Four Management Tools Every Hotelier Needs

Independent hoteliers have a huge job. To run a successful lodging operation, they must oversee on-site operations, hire and manage staff, and develop marketing strategies—all while ensuring top-quality customer experience. It can all sound a little overwhelming, but we live in a modern time, and there are technological solutions that can do a lot of the heavy lifting. Here are the four management tools every hotelier should have in their arsenal (and a few extra thrown in for your consideration):

Property Management System

The most important tool for success in this business is a powerful property management system. The right choice will handle all front-office operations from making reservations to checking guests in and out to controlling rates and inventory. By managing these daily processes, and integrating with other core systems, the manual tasks that eat away at your time can be eliminated—allowing you to focus on more important matters.

There are a lot of options out there, and not all PMSs are created equal. So how do you know if a PMS is right for your property? Read this guide on the essential features you should be looking for in a PMS.

Content Management System

When it comes to marketing, your website is your most important asset. It’s the digital extension of your property, and likely the first experience guests will have with your hotel. So you need to leave a good impression. And guest expectations for websites are high. They need to be informative, aesthetically pleasing, and dynamic—static sites just don’t cut it anymore. That’s where content management systems come in. With platforms like WordPress, keeping your website fresh is easy because content can be updated quickly, without the need for any coding or web design abilities.

Social Media Manager

No marketing approach is complete without a social media strategy. There are over three billion users active on social sites around the world, so it should be a priority for any business that wants to be successful. But there are a lot of different platforms out there, and while you don’t need to be on every one, you’ll likely have at least a couple different profiles to curate and maintain. So how do you stay on top of all these accounts? Social media management systems (like Hootsuite) allow you to manage all your profiles from one place. You can schedule posts (so you don’t have to waste time in the middle of a busy workday), monitor keywords online (so you know what people are saying about your property), and even measure the impact of your campaigns with built-in analytics features.

Customer Relationship Manager

The hospitality industry is all about customer experience. And while things like knowledgeable staff and excellent amenities still matter, personalization is what makes a business stand out today.

Being able to offer personalized experiences requires comprehensive guest profiles. If you want to surprise a guest with their favorite coffee, you need to know what their favorite coffee is. Customer relationship managers (like Guestfolio) allow you to keep track of valuable information about your guests as well as manage email communication, send newsletters, and facilitate guest surveys.

Additional Considerations

Scheduling solutions >> From front-desk staff to housekeeping to restaurant servers, hoteliers have to schedule and manage a team on top of all their other responsibilities. Tools like Agendrix can make that job a lot easier—saving you time and reducing inconvenient scheduling mistakes.

Task manager >> Whether you’re planning an event or running a marketing campaign, undertaking projects can be daunting. Task managers, like Trello and Asana, can help you plan, collaborate on, and track the progress of any tasks big or small.

Running an independent hotel can feel a little overwhelming. Set yourself up for success with these four (or more) management tools.

Essential Elements of a Hotel Website

Your hotel’s “shop window” to the world, your hotel website is the platform through which most new customers first become acquainted with your property.

Through your website, prospective guests should get an accurate view of your property that leads to an informed booking decision. For a hotel website to successfully lead customers along the path to purchase, site design must be focused on the user experience, which comprises usability as much as visual appeal. That’s why current web design trends align with simple, uncluttered designs that are easy to use as well as easy on the eyes.

But in addition to simple design, there are other essential attributes every hotel website must have to ensure a user-friendly experience that conveys the property’s story and ultimately converts lookers into bookers.

Mobile Friendliness

According to Google, more people now search the Web using their mobile devices than desktop computers, so it’s critical for any business to ensure their website is mobile friendly. The best way to do this is through responsive web design.

A responsive website design automatically detects the device the website is being viewed on and adjusts the layout, content, menus, etc. accordingly for the best user experience on that device. This means there’s no need to design and maintain a separate mobile site; with just one website, you have all devices (and operating systems) covered, from smartphones to tablets to desktops.

Direct Bookings

Did you know approximately 60 percent of travel bookings are made online? In addition to expanding reach through OTAs, capturing commission-free direct bookings on your property’s own website is critical to the success of your distribution strategy and the health of your bottom line.

Today’s travel consumers expect to be able to book accommodation online — and many prefer it over calling or emailing a hotel for availability. Without a (mobile-friendly) online booking engine on their website, properties risk losing customers to competitors that do offer the ability to book direct online, or pushing customers to book through OTAs, which take a significant cut from those bookings.

What’s more, a direct online booking engine is available 24/7, offering customers the convenience of making reservations whenever they want, even when your office is closed, which means you’ll never miss a booking. And if your online booking engine is integrated with your property management system (as it definitely should be), it will always show customers live rates and availability and will automatically send all reservations coming through your website to your PMS, greatly reducing your administrative workload.

