Best E-Commerce Practices for Independent Hotels

When you think of “e-commerce,” online retail sites like Amazon, eBay and Etsy probably first come to mind. But have you ever thought of your property’s website as an e-commerce site too?

E-commerce refers to commercial transactions that are conducted electronically over the internet, so if your hotel website processes bookings through an online booking engine then, technically, you should think of it as an e-commerce site, especially if your goal is to drive direct bookings.

Retailers have shaped consumer expectations of the online shopping experience. Today’s consumers are used to simple, seamless and secure shopping experiences online and hotel websites need to provide a similar booking experience to maximize conversions in an increasingly competitive hospitality industry.

Hotel websites must go beyond compelling visual design and great photos; a frictionless user experience is key to the success of any e-commerce site. So, start thinking about your property’s website from an e-commerce perspective and follow best e-commerce practices to ensure your website provides a simple, seamless, credible and supportive online shopping experience that turns lookers into bookers.

Simple

The most successful e-commerce sites keep things simple. Even online retail giants like Amazon that sell hundreds of thousands of products across a multitude of categories offer a straightforward and intuitive shopping experience.

Consumers prefer websites that are visually uncluttered and easy to navigate and understand. For hotel websites that means a clean, modern visual design, a clear USP (unique selling proposition), well-organized content (one topic per page), images that specifically support page content, prominent and relevant calls to action (CTAs) like “book now” and “view deals” buttons, and familiar menu formats for intuitive navigation. 

The online booking engine must also offer a simple, intuitive user experience that guides users effortlessly through the booking process. Avoid overwhelming users with too many options and reduce the steps to complete a booking as much as possible by only asking for the minimum amount of information required to make a booking. Personalization is important here too; your online booking engine should recognize repeat customers and auto-complete information as appropriate to simplify the reservation process.

An uncomplicated path to booking is key to converting website visitors into paying guests.

Seamless

A seamless user experience goes hand in hand with simplicity. It’s important to eliminate any obstacles to booking—you don’t want to give customers any excuse to bail. As mentioned above, simplicity helps pave the way to booking via an easily understandable and navigable website and online booking process. 

As well, look at your website from a more technical perspective to ensure a seamless user experience that eliminates friction.

Ensure pages load quickly; approximately half of website visitors abandon a page that takes more than three seconds to load. You can run your website through a page speed test (like Google’s PageSpeed Insights) to find out how your website performs and what you can do to make it faster—because every second really does count.

Today’s online consumers frequently switch between desktop and mobile devices (and browsers), so a website that functions optimally across devices is key to a seamless online user experience. A responsive website and booking engine automatically detects and adapts itself to the screen it is being viewed on, adjusting layout, content and functionality accordingly to present an optimal and consistent user experience on all screens.

In addition to being mobile friendly, your online booking engine should offer a branded experience with a similar look and feel to your website to create a seamless booking experience and gain customers’ trust. Even basic customization of your booking engine with your logo and background colour helps support credibility of your business (which brings us to the next point)…

Credible

Successful online retailers earn consumers’ trust by establishing credibility. Professional product images, customer reviews, contact information, payment and shipping policies, affiliation badges and secure URLs are all important elements of an e-commerce website that help gain customer confidence.

Make sure your hotel website demonstrates your property’s authenticity and reassures prospective guests that it’s safe to book direct online.

Do this by investing in a quality website design and professional, high-res images of your property (avoid stock photos) that accurately portray the stay experience. Include guest reviews throughout your site or on a dedicated page, and add social media icons to your header or footer that link to your social channels, to provide your customers with the social proof that will convince them to book with you. Most review sites and social media channels provide widgets that display a live feed of your reviews, ratings and posts directly on your website.

Display trust symbols like a TripAdvisor badge (if your property is doing well on TripAdvisor), and affiliation badges for any relevant memberships you have, for example, with your local Chamber of Commerce, lodging association or eco-friendly certification, to show you take your business seriously.

Make sure you’re providing your customers with a safe shopping experience with secure URLs (secure URLs begin with https rather than http), and that goes for your online booking engine too. Display a Best Rate Guarantee and make booking and cancellation policies readily available for customers.

Supportive

Without easy and instant access to customer support, online shoppers are more inclined to abandon their shopping carts if they have a question about the purchase. The same goes for travelers booking accommodation online.

Live chat is a common element of e-commerce websites, allowing an agent to help customers via real-time messaging as they are shopping. Now, AI-based chatbots, which can handle basic queries well, are replacing live chat. An increasing amount of hotel websites successfully employ live chat or a chatbot to answer prospective guests’ questions and guide them down the purchase funnel.

Whether or not you use live chat or a chatbot on your property’s website, it’s crucial to display contact information—especially a phone number and email address—on every page of your website (ideally in the header) so that customers can reach out at any point. Including social media icons in your header too will catch those millennial customers who prefer to communicate with businesses through their social channels.

But it doesn’t stop there. Once a customer completes a booking through your website, continue to offer excellent customer support via booking confirmation and pre-arrival messaging that invites them to upgrade their stay, informs them of useful property information, or asks if they have any special requests. They’ll feel reassured about their choice to book with you, and you’ll have laid the foundation for a loyal customer relationship.

