In Part 1 of this two-part post, we covered essential features to look for in a property management system (PMS) today, from guest profiles and reporting to integrated channel management and mobile accessibility. But in addition to software functionality, it’s also important to evaluate your prospective PMS provider in terms of whether they will be the right kind of partner for your business. In this next installment, we look at important considerations every lodging operator should keep in mind when looking for a new PMS provider.
Flexibility to Fit Your Operations
Our previous post looked at essential functionality any lodging operator should look for in a modern PMS, but it’s also necessary to confirm that the system can accommodate your property’s specific, unique and changing needs.
Whether you’re dealing with multiple owners as a vacation rental operator, are looking to centralize management of multiple locations, offer tours or activities, or just do things a little differently at your small resort, make sure your new PMS can or is willing to meet your functional requirements (and not the other way around), be it through specialized modules, software customizations, or simply a greater level of flexibility within core features.
It’s important to think ahead and check that your prospective PMS is easily scalable to grow with your business too, whether you’re looking to expand your services, add rooms or locations, or run with an innovative idea.
Intuitive User Experience
The whole point of a PMS is to streamline and improve operations, so, naturally, it should also be easy to use. An intuitive, user-friendly interface will help new and seasonal staff learn even the most feature-rich system quickly.
Look for a system that offers a clean, modern user interface design that you will enjoy looking at and using every day. It should offer intuitive features like an interactive availability calendar (tape chart), shortcut buttons and consistent menus, and should be mobile-friendly for an optimal user experience on tablets and smartphones too.
Lodging operators must take strict measures to ensure their guest data is protected from security breaches, so make sure your PMS has solid security measures in place. Look for a vendor that stores your data in a secure data centre with protocols such as 24-hour system monitoring, redundant Internet connections, diesel-powered electrical backup and continuous data backup in place. Ask about their PCI compliance for credit card processing, and security measures for the user login process, such as two-factor authentication.
When evaluating potential hotel management software, the topic of system training should come up early. Different vendors may offer different training methods, including live online training sessions (via screen-sharing software), recorded training or on-site (in-person) training; make sure that the format and level of training offered meets your requirements.
Ongoing support should also be given serious consideration. Is support included in the cost of the product? How can you contact your support team when you need them? What are the hours of operation? What are response times like? In addition to live support, are video tutorials and a user manual also available for reference?
Ask current customers and read product reviews to get an idea of the level and quality of support the vendor offers. Consistent praise for the product support team is always a good sign.
Upgrades and Innovation
Technology is evolving at an increasingly breakneck pace, so when it comes to modern software it pays to look for a provider that can keep up. Always innovating and evolving, cloud technology is making obsolete programs a thing of the past. Compared to traditional legacy systems, software updates and integrations in the cloud are much easier, quicker and more frequent.
Ask your prospective provider about standard software upgrades — they should be regular and free. Visiting the vendor’s website, blog, or signing up for their newsletter should provide a good indication of ongoing product improvement and innovation through announcements about new features or feature updates, new integration partnerships, participation in industry events, etc.
Company Expertise and Reputation
When evaluating a new PMS, take a look at the company behind it; as well as choosing a reputable product, you want to find a company you can trust to work with you going forward. Find out how long the vendor has been in business and how long their software has been used by lodging operators. Do they have a substantial and growing customer base? Look for a vendor with a proven track record in the hospitality industry.
Take the time to read product reviews, customer testimonials and case studies. Consider contacting current customers directly to ask about their experience with the software.
Compatibility with Local Regulations
Before choosing a PMS it is important to confirm that it is compatible with local requirements such as tax laws and billing regulations. Are other properties in your country or area using the software? If not, make sure that the PMS can accommodate any regional requirements before you buy.
Cloud PMS software is normally available via a monthly fee based on the number of rooms (typically $3 to $10 per room). System upgrades and feature updates should be free. Optional modules, software customizations and integrations with other hotel systems can incur additional costs.
After discussing all your needs with the vendor, find out exactly how much your system will cost to forecast your ROI. Consider the amount of time a modern cloud PMS will save you and your staff and the increase in occupancy and revenue you can expect. The benefits should far outweigh the cost.