Clear Navigation

Google research shows that Internet users prefer websites that are easy to use and understand over visually complex sites. From room descriptions and packages to services, amenities and location information, hotels and other lodgings have a lot of information to cover so it’s especially important for hotel websites to organize content well.

Website navigation must be intuitive, making it easy for visitors to find the information they need and leading customers along a smooth path to booking. This involves organizing content with customers in mind and making sure key information such as rooms and rates, amenities, contact details and online bookings are never more than a single click away. As well as strong CTAs (calls to action) — such as “book now,” “check availability” and “view rooms” buttons — it’s important to use a familiar menu style like the horizontal navigation bar across the top of the page (or “hamburger” menu for mobile) and to keep things simple by limiting primary menu options.

High-Quality Images

Nothing conveys the experience of your property (without actually being there) more effectively than photos and video. Images say a lot about a property and are critically important to consumers throughout the hotel-selection process. While badly-taken photos put people off, images that show a property’s rooms, exterior, facilities and location in their best light have real power to sell.

Current homepage design across industries favours big hero images — those eye-catching photos that fill the entire screen — and they work especially well for hotel websites trying to immerse visitors in the stay experience. Throughout a hotel website, quality images should be used to appropriately illustrate page content. Slideshow photo galleries are especially attractive to travel shoppers.

World Web Technologies Inc.’s blog post 4 Photo Tips for Your Hotel Website offers guidance on getting property pics right.

Well-Written Copy

Well-written copy and big, beautiful images go hand in hand in telling your property’s story. Rather than simply stating the cold, hard facts, put yourself in your guests’ shoes and describe the stay experience (think sights, scents, sounds, tastes, touch) to appeal to your customers’ emotions. Use your property’s USPs (unique selling points) to shape your story and stand out from the competition.

Be careful, though, not to turn your website into a novel. Most website visitors scan through content and are put off by long paragraphs of text. Keep your property’s story short and sweet by sticking to the point of each page, putting the most important information first, using subheadings, and keeping paragraphs short.

Contact Information

It’s essential to make it as easy as possible for your customers to contact you however they prefer, be it by phone, email or even via social media. Don’t assume that everyone will complete your online contact form or wants to book online; make sure that your property’s full contact details (including a map that pinpoints your location) are readily available on a dedicated “Contact” page, and that your phone number is consistently displayed in the header of every page as well as throughout the online booking process. If you can fit the property’s email address and physical address in the header too, even better — otherwise provide full contact details in the footer of every page.

Guest Testimonials

As travel consumers, most of us check guest reviews before choosing a place to stay. As lodging operators, providing reviews on your property’s website can help provide prospective guests with the social proof they require in order to make the decision to stay with you — without leaving your site (and getting distracted by other options).

Consider including a dedicated “Reviews & Testimonials” page on your website, kept fresh and updated with a selection of recent reviews, or highlight recent reviews on your homepage and throughout your site via widgets and plugins that rotate through a selection of reviews.

Speed

We’re increasingly spoiled for choice when it comes to online services these days — and decreasingly tolerant of badly designed and slow sites. Page loading time significantly affects the user experience to the point where every second counts. Aim to have your site’s pages load within about 3 seconds, especially on mobile.

Ways to ensure quick page load speeds include optimizing images for the Web, prioritizing loading of above-the-fold-content first, enabling compression, and using responsive design.

As the face of your property online, your website is an investment you want to get right. If it is visually appealing, genuinely conveys the stay experience, and provides a great user experience across devices, it’s bound to be a hit with prospective guests and search engines alike. Our talented Web designers specialize in building successful websites for the hospitality and travel industries — drop us a line to find out how we can help turn your property’s website into a powerful revenue-generating machine.

The Lowdown on Upselling: Good for Your Hotel, Good for Your Guests

From airlines to fast food restaurants, all kinds of businesses use upselling and cross-selling to enhance the customer experience and maximize revenue on existing sales. We’re talking about airlines offering seat upgrades and wine to enhance a flight, or the McDonald’s® server asking, “Do you want fries with that?” While not all upselling efforts are well-received by customers — particularly efforts driven by the sole desire to make more money — upselling or cross-selling done right is a great way for hotels to increase guest satisfaction and loyalty as well as profit and ADR (Average Daily Rate). Is your property taking advantage of this effective marketing and revenue-generating strategy?

Technically, the terms “upselling” and “cross-selling” refer to two slightly different methods: Upselling is the process of selling a more expensive version of the service or product your customer is buying, like a room upgrade or package deal, while cross-selling is the process of selling an additional, supplementary product or service to complement the product or service your customer is buying — activities or in-room treats, for example.

Ultimately, both methods result in your customer getting more value from your property, and, in return, your property earning more loyalty and revenue from your customer; it’s a win-win situation:

>> Increased customer satisfaction and loyalty through service personalization and added value.