Much more than a pretty digital brochure, hotel websites today are highly functional e-commerce sites designed to drive direct online bookings. Make sure your hotel website engages proven e-commerce practices to maximize conversions.

8 Key Performance Indicators Hoteliers Should Be Tracking

Running a hotel is a complicated job with a never-ending list of responsibilities. It can be easy to get caught up in the day-to-day tasks that keep your property running smoothly and forget about taking time to assess your business’s performance. But, as they say, you can’t improve what you don’t measure – so start measuring.

Here are eight important key performance indicators (KPI) every hotelier should be tracking:

Financial KPIs

Average Occupancy Rate (AOR) >> The AOR measures the percentage of rooms that are occupied over a specific period. It is calculated by dividing the number of paid rooms occupied by the total rooms available (for the desired period) and multiplying that figure by 100.

Occupancy is an essential indicator of hotel success. Increased AOR typically means increased revenue, so you should pay careful attention to this figure. Check out our past blog post for ideas on increasing occupancy at your property.

In addition to providing insight into hotel performance, knowing your AOR is critical for operations. This metric can help you staff your hotel appropriately and manage inventory effectively.

Average Daily Rate (ADR) >> The ADR measures the revenue generated by each room on average. It is calculated by dividing total room revenue by the number of rooms sold. You should be comparing your ADR to the average costs per room to ensure profitable pricing decisions.

For tips on improving ADR at your property take a look at this past post.

Average Rate Index (ARI) >> The ARI indicates how your ADR compares to that of your immediate competitors. It is calculated by dividing your ADR by your competitors’ average ADR. This figure can help you determine if, and how, you should be adjusting your pricing.

Revenue Per Available Room (RevPAR) >> RevPAR is often considered the most important figure for analyzing hotel success. Although similar to ADR, it includes the rooms that are sitting empty in the calculation (RevPAR = total room revenue / number of available rooms).  Because this ratio accounts for both revenue and occupancy, it serves as a good snapshot of success and profitability.

Revenue Per Available Customer (RevPAC) >> RevPAC (calculated by dividing the total revenue from hotel guests by the number of hotel guests) reflects the average revenue generated by a single customer. This figure accounts for ancillary revenue sources (from spa treatments to food and beverage purchases to pet fees) in addition to room revenue.

Check out our past blog post for ideas on increasing ancillary revenue, and therefore RevPAC, at your hotel.

Customer Acquisition Cost >> This metric indicates how much cost is invested in acquiring each new customer. You can compute it by summing the total amount spent on sales and marketing and dividing that figure by the number of clients acquired through those efforts. Calculate the CAC for individual channels to determine which ones are worth continued investment.

Guest Satisfaction KPIs

Online rating >> In the age of the internet, hoteliers no longer have to wonder how their guests felt about their stay; online reviews provide explicit and measurable feedback. You should be aware of the number of reviews and overall rating your hotel has on sites like Google and TripAdvisor, and making efforts to improve both.

Read this blog post for tips on improving your ratings online.

Guest engagement >> People engage with the brands that they trust and love, so how much engagement you get online can be a good indicator of overall guest satisfaction. Track the number of likes, comments, and shares your content is getting on social media platforms for a sense of how contented and loyal your guests are.

Running a successful business requires constant self-assessment and adjustment. Track, and regularly assess, these KPIs so you can run a more efficient and profitable property.

Bizarre Hotel Guest Requests (and How to Handle Them)

From demanding a meal after the kitchen is closed to requesting a room change because the feng shui isn’t quite right, most hotels deal with challenging guest requests on a daily basis. But we bet most requests pale in comparison to the following real-life examples…

We’ve scoured the internet for some truly bizarre guest requests that were actually granted. Read on to find out how far above and beyond some properties will go for their guests—and how your property can too.

Celebrity Requests

Apparently rock star Don Henley has his bed follow him by truck wherever he goes. When staying at the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver, Colorado, he requested that his bed be moved into his hotel room. He then later asked for it to be removed as the hotel bed turned out to be plenty comfortable enough after all. Sure, why not? Moving large beds in and out of hotel rooms is a piece of cake!

You often hear of celebrities complaining about their lack of privacy, but it seems some complain when they get too much of it too. The staff at Tides Inn in Irvington, Virginia, were trying to respect an unnamed celebrity guest’s privacy, but after three days of giving the special guest space and refraining from asking for autographs and photos, they were asked by the guest’s assistant to drum up some fanfare. The hotel’s concierge organized staff into three groups—one to request autographs, one to request photos, and one to learn all they could about the Very Important Person in order to gush about their past roles, award wins and charity involvement. Perhaps it’s really the staff at Tides Inn that deserve an Oscar?

Spanish artist, Salvador Dalí (1904 – 1989) once requested a small herd of sheep be sent to his hotel room at Le Meurice in Paris so he could shoot at them with a pistol filled with blanks. The mind simply boggles.

Requests for Animals

Thankfully not quite as disturbing as shooting at sheep, the following animal requests go way beyond a bowl of water and dog treats.

