 24/7. Make sure your online booking engine can sell special rates and packages too.
Integrated Channel Management
Updating your GDS and/or OTA inventory and rates manually is time-consuming and inefficient, and can lead to pricing errors and double bookings. If your property sells rooms through third-party channels, choose a PMS that offers two-way integration with those channels or a channel manager. Integrated channel management allows you to manage your online inventory directly through your PMS, automatically synchronizing rates and availability across all channels to save you time, maximize revenue and greatly reduce the chance of overbooking.
If your property regularly accepts group bookings, you can save a lot of headaches by choosing a PMS that offers a convenient group folios feature. Group folios provide one place from which to track and manage all reservations within a group, as well as reserved allocations, group check-in/out, and invoicing and payments.
From parking and airport transfers to business amenities and wine and chocolates, selling additional services and products is great way to increase total revenue and is an important part of a property’s revenue management strategy. A good PMS will support ancillary sales through features that make managing and tracking sales of additional products and services easy.
Look for a product and services feature that allows you to enter additional services into the system, attach them to reservations and separate point-of-sale invoices, and track ancillary sales. Make sure you can create packages that include ancillary components, and that customers can add extras to their booking during the online booking process. A PMS that offers direct, two-way integration with your POS (point-of-sale) system is important for automating the process of posting restaurant charges to guest folios.
Properties of all sizes benefit from an integrated housekeeping report that keeps track of room status in real time, automatically marking rooms that require cleaning and those that are expecting new guests, etc. The housekeeping report should allow you to assign housekeepers to certain rooms (organize the report by housekeeping sections), and should allow housekeepers to enter guest requests or housekeeping notes for each room.
Look for a PMS that offers mobile housekeeping reports so that cleaning staff can access and update their housekeeping schedules via their tablet or smartphone as they work, providing front desk staff with up-to-the-minute knowledge of which rooms are ready for arriving guests.
Integrating your PMS with your other hotel systems (POS system, payment gateway, revenue management software, channel manager, etc.) is key to maximizing operational efficiency. For example, integrating your payment gateway with your PMS allows credit card payments to be processed directly through the PMS. By automating cross-system processes you can greatly reduce your manual administrative workload and improve data accuracy.
Choose a well-connected PMS that offers the ability to integrate with your other hotel systems.
A mobile-friendly PMS offers numerous practical advantages and can help put a property ahead of the competition. From paperless check-in with electronic signature capture to on-the-go access to reports and guest profile and reservation data, a mobile-friendly PMS frees hotel staff from the constraints of the front desk, empowering staff to provide guests with more efficient, personalized service, and allowing managers to run their property from anywhere. Look for a PMS that is easy to use on your mobile device to maximize productivity and take guest service to the next level.
Staying current in an increasingly technological and competitive industry is crucial to a property’s success. At the core of your property’s operations, your PMS needs to provide the tools that will not only make your work day easier, but will keep your property ahead of the game. Stay tuned for What to Look for in a PMS Today: Part 2, which will look at other important considerations, from upgrades to security measures to support.