>> Higher profitability and ADR through increased customer spending.

>> Richer guest data for future personalization.

>> Greater utilization of property amenities.

“Upselling” is often used to refer to both techniques, defined as the process of selling a more expensive or additional service or product to an existing customer, and so, for simplicity’s sake, we will do the same in this post.

What Can You Upsell? 

You don’t have to run a luxury boutique property to offer guests added value — all types of properties can upsell. The trick is proposing products or services that offer perceived value to guests in relation to their stay at your property. Here are some examples of products and services that can be upsold (or cross-sold):

>> Room upgrades – this is a no-brainer. Hospitality training expert, Doug Kennedy, offers some great tips on upselling rooms.

>> Packages – value-added packages offer high perceived value to your guests.

>> Food and beverages – think a dinner-for-two add-on, breakfast, cocktail hour, or simply having wait staff suggest meal accompaniments to guests dining onsite.

>> In-room extras – a bottle of wine, chocolate-covered strawberries, DVD rentals or in-room massages, for example.

>> Activities – run by your property or by third parties.

>> Souvenirs – they sell themselves really!

Upselling Done Right…

Focus on Enhancing Your Guest’s Stay
In the list of the benefits of upselling, above, notice how we put “increased customer satisfaction and loyalty” at the top, above “higher profitability”? That’s because strengthening your relationship with the customer is the primary goal; if you achieve that, increased revenue will follow, naturally.

How do you use upselling to strengthen a customer’s loyalty? First and foremost, you need to understand your guests.

Use guest profile data to get to know your customer — and simply listen to them — so that you can be intuitive to your guests’ needs and make educated suggestions. For example, if a couple checking in is celebrating their anniversary, front desk staff could ask if they would like to upgrade their room or if they’d like a bottle of Champagne sent to their room. If you take the time to get to know your guests and keep detailed guest profiles, you can be much more effective at personalizing and enhancing the guest experience by meeting customers’ specific needs at the right time.

Don’t Be Pushy
As customers we all like to buy (especially while on vacation), but we generally don’t like being sold to. Coach your staff to approach upselling as a way to enhance the guest experience and they will naturally veer away from the hard sell and demonstrate a genuine desire to satisfy the guest, which usually goes over well.

Position Relevant Offers Throughout the Guest Cycle
Since the purpose of upselling is to augment the guest’s experience then it has a place throughout the guest cycle, as long as the value is apparent.

  1. During Booking: Front desk staff should gauge the needs of callers and walk-ins and offer relevant room suggestions, services and special offers. And ensure your rooms are portrayed well on your website, highlighting the advantages of each one; clear descriptions of room amenities and quality images can help rooms upsell themselves. A booking engine that allows hotel staff and online bookers to select added extras during the booking process makes upselling easy, seamless and successful.
  2. Pre-arrival: Confirmation emails and other pre-stay emails can politely inform customers of relevant services, special offers or room upgrades to enhance their upcoming stay.
  3. During Check-in: Check-in is perhaps the most opportune time to upsell. Weary travelers often welcome the option to upgrade their room or book a massage.
  4. During the Stay: When guests are immersed in their stay experience, they are typically more open to opportunities to enhance it. During a guest’s stay, you can promote relevant services to them through interactions with hotel staff, email (your emails are mobile-friendly, right?), in-room guest information books, and mobile apps.
  5. During Check-out and Post-stay: Yup, you can even upsell to guests when they are checking out and after they have left the premises! Upon check-out, invite the guest to join your loyalty program, or offer them a discount or free breakfast for their next stay. After they have checked out, post-stay emails thanking them for visiting can also promote return offers. Enticing customers to return with special offers helps strengthen the guest relationship, and the opportunity to upsell to them in the future.

Use the Right Technology
Through access to rich guest data and the ability to automate the upsell process, your Property Management System (PMS) and booking engine can make effective upselling a breeze.

For example, online booking engines that display slideshows of each room provide great potential for upselling directly within the booking process. WebRezPro PMS also offers a Booking Options feature, which allows properties to set up additional options, from in-room extras to activities, that are included in the booking form and allows users —online bookers and reservation clerks — to  easily and quickly select add-ons as they complete the room booking.

Auxiliary services purchased by your customers are tracked by your PMS or CRM (customer relationship management) software and recorded, along with other data like demographic information and stay history, to build rich guest profiles that are key to powering an effective, ongoing upselling program. With access to detailed guest data, hoteliers can target upsell offers to the right guest at the right time for higher conversion.

Done right — i.e. as a genuine attempt to enhance the guest experience — upselling is good for your guests and good for your property! To learn more about WebRezPro’s Booking Options feature for streamlined upselling, drop us a line.