Twenty pounds of ice was requested for penguins staying at the Seaport Boston. The penguins were traveling as part of the Boston Globe Travel Show—and staying in a hotel room bathtub. Of course.

The concierge team at the Fairmont Copley Plaza, also in Boston, sourced a large egg incubator for a guest’s ostrich egg! At least it might come in handy for other guests traveling with ostrich eggs…

A guest requested the Hotel Plaza Athénée in Paris to find two lion cubs for their daughter’s birthday party. (Miniature ponies are so passé.)

Requests for Special Occasions

It’s not just birthday parties that warrant special attention… Just four hours before her wedding, a bride staying at the Hotel Vintage Park in Seattle asked hotel staff to have her wedding dress dry cleaned as she had only just realized she got it dirty celebrating out on the town the night before. The hotel concierge managed the urgent feat just in time, meeting the bride at the wedding venue with the freshly cleaned dress. Phew!

The concierge team at the Sofitel Chicago Magnificent Mile staged an early Christmas for a couple staying in December, right before the husband shipped out for military service. The wife sent gifts and tree ornaments in advance, and the concierge team set up a real tree in the guests’ room, decorated it, hung the stockings and wrapped the presents—all ready for the guests’ arrival. Awwwww.

Upon-Arrival Requests

Speaking of in-room items requested for guest arrival, photos of famous people are popular. Staff at the Huntley Hotel in Santa Monica, California, filled a couple’s room with photos of Jeff Goldblum, as requested. The satisfied guests arrived to find framed photos of the star on the desk, in the bathroom and beside the bed.

A woman staying at the Hotel Indigo in San Antonio, Texas, for a boring work conference thought she might spice up her stay by requesting a photo of Nicolas Cage from Con Air. Hotel staff happily complied, placing the framed photo beside the bed with a note that said, “Sweet dreams!”

Pillow forts are another popular request made by bored guests. Staff at the Fairmont Winnipeg left a DIY fort kit in the room of a guest who made such a request. The W, Seattle also fulfilled a guest’s request for a pillow fort—along with a towel folded into the shape of an elephant and a picture of fruit on the night table. Yes, a picture of fruit.

Particularly Narcissistic Requests

While many of the previously mentioned requests are undeniably narcissistic to a degree, the following requests really take the cake.

A guest at The Savoy, London, apparently thought they were Cleopatra reincarnated and asked for a bathtub of wild goat’s milk to bathe in. Another indulgent bath was requested by a guest staying at The Ritz (also in London) who wanted to bathe in fresh seawater. Hotel staff had to bring the seawater all the way from Brighton, 56 miles away. Is there something wrong with London’s tap water?

An Australian couple planning their wedding at the Towers of the Waldorf Astoria New York requested near life-size statues of themselves—made of chocolate. The Waldorf’s pastry chef stepped up to the challenge. Working from photos and communicating with the couple by email, it took several months to create a likeness that met the guests’ satisfaction. For the Waldorf’s sake, we hope these guests were as sweet as their statues.

Granting Your Own Guests’ Special Requests

Thankfully, such extravagant requests are uncommon, but going above and beyond for your guests is the best way to earn their loyalty and advocacy.

While the practical side of fulfilling unusual guest requests (like finding lion cubs or creating chocolate copies of guests) can be complicated, the administrative side doesn’t have to be. With the right systems in place, all kinds of requests can be logged and tracked efficiently for quick resolution that leads to satisfied guests.

A modern property management system (PMS) features a range of practical tools to help ensure no request goes unaddressed.

Reservation reminders and alarms that can be attached to guest folios or set as daily reminders help staff keep on top of all time-sensitive tasks—whether it’s to call that ostrich farm about an egg incubator as soon as their office opens, or to send someone to fetch some goat milk in time for a guest’s bath.

A modern PMS will include an integrated housekeeping report too, allowing notes and/or alarms to be attached to individual units to help both housekeeping staff and front desk personnel keep up with in-room requests, from extra pillows to full-blown pillow forts.

Fulfilling guest requests, especially extravagant ones, can come with additional costs that are passed on to the guest. A PMS with point-of-sale functionality greatly simplifies invoicing (and accounting), allowing you to set up miscellaneous products and services, apply a cost, and easily add these incidental charges to reservation folios.

Some properties use hotel/guest communication management solutions like Nuvola and Zenya that provide guests with a convenient way to communicate with the property and make requests. Designed to personalize the guest experience and more effectively meet individual needs, these solutions streamline guest communications, tracking requests in real time and simultaneously coordinating all action items. When your PMS is directly integrated with guest engagement solutions like this, the administrative side of tracking and managing requests and tasks becomes fully automated for maximum efficiency and guest satisfaction.

In the hospitality industry, customer satisfaction is paramount. We think the above-mentioned properties—who handled such bizarre guest requests with grace and aplomb—are at the top of their game. Backed by a modern PMS, your property too will be equipped to manage all kinds of requests, increasing customer satisfaction and winning the loyalty of even the most demanding guests (whether you want to or not!).

Boost Off-Season Occupancy with Staycation Bookings

As we leave the peak travel season behind us, it’s time for hoteliers to implement strategies to maintain occupancy as best as possible. Beyond dropping room rates there are more resourceful ways to boost reservations—marketing your property to staycationers is one of them.