As the center of command for all daily operations, finding the right PMS for your property is key to success. Defining your property’s needs and keeping the above considerations in mind should help point you toward the right fit. For guidance on what kind of functionality to expect from a modern PMS, read our earlier post, What to Look For in a PMS Today: Part 1 – Essential Features.
Contact us for a free, no-obligation demo of WebRezPro PMS.
As the holiday rush gears down, it’s time to focus on your strategy for getting your guests to come back. For many properties, the holiday season brings in a lot of new customers and the increased traffic presents a prime opportunity for building lasting customer relationships.
In hospitality (or any business), the key to customer loyalty is customer satisfaction — and the key to customer satisfaction is great customer service. When operations run smoothly and guests receive the kind of personalized attention that today’s guests expect, satisfied, loyal customers are the result.
Modern property management systems (PMS) support the kind of customer service that results in satisfied guests by automating processes to increase operational efficiency and by managing guest profile data to help personalize the guest experience — pre-, during and post-stay. In this blog post we’ll highlight some specific features of a modern cloud PMS that work to build customer loyalty throughout the guest cycle and help bring guests back again and again.
Guest Folio Features
From booking to post-departure, all parts of the guest cycle present valuable opportunities for winning guest loyalty, but the most crucial moment is the actual stay experience itself.
A personalized guest experience is powered by guest data. Modern cloud PMS equip lodging operators with comprehensive guest folios that allow them to manage guest reservation and profile data to personalize the guest’s stay.
In addition to notes and comments about a guest, such as allergies and room preferences, which can be saved in a guest’s profile to facilitate personalized service during future stays, guest folios can offer other guest management features designed to help property staff enhance service in the moment.
Reservation alarms and pop-up reminders can be set to alert staff of any special guest requirements on the day of the guest’s arrival before they check in, upon guest check-in or whenever the guest’s folio is opened. VIP flagging is another simple but effective way for hotel staff to identify guests that require extra special attention immediately via the guest folio.
When guest data can be accessed on the go, rather than locked behind the front desk, guest service can be taken to the next level. Cloud PMS that are optimized for mobile devices allow hotel staff to access data from the palm of their hand while interacting with guests anywhere on the property.
During busy times, guests can be checked in more efficiently by iPad-touting staff members while comfortably seated in the lounge or lobby, rather than queuing at the front desk. On-the-go access to reservation folio data and room availability allows hotel staff to log guest requests on the spot and resolve any issues in a timelier manner. Behind the scenes, mobile maintenance and housekeeping reports contribute to a more satisfying and seamless guest experience too, helping to ensure rooms are always ready for guests and that any housekeeping requests or maintenance work orders are completed promptly.
One of the major advantages of cloud-based hotel technology is the ability to integrate with other systems in order to automate cross-system processes and consolidate data, which has a direct impact on guest service.
For example, your PMS can be integrated with your payment gateway so that credit card payments can be processed directly through your PMS. Integration with GDS and OTA channels allows GDS/OTA inventory and rates to be controlled from the PMS, and GDS/OTA reservations to be sent automatically to the PMS. Integrating your point-of-sale system with your PMS automates the process of posting restaurant charges to guest folios. When your PMS shares data with CRM or guest engagement platforms, it enhances and automates the process of sending personalized guest communications.
Integrating your core hotel systems streamlines operations and makes data more accessible (and accurate), resulting in smoother operations and customer service throughout the guest cycle.
Mobile-Friendly Direct Online Bookings
With mobile now mainstream, it’s critical to ensure your property’s online experience is optimized for mobile devices. In addition to a responsive website that looks and works great on both desktops and smartphones (and everything in between), it’s important to offer your customers easy access to direct online bookings on any device.
Just like a smooth, satisfying stay experience, a simple, secure, user-friendly booking experience will also be remembered by customers (as will a complicated or frustrating one) when they are planning future trips. And with features like access codes for loyalty members or special rates for repeat bookings, a mobile-friendly online booking engine can help secure long-lasting customer relationships.
Automated Pre- and Post-Stay Emails
As you know, your business’ relationship with a guest begins well before they set foot on your property. From the moment of booking (or even an initial enquiry), every customer should receive exceptional service.
