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.
Located in Paige, Arizona, the Red Rock Motel offers 15 guest rooms of varying styles including one- and two-bedroom suites with fully-equipped kitchens! All rooms include free WiFi, private patios and flat-screen TVs. The Red Rock Motel has just started using WebRezPro Property Management System to help with their operations. Visit their website to see WebRezPro’s integrated online reservation software in action allowing the motel to take bookings directly from their website!
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.