A staycation is a vacation taken close to home, normally within a comfortable driving distance. As our lives are becoming increasingly busier, staycations are becoming increasingly popular. Whether it’s an overnight stay in a local hotel or a camping trip at the beach, a quick getaway that doesn’t require getting on a plane is an attractive option for families, friends and couples who are short on time and looking for an easy, budget-friendly escape from their daily routine. In fact, staycationing is such a convenient way to get away from it all that staycationers tend to get away more often—at any time of year.

Attracting locals to your property not only helps maintain occupancy rates during the off season (and all year round), but offers the potential to grow a loyal customer base. Show local visitors a great time and they’ll come back again and again.

Focus on Food

A big part of travel and escaping the daily routine is enjoying local cuisine—and not having to cook! While staycationers are most likely already familiar with the local fare, the luxury of having it prepared for them is a compelling reason in itself to book a weekend away. Take advantage of this by promoting your property’s dining services and/or culinary hotspots in your neighbourhood through packages and discounts, or simply by highlighting recommended restaurants on your website and social media channels.

Cooking classes and wine tastings can attract locals looking to do something a bit different.

Promote Local Events

Staycationers often look for activities and events to spice up their normal routine, so get involved with what’s happening in your community to provide a stay that excites and refreshes. In addition to recommending local restaurants, promote local events and activities too. Consider partnering up with tour operators and event organizers to offer packages or discounted tickets.

Organize & Promote Your Own Events

If you have the space, consider organizing onsite events that attract locals. Think markets and fairs, snowman competitions, art exhibitions, live music, etc. Even locals who only turn up for the event but don’t stay the night will get the chance to familiarize themselves with your property and may then follow you on social media (where you can inspire them to try a staycation with you).

If your property caters to private functions such as weddings and corporate events, boost marketing efforts for these services to attract local clientele.

Create Packages

Long-distance travelers aren’t the only ones who enjoy value-packed and hassle-free vacations afforded by packages. Bundling accommodation with activities (from dining to spa treatments to boat tours) provides guests with an experience that allows them to save money and time compared to organizing everything themselves, and that appeals to locals looking for a quick getaway too.

Offer Free Parking

If you typically charge guests for parking, consider including it as a perk for staycationers. Because staycationers are more likely to arrive by car than long-distance travelers, free parking is a very relevant amenity that will be much appreciated.

If you typically charge guests for parking, consider including it as a perk for staycationers. Because staycationers are more likely to arrive by car than long-distance travelers, free parking is a very relevant amenity that will be much appreciated.

Highlight Local Gems

Vacationing close to home gives people a chance to get to know their region better. Help them discover experiences that might be new for them, from tourist-centered activities like Segway tours and wildlife viewings to hidden local gems like the new cat café or a family-friendly nature trail.

Reveal neighbourhood hotspots in a local guide section of your website, on social media and share local recommendations with guests on site.

Welcome Pets

It’s much easier (and cheaper) to travel with a dog in a car than on a plane, so many staycationers will choose to bring their pets. If you don’t want to rule these travelers out, welcome their fur babies with pet-friendly rooms and amenities.

Reward Loyalty

Because staycations are typically easier and more budget friendly than vacations in far-off lands, travelers staying close to home are more likely to staycation more frequently, whenever their schedule allows for two or three days away. Reward them for their loyalty to keep them coming back and inspire them to tell their friends about you.

Think discounted rates, a free drink, and personalized service and communications that cater to their preferences and needs—from dietary restrictions to their preferred room type to the special occasion they might be celebrating.

Be Active on Social Media

Guests from nearby are more likely to follow your property on social media. Because your property is part of their local experience, you have the power to be especially relevant to them. They will be eager to learn of specials, events and activities you are promoting, and to be reminded of the wonderful time they can have at your property.

Keep your property’s social media accounts active with regular posts and stories that highlight the distinctive local experience you offer.

Staycation bookings help properties reduce reliance on seasonality, and offer a great opportunity to develop a loyal customer base. Show local guests they can experience something new and special when vacationing close to home, and your property is bound to become their go-to weekend getaway.

With all these bookings coming in, you’ll want to make sure your reservation system can keep up! Read our recent article on what to look for in an online booking engine.

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.

A Good Sleep and a Quick Check-in Most Important Drivers of Guest Satisfaction

Pillow mints and chatbots are all well and good, but when it comes to satisfying guests it pays to focus on the basics. A good night’s sleep and a swift check-in are two of the most important elements of the guest experience, according to the recently released J.D. Power 2019 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index (NAGSI) Study.

Measuring guest satisfaction with the entire hotel experience (from booking to post-stay communication), the study analyzed the responses of almost 45,000 guests regarding their overall experience based on a stay within the last year. The study, now in its 23rd year, includes 85 officially ranked hotel brands in six market segments (economy through luxury), and offers important insights to hoteliers about guest expectations, satisfaction and industry trends that can be applied to their own properties to help drive guest satisfaction and loyalty.