A pre- and post-stay email campaign is a powerful tool for engaging and retaining customers. A modern cloud PMS should feature the ability to send automated pre- and post-stay emails to guests, triggered by parameters such as check-in/check-out dates and room and rate codes. Part of automating this process, email templates based on occasion (for example, booking confirmation, pre-arrival, welcome, departure, post-stay feedback request, return offer, etc.) can be set and triggered either automatically or manually.
Automated pre- and post-stay email functionality helps lodging operators deliver personalized service and build lasting relationships with customers.
We can’t talk about customer retention tools without mentioning rewards (or loyalty) programs. Cloud PMS that offer this feature provide properties with an obvious avenue through which to incentivize guests to come back. A PMS-based rewards program allows a property to define its own rules — such as points earned per dollar spent, redemption terms and the rewards themselves — which is important as loyalty programs become more flexible, personalized and geared toward instant gratification.
Although happier staff is not technically a feature of a modern cloud PMS, it is a direct result of using one! When your time, energy and patience isn’t drained by inefficient systems, you can focus more time and energy on your guests. Simplifying daily operations and helping properties get to know their guests, modern hotel technology provides lodging operators with the time and tools they need to deliver the kind of service that brings guests back.
To find out how a cloud PMS helps gain new customers, read 3 Ways Cloud Hotel Management Software Attracts New Guests.
Here we are — 2017 — the whole year ahead of us! Ready to make it a good one? Perhaps you have already made some New Year’s resolutions, some of which might revolve around increasing the success of your business. For hoteliers and other lodging operators, technology is making operations more efficient and successful with every passing year. Here are the hospitality technology trends we feel are most important to put into action in the year ahead.
System Integration (and Data Consolidation)
Integrating core systems further automates processes and is key to maximizing efficiency and consolidating data.
At the heart of operations, your property management system (PMS) can be connected to other core systems such as CRM, online distribution channels, revenue management software, point-of-sale systems, payment processing software, and phone and entertainment systems, to greatly speed up tasks such as managing distribution, guest check-in and check-out, managing reservation folios, building rich guest profiles and sending targeted guest communications.
When core systems share relevant data automatically, the need to manually duplicate data across systems is eliminated, significantly cutting administrative workload and improving data accuracy and timeliness.
What’s more, integrating your PMS with other hotel systems helps bring the right data together at the right time, making information more accessible and actionable.
For example, integrating the PMS with guest engagement tools such as CRM software, guest marketing platforms, loyalty programs and mobile apps empowers lodging operators with enhanced guest insight to personalize the guest experience. When these systems talk to each other, rich guest profiles are automatically created, using data collated across systems that goes beyond simple stay history to include guest requests, preferences, travel motivations, receptiveness to promotions, feedback, etc. Armed with this kind of intelligence, lodging operators have to power to personalize service and target communications much more seamlessly and effectively.
Among other advantages, system integration is a significant motivation behind the shift from on-premise to cloud software in the hospitality industry. Built on common Web standards and open APIs, cloud software is designed with cross-application communication in mind, making integrating your core hotel systems easier and cheaper than it’s ever been.
The ability to access data on-the-go via a mobile device is another driving force behind the move to cloud hospitality software.
A mobile PMS can have a significant impact on the guest experience; with guest and reservation data at their fingertips via a tablet or smartphone, hotel staff are freed from the physical constraints of the front desk to provide more prompt and personalized service to guests wherever they may be — in the lobby, the hallway, by the pool or in the dining room.
Increasingly in demand, paperless check-in with electronic signature capture allows guests to sign registration cards or check-in receipts on a tablet or smartphone screen. Paperless check-in means arriving guests don’t have to queue at the front desk; they can instead be greeted in a more welcoming way in the lobby or lounge. And the savings in paper not only helps a hotel’s bottom line, but the planet too.
Another much-appreciated feature of a mobile PMS is mobile access to housekeeping reports. This simple feature greatly improves productivity by allowing housekeeping staff to update room housekeeping status directly to the housekeeping report via their mobile device in real time as they work.
While OTAs dominate the online hotel booking scene, hoteliers are becoming more focused on the quest to increase direct bookings. There are a variety of tools available to help lodging operators improve direct conversions and, as the year unfolds, we imagine more and more properties will be engaging them.
First, there are the aforementioned guest engagement and CRM tools such as Guestfolio, Constant Contact, Revinate and Twilio. Such platforms help properties collect and make sense of comprehensive guest data to deliver highly targeted guest communications that help turn customers into loyal direct bookers.