“Of all the discrete variables of the hotel guest experience we measure, a better-than-expected night’s sleep is the one with the potential to drive the highest level of overall guest satisfaction for those hotels that can deliver,” said Jennifer Corwin, Senior Manager of Consumer Insights for Travel & Hospitality Intelligence at J.D. Power.

Let’s take a closer look at the study’s findings—and at how properties can ensure they’ve got the basics right.

A Good Night’s Sleep

A good sleep does wonders for our physical and emotional well-being, so it’s not surprising that quality of sleep is a core element of a hotel stay.

A better-than-expected sleep impacts overall satisfaction scores by an increase of 114 points (on a 1000-point scale), however, only 29 percent of hotel guests experienced such sweet slumber. Of the guests who were lucky enough to enjoy a better-than-expected sleep, 78 percent say they “definitely will” return to that property.

So, what exactly does it take for a superior sleep? The study confirms what you no doubt already know—the top contributors are: a comfortable bed; a quiet room; comfy pillows; room temperature; and quality linens. But what you may not already know is that quality-of-sleep satisfaction scores are also higher when hotels provide sleep-enhancing accessories like white noise machines, earplugs, and robes and slippers.

An Efficient Check-in Process

The J.D. Power study also highlighted the importance of a quick yet friendly check-in process. Key elements of the check-in experience that impact guest satisfaction are: efficiency (ideally five minutes or less); accuracy; and a warm welcome. Satisfaction scores fall as much as 100 points when any of those criteria are not met.

A modern property management system (PMS) is crucial to an efficient, accurate and welcoming check-in process. Automating administrative tasks and providing all necessary data at your fingertips, a PMS makes it easy to create and look up reservations, access guest data, recognize returning guests, assign rooms and manage billing.

Integrating the PMS with other hotel systems like online booking channels, payment gateways, electronic locking systems, and self-check-in apps and kiosks, streamlines the check-in process even further, eliminating the need to manually crosscheck and duplicate data between systems.

Through data automation and an intuitive user interface, a modern PMS greatly simplifies the check-in process so that administrative tasks do not distract attention away from the guest. Plenty of eye contact and warm smiles make guests feel much more welcome than extended moments of silence as the check-in agent stares at a computer screen.

It’s easy to get distracted by the latest gadgets and trends, but when it comes down to it, a pleasant welcome and a good night’s sleep will always be central to the stay experience. If you get these fundamentals right, research demonstrates you’re well on your way to satisfying your guests and earning their loyalty.

Go Greener with a Cloud Hotel Property Management System

Increased global average temperatures, rising sea levels and changing weather patterns prove the time is now to step up and take action for a more environmentally friendly way of life. This beautiful planet of ours is the only home we’ve got, and we’ve got to take care of it.

We need to make greener decisions at work, at home and when we travel—and we are, now more than ever. According to Booking.com’s 2019 Sustainable Travel Report, almost three quarters (72 percent) of travelers believe people need to make sustainable travel choices now to save the planet for future generations. Seventy-three percent of global travelers intend to stay in eco-friendly accommodation at least once in the year ahead—a figure that’s been trending up year over year from 62 percent in 2016. Environmental friendliness sways booking decisions too, with 70 percent of global travelers more likely to book accommodation knowing it was eco-friendly, whether they were looking for a sustainable stay or not.

Green practices are becoming more important for businesses to attract increasingly eco-minded consumers. But going green is most important simply because we are responsible for the health of our planet.

There are many ways lodging operations can decrease their ecological footprint. Linen reuse programs, recycling, energy-efficient lighting, smart in-room energy controls, low-flow shower heads, non-toxic cleaning products, refillable shampoo and body wash pumps, filtered water (instead of bottled water), and composting are some popular examples. But did you know that your choice of property management system (PMS) can also impact your property’s ecological footprint?

Choosing a modern, cloud PMS that is accessible on mobile devices and integrated with your other hotel systems is a much greener choice than one that is not.

A Cloud Community

Unlike legacy systems that require substantial on-property technological infrastructure, including servers and cooling systems, cloud PMS are completely deployed online. Beyond a computer, a cloud PMS doesn’t require any on-property hardware, decreasing on-site power demands.

Cloud technological infrastructure (data servers, back-up systems, cooling equipment, etc.) is located remotely, in dedicated, secure data centers and shared among multiple users—optimizing server utilization for greater global energy efficiency.

While a small property switching from a legacy system to a cloud PMS may not notice significant energy savings as their system server requirements were low, the combined energy impact of multiple properties switching their property management systems to the cloud is huge.

Paperless Functionality

With a modern cloud PMS, hotel and reservation data is more readily available than ever. Cloud PMS that are optimized for mobile devices are accessible via a tablet or smartphone, eliminating the need to print reports and schedules in many cases. Instead, data can be accessed on the go directly from the system.

Mobile housekeeping reports allow housekeepers to access their assigned cleaning schedule and update room status in real time using their mobile device. There’s no need to print work schedules, saving paper while significantly improving productivity and inter-staff communication. And with instant access to live room status, housekeepers can attend to vacated rooms sooner, ensuring lights, TVs and thermostats are all switched off promptly.

Just think of the paper savings with a PMS that offers paperless check-in via electronic signature capture, allowing guests to sign check-in receipts on a tablet or smartphone—which can then be emailed to the guest.

Deforestation is a major contributor to climate change, so reducing paper consumption is an important way to help save our planet.

Eco-friendly Integrations

Cloud PMS are easily integrated with other hotel systems for greater workflow efficiency through data automation. Direct integrations with room control systems and mobile key solutions, in particular, provide practical ways to improve energy efficiency too.

Connecting your PMS to such systems helps reduce energy use and costs by facilitating automatic control of in-room lights and thermostats triggered by guest check-in and check-out. Mobile key integrations eliminate the need for plastic keycards, greatly reducing waste.

A modern, well-integrated, mobile-friendly PMS streamlines daily operations and improves a hotel’s bottom line in many ways—not least of which include improving energy efficiency and reducing costs while doing so. Eco-friendly practices are becoming more important than ever for businesses and individuals alike to implement. Going greener with a modern cloud PMS is one way your hotel can reduce its ecological footprint, and help preserve this beautiful planet we call home.

3 Ways to Win Guests with Hotel Tech You Already Have

Winning guest loyalty in today’s extremely competitive market is more challenging than ever, but hotel technology is always evolving to meet that challenge. From mobile keys to chatbots to room control apps, technology that once seemed futuristic is being used by guests in hotels today—albeit mostly at big-brand properties.

While such technology will become more accessible to independent properties in time, smaller hotels have the power to win guests with technology they already have.

Earning guest loyalty is about fulfilling the guest’s emotional needs from their stay, not impressing them with flash gadgets. If you make guests feel welcome and valued and contented, you’ll win their hearts and future business.

Here’s how…

Woo Them with Your Website

A property website is the cornerstone of any hotel’s digital marketing strategy and, by now, most properties have one. Is yours bringing website visitors through your property’s doors?

Your website is often the first point of contact guests will have with your property, so the first step to winning them over is by providing an authentic, user-friendly experience online.

Let current design trends guide the look and feel of your website with big, beautiful images, compelling copy and intuitive navigation that seamlessly combines to tell your property’s unique story. But be sure to portray an accurate representation of your property and the stay experience; building up guest expectations online just to dash them at the door only results in disappointed guests who won’t come back (and might leave bad reviews).

As most internet traffic now comes from mobile devices, it’s essential your hotel website is mobile friendly to give your customers a seamless user experience across devices. And that includes your online booking engine. Today’s consumers have come to expect the convenience of purchasing almost anything they want, whenever they want, online. Your online booking engine must provide an intuitive, user-friendly and secure booking process across all devices to convert website visitors into paying guests.

Win Them Over with Great Customer Service

As the control center of hotel operations, your property management system (PMS) is crucial to delivering great customer service. From reservation confirmations to guest check-in to housekeeping, modern PMS centralize and automate data to streamline daily workflow for higher efficiency that results in smooth service delivery and more time to focus on guests.

For example, a PMS’ integrated housekeeping module centralizes data between the housekeeping and front desk departments, showing front desk staff which rooms are ready for check-in, and housekeeping staff which rooms have been vacated and are ready for cleaning—in real time—ensuring no guest is checked into an unclean room. Such data transparency helps staff serve guests faster and more effectively.

A modern PMS also allows hotels to collect guest data in reservation folios and guest profiles for the purpose of personalizing the guest experience, from recognizing repeat guests and rewarding their loyalty to identifying guest preferences and personalizing communications.

Make use of your PMS’ inbuilt housekeeping and reservation alarms, flags or pop-up reminders to provide the kind of attentive service that will win guests over, whether granting a guest’s request for extra pillows, or leaving a complimentary bottle of wine for the couple celebrating their anniversary.

A feature of most PMS for independent hotels today, automated guest emails are a simple yet effective way to personalize the guest experience and earn guest loyalty. Using reservation data, automated emails are triggered by designated parameters (including booking and reservation dates and room and rate types), resulting in highly targeted communications that are relevant to recipients. Pre-arrival emails provide a prime opportunity to ask customers about any special requests or requirements regarding their upcoming stay, allowing you to anticipate their needs and showing guests you care.

Wow Them with Extras

Surprising and delighting guests is a sure way to win their loyalty, and doesn’t take high-tech gadgets to do so.

For today’s travelers, though, it does mean fast, reliable WiFi. While wireless internet is no longer an extra but a necessity (free WiFi is the number one preferred hotel amenity among travelers), a strong WiFi connection is appreciated and noted by guests, especially those who have experienced frustrating connections at other hotels.

Beyond good WiFi, delighting guests is aided by high-touch rather than high-tech efforts and goes hand in hand with personalizing the guest experience. A vital tool for delivering great customer service, modern PMS empower hoteliers to go the extra mile for their guests.

Using guest data contained in the PMS, hotel staff can anticipate guest needs and tailor repeat stays to past preferences. Whether it’s a simple note welcoming a guest back, or complimentary safe snacks for a guest with food allergies, thoughtful personal touches go a long way in earning loyalty.