Revenue management software (RMS) is becoming more critical as pricing rooms becomes even more complicated. Finding the right price hinges on numerous factors; in addition to seasonal fluctuations, market demand and room type features, rates are increasingly based on more fluid variables such as channel, weather, events, competitors and even guest data and loyalty. Dynamic and personalized pricing is becoming a powerful strategy in winning direct business and more and more lodging operators will recognize the enormous value in automating this process to ensure they remain competitive in an increasingly competitive market.
Properties that are slow to adopt a mobile-friendly direct booking engine will find it hard to keep ignoring this must-have feature in the year ahead. The way we shop has forever changed as consumers look to the Internet to research and buy whatever and whenever they want. We make decisions based on a series of spontaneous yet intent-rich micro-moments, enabled by mobile devices. Therefore, providing a consistent and seamless user experience across devices (desktop and mobile) is a must for all businesses wanting to attract, convert and retain customers.
Going back to our first point, integrating certain key systems goes a long way in boosting direct bookings; your PMS, RMS and CRM make a powerful team.
Last year we heard about the success big brands were having with mobile messaging to communicate with customers, and this year we think more and more independent properties will follow suit.
From simple SMS text messaging to social media apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, mobile messaging is fast becoming the preferred quick communication method of our time. Hotels are finding that mobile messaging, when managed correctly, enhances customer service and boosts customer satisfaction and loyalty.
With a focus on service rather than marketing, mobile messaging can be used to confirm reservations, welcome guests to the property and let them know their room is ready, support concierge services, promote relevant ancillary services, receive special requests and to thank guests after check-out.
A variety of messaging platforms are available to hotels, from the aforementioned SMS text messaging and social media apps (WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger etc.) to dedicated hotel mobile applications such as Twilio, Alice and Checkmate.
While we don’t think independent properties need to go as far as trialing voice-controlled guestrooms (as Starwood’s Aloft brand is doing) just yet, it is important to ensure your guestrooms are equipped with current technology your guests expect.
Cable TV just doesn’t cut it anymore; today’s guests are looking to stream their favourite shows to (high-definition flat-screen) TVs from streaming services such as Netflix via smart TV technology or casting devices. But in order to pull this off successfully, properties must equip guestrooms with reliable high-speed Internet access. These days most hotels already offer in-room Wi-Fi, so the focus now is on making it as fast as the guest’s connection at home.
Keeping your property’s technology current is key to remaining competitive. If your property’s systems are hindering rather than helping guest service, productivity or revenue, make this the year to upgrade.
Among independent properties, cloud hospitality software has steadily gained favor over on-premise systems. Our recent blog post, Six Reasons Every Independent Hotel Should Operate in the Cloud, outlines why independent lodging operators are turning to Web-based property management systems (PMS) to improve efficiency and guest service, boost revenue and gain a competitive edge.
Here at WebRezPro, we receive a large number of inquiries from independent operators who are using manual paper- and/or spreadsheet-based methods or on-premise programs and are looking to modernize and improve operations. Many lodging operators who reach out to us are not yet sure which PMS deployment method — cloud or on-premise — is best for their business.
We understand and appreciate that lodging operators are experts in hospitality and not necessarily technology, so we’ve put together this blog post to highlight the main points of difference between cloud PMS and on-premise (or “local server-based” or “legacy”) systems. The right choice is the one that aligns with your business’ operational requirements and future objectives, and your comfort levels with the technology.
Before we look at the differences between on-premise and cloud PMS, let’s reflect on their similarities. Property management systems — both cloud-based and on-premise — are designed to automate a property’s operational processes, from front desk to back office, for greater efficiency. Modern PMS function as a property’s center of command for managing not only reservations, rates, rooms and guest billing, but also distribution, guest communications and service, housekeeping, accounting and reporting. In fact, the core functionality of a modern on-premise system and a cloud-based one is by and large the same.
When it comes to the big differences between the two, it boils down to deployment and technical requirements, cost and accessibility.
On-premise: On-premise software is physically installed on every computer from which the PMS will be accessed. Data is stored on a server located at the property. This means that data and hardware maintenance and security are the responsibility of the property.