PMS with built-in POS functionality and a flexible online booking engine that accommodates add-ons or booking options, allow properties to offer guests the option of tailoring their stay with on-demand extras purchased during their stay or at the time of booking. From wine and chocolates to spa treatments and activities, the ready availability of ancillary services and products can elevate the guest experience and contribute to your property’s wow factor.

Winning the hearts of your guests is all about how your property makes them feel. If you make things easy for them (like booking a room, checking in and accessing great amenities), and make them feel valued through attentive and personalized service, they’ll be back. With a great website and user-friendly online booking engine, a modern property management system and, of course, fast WiFi, your property is already well-equipped to win loyal guests.

7 Simple Ways Independent Hotels Can Personalize the Guest Experience

Personalization is a hot topic in hospitality and it’s important the industry keeps talking about it. The quest to personalize the guest experience not only inspires better customer service, but better hotel technology too; the kind of technology that improves guest satisfaction, operational efficiency and a property’s bottom line. 

As technology empowers travel businesses to target their customers more effectively, travelers have come to expect more personalized service. As always, hotels must strive to meet and exceed guest expectations and, in today’s increasingly competitive landscape, that means personalizing every guest’s stay in order to stand out and build guest loyalty.

Unfortunately, operators of small, independent lodgings can feel left out of the conversation, thinking that personalizing the guest experience is a trend that requires complicated, expensive systems and loyalty programs that the budget won’t accommodate.

But personalization is no longer a trend—it’s an expectation. And it isn’t complicated or expensive to put into practice. In fact, small, independent lodgings are perfectly positioned to personalize the guest experience. Here are seven simple ways to do it.

1. Build Guest Profiles

A truly customized guest experience starts with guest data. If your property uses an automated property management system (PMS)—and most independent properties do these days—all the data you need should already be at your fingertips.

Your PMS should allow you to collect and store guest information, automatically recording stay history and contact details in guest profiles so that you can identify repeat guests and treat them extra special. You should also be able to save additional information to guest profiles, such as birthdays, anniversaries, preferences and interests. Staff learn a lot about guests during interactions throughout the stay cycle and this valuable data should be recorded and used to personalize the guest experience by anticipating needs and surprising and delighting.

2. Send Pre- and Post-Stay Emails

Email is still one of the most effective customer engagement tools, with hotel pre-arrival emails boasting an average open rate of over 50 percent. Modern PMS and CRM systems for independent properties make sending personalized pre- and post-stay emails effortless. By setting up email templates that pull reservation information, personalized emails can be automatically triggered by stay or booking dates and other parameters like room and rate codes.

Pre-arrival emails provide the perfect opportunity to start tailoring the guest experience through pre-stay surveys designed to find out more about guest needs and preferences (for example, dietary and  transportation requirements, reason for travel, etc.). You can also offer ways to enhance the guest’s stay through room upgrades and added extras, giving your guest the opportunity to customize their experience, while your property benefits from the opportunity to boost ancillary revenue. Even a simple invitation for the guest to let you know of any special requirements or how you can make their stay exceptional makes customers feel valued. 

After a guest’s stay, post-stay emails can help grow loyalty and provide properties with valuable feedback that can be used to improve and personalize future stays. Send an email to every guest thanking them for their visit and asking for feedback on their stay experience.

Whenever a guest communicates special requests or feedback, be sure to record any relevant notes in their profile.

Down the track, simple, personalized marketing communications can be triggered automatically (by booking or check-in dates) inviting the guest back. Tell them you miss them, ask if they miss you, invite them back with a discount code.

3. Tailor Packages and Add-ons

Packages and ancillary services that are relevant to your guests add value to their stay and enhance their experience. So design packages and offer special extras that appeal to your property’s guest segments. Consider partnering with local businesses like activity providers to offer your guests memorable experiences.

Think about your guests, the amenities they enjoy and their reasons for visiting. For example, families traveling with young children appreciate options like babysitting, activity bookings and playpens, while couples are partial to romantic touches like chocolate-covered strawberries and wine.

Your PMS should provide flexible rate and package management tools that allow you to set up discounts and package add-ons, sell them online, and limit package access to certain customers.

WebRezPro PMS also includes a Booking Options feature, which allows complimentary or paid products and services to be added to reservations at the time of booking (online or through the front desk). Booking options are a convenient and effective way to allow guests to customize their stay experience, and can also be used to gather more information about a guest’s stay, for example, expected time of arrival, whether they are bringing a pet, or need a child’s cot.

4. Welcome Guests with Paperless Check-in

With a mobile-accessible cloud PMS, independent properties are equipped to deliver a much more personable welcome than the traditional check-in desk experience.

WebRezPro’s paperless check-in feature allows guests to sign check-in receipts electronically on a tablet or smartphone. Imagine greeting your guest at the door, helping them with their bags, inviting them to take a seat, offering them a refreshing beverage, and then continuing to check them in and showing them to their room. Doesn’t that sound like a much more hospitable welcome than across a front desk?

5. Use Guests’ Names

Using the guest’s name (first or last name as appropriate) is the simplest and one of the most effective ways to personalize the guest experience. It shows your guest they are important to your business and are not just a number.