Cloud-based: Cloud-based software is deployed over the Internet. System data is securely housed off-site in the vendor’s data center and is accessed by the property online via a secure login. A reliable Internet connection is important.
On-premise: On-premise systems require significantly more on-property hardware than cloud systems, typically including a (preferably dedicated) data server, additional/back-up servers depending on the size of the property, a terminal server if the system is to be accessed from other locations, workstations (computers) with a compatible operating system, dedicated computers for any interfaces to external systems such as call accounting and POS systems, network cards and hubs, and back-up hard drives.
While vendors of on-premise PMS may offer guidance determining the suitability of existing hardware or purchasing new items, the technical requirements of an on-premise system add considerable cost to implementation and maintenance, and benefit from in-house IT expertise.
Cloud-based: Because cloud PMS are deployed over the Internet, the software and almost all technical resources (servers, back-up systems, etc.) are housed and maintained by the vendor. All the property needs to access the PMS is a computer or mobile device, a stable Internet connection and a Web browser. No in-house IT skills required!
On-premise: With an on-premise system, data security is the property’s responsibility. In addition to installing firewalls and anti-virus programs on Internet enabled computers, keeping data safe demands measures such as securing private networks, restricting access to server rooms, manual data back-up processes, and implementing back-up servers, computers, drives and power generators.
Cloud-based: Anti-virus software is generally a good idea for any computer accessing the Internet. Aside from that (and common-sense measures like protecting system passwords and restricting access to authorized users), responsibility for system security lies with the cloud PMS vendor. Cloud software vendors have the expertise and budget to implement robust security measures and procedures (including automatic data backup, redundant Internet connections, 24/7 monitoring and diesel-powered electrical backup) that typically make cloud systems a more secure option than on-premise systems for independent properties.
On-premise: On-premise hotel management systems are a traditionally expensive investment that can cost a mid-sized hotel $10,000 to $20,000 or more for the software licence (additional licenses normally need to be purchased for each additional workstation), plus annual maintenance fees, as well as significant hardware and IT costs. An on-premise system is a capital expenditure (CapEx) that is beyond the budget of many small and mid-sized independent properties.
Cloud-based: Cloud-based systems are available under a subscription pricing model, typically based on a monthly cost of around $5 to $10 per room, and normally a one-time setup and training fee (approximately $500). The pay-per-use subscription model makes cloud PMS an operating expense (OpEx), and while the monthly cost adds up over time, the shift from CapEx to OpEx makes cloud systems a more affordable option for many independent properties. With a cloud-based PMS, there are next to no hardware expenses and software upgrades are usually free — eliminating maintenance costs and hassles.
On-premise: Modern on-premise PMS can be integrated with external systems such as call accounting software, point-of-sale (POS) systems and in-room entertainment systems but it is a complex process that requires manual technical work and additional hardware (for example, a dedicated computer between the PMS and interface system).
Cloud-based: Cloud PMS are much more easily integrated with external systems, including OTAs and channel managers, due to common Web standards and open APIs (application program interfaces), greatly reducing IT requirements while improving automation and efficiency.
Anywhere (Mobile) Access
On-premise: While it is possible for on-premise systems to be accessed remotely from an off-site computer, this ability requires additional technical setup, including installation of a Citrix or Terminal server onsite. Remote access performance can be affected by various factors, including server workload.
Cloud-based: Because cloud PMS are deployed online, the system is accessible via a secure login from any computer or mobile device connected to the Internet, anywhere in the world. Modern cloud PMS offer a level of on-the-go accessibility that cannot currently be matched by on-premise systems.
On-premise: On-premise systems typically face lengthy development cycles compared to cloud-based systems and require expensive upgrades to remain current. This is a complaint we hear often from lodging operators coming from obsolete versions of on-premise systems.
Cloud-based: Upgrades are frequent and usually free with cloud-based systems and can be deployed instantly. This means that lodging operators always have access to the latest version of software, including new features and innovations that keep them ahead of the competition.
In summary, here is a comparison chart of on-premise versus cloud PMS from a white paper we wrote on the subject:
Cloud PMS make a lot of sense for independent lodging operators who are passionate about hospitality rather than technology. Affordable, accessible, secure and current, cloud PMS eliminate technical concerns and hassles, allowing hoteliers to focus on their guests.