Whether communicating in person, on the phone or by email/text message, use the guest’s name whenever possible. Mobile-optimized PMS make this easier, allowing staff to access guest folios on the go when they might, for example, bump into a guest in the corridor who stops to make a special request.

6. Leave Handwritten Notes

A handwritten note waiting in the guest’s room upon arrival is a small personal touch that can make a big impression on guests. A simple note welcoming a repeat guest back, or inviting a new guest to let you know if they need anything is a genuine gesture that is always appreciated.

Guest profiles can help staff personalize notes at an even higher level. For example, asking a returning guest to let you know if they’d like you to make reservations at that restaurant they liked last time, or letting them know you left extra pool towels in their bathroom.

If your budget allows, complimentary in-room surprises make guests feel extra special. Consider leaving wine for guests celebrating a special occasion, or a welcome-back treat for repeat guests.

7. Share Insider Tips

Recent research from Amadeus and IHG found 70 percent of travelers would like hotels to offer more advice about unique things to do during their stay. Travelers are looking for local experiences beyond the main attractions in town.

Sharing your local knowledge with your guests not only enhances their stay, but it also provides an opportunity for staff to connect with guests on a personal level as they share their own experiences and recommendations and get to know your guests (recording relevant information about guest interests in the PMS, of course). It’s real human interactions like these that enrich the guest experience.

At the core of hospitality, personalized service makes guests feel valued and inspires loyalty, and should be incorporated into every property’s mission statement. It isn’t complicated or expensive to provide personalized guest service; with a modern PMS for independent hotels and lodgings, accommodation providers are already well-equipped to tailor the guest experience in simple, practical ways. And remember, while technology plays an important role in personalizing the guest experience, the human element is still just as important as ever.

Getting to Know WebRezPro: Direct Online Bookings

In our Internet Age of online shopping and instant gratification, online bookings are essential to any hotel’s sales strategy.

Proof lies in the success of OTAs (online travel agencies) like Expedia and Booking.com, but lodging operators shouldn’t rely entirely on third-party channels to sell rooms online. While the extensive reach of OTAs makes them important to a property’s distribution strategy, OTA commissions can eat away at a hotel’s bottom line if dependency on these channels is too high.

The key to maximizing RevPAR is selling rooms direct. And because over half of travelers prefer to book accommodation online, it’s essential for lodging operators to provide the option to book direct through the property’s own website to capture those bookings.

But that’s only half the battle. When it comes to the booking process, a smooth user experience is crucial to winning conversions. Here, we can again look to the popularity of OTAs as proof; OTAs have online reservations down to an art, providing an intuitive, user-friendly booking process across all devices (from desktop to mobile). Your direct online booking engine should be quick to load, intuitive to use, mobile friendly and secure. It should be powerful and flexible to allow you to sell your rooms and packages the way you want.

Direct Online Bookings with WebRezPro

WebRezPro offers a choice between two responsive online booking engines for your property’s website—the Carousel Booking Engine and the Parallel Booking Engine.

Both options are fully integrated with the property management system (PMS), meaning your online booking engine is always up to date with live availability and rates. Reservations coming through your property’s website are automatically sent to WebRezPro PMS and availability is instantly updated, saving you time and avoiding overbooking.

Offering a high degree of flexibility, WebRezPro booking engines can sell all manner of rates and packages, from limited-time offers and password-protected rates to add-ons and gift vouchers.

Whether prospective guests are booking on a desktop computer or their smartphone, our responsive booking engines automatically detect and adapt to any screen, providing a user-friendly and secure experience across all devices.

Both booking engines are commission free and provide analytics so you can keep track of bookings coming direct through your website. So, what’s the difference between them? The Carousel and Parallel booking engines each offer a different style and feature set to best suit all kinds of properties.

Carousel Booking Engine

Ideal for properties with up to 10 room types, the Carousel Booking Engine is great for showcasing your rooms with large default slideshow images. But the stand-out feature of this booking engine is the rate carousel, which allows users to easily view and select rates for dates on either side of their initial selection—a convenient feature for customers with flexible travel dates, and great for driving conversions.  

Carousel Booking Engine Features:

  • Rate carousel – After their initial room search, users can easily add or remove a night from their reservation based on rates and availability.
  • Slideshow – default room images are large and displayed inline (not in a pop-up window).
  • Room amenities are displayed as icons.
  • Responsive design.

Parallel Booking Engine

Featuring a compact display, the Parallel Booking Engine was designed for properties with more than 10 room types, loading results fast. Default room images are displayed as thumbnails, but large slideshow images can be viewed in a pop-up window.

Parallel Booking Engine Features:

  • Fast loading, ideal for properties with 10+ room types.
  • Compact display.
  • Slideshow – default room images are displayed as thumbnails; large images can be viewed in a pop-up window.
  • Room amenities are displayed as tags.
  • Basic background customization is available.
  • Responsive design.

Both the Carousel and Parallel booking engines are available in WebRezPro version 10.5.27 and higher.

Your online booking strategy directly impacts the health of your business. Make sure you’re converting lookers into bookers with a user-friendly, commission-free online booking engine that fits your property. Contact us to learn more about how WebRezPro can drive direct bookings through your property’s website.