3 Things Hotels Can’t Do Without a Cloud PMS

Despite increased efficiency, scalability and profitability that cloud technology brings to hospitality businesses, many hotels are still running on outdated legacy systems—or, believe it or not, pen and paper.

We all have our reasons for making the decisions we make, but to approach the case for the cloud from a different angle, here are three things hotels can’t do without a cloud property management system (PMS).

Can’t Make Your Data Work For You

If you’re working with separate standalone systems or with manual ones (ledgers and spreadsheets) you probably feel a bit like a slave to your data. Manually cross-checking and compiling data from multiple sources is a time-consuming, error-prone process.

Without automated, integrated systems, hotels commonly suffer double bookings, under booking, rate and billing errors, slow check-ins and check-outs, and, ultimately, low customer satisfaction. With data stuck in silos or hardcopy, workflow and customer service are uninformed and disjointed.

When data is unified, the picture is very different. A PMS that shares information between departments and systems automates data workflow, eliminating the need for staff to manually duplicate data across those systems.

Through APIs (application programming interfaces), cloud PMS connect to other hotel systems (CRM, POS, online distribution channels, revenue management systems, mobile messaging platforms, electronic locking systems, room automation solutions, call accounting systems and more), consolidating data to automate administrative processes and improve the guest experience. Essentially, data integration allows systems to talk to each other so you don’t have to be the middleman.

Let’s look at some examples. When a PMS is integrated with a POS system, call accounting software or in-room entertainment platform, charges for restaurant meals, long-distance calls, and pay-per-view are applied to guest folios automatically, saving manual administrative time and improving billing accuracy. Integration with payment gateways and electronic locking systems allow payment acceptance and key coding to be facilitated directly through the PMS (instead of requiring staff to manually enter data into the credit card terminal or locking system) for a faster and more secure check-in process.

OTA, GDS and channel manager integrations allow you to conveniently manage rates and availability for all connected channels at once directly through your PMS, rather than updating each channel one by one, duplicating data each time. Integrations with CRM and guest engagement solutions can automate routine guest communications and heighten personalization.

In short, system integration automates data workflow for enhanced efficiency, accuracy and service. When the data takes care of itself, you have more time to focus on your guests.

Can’t “Mobilize” Your Front Desk

One of the most celebrated advantages of a cloud PMS is being able to access your data from anywhere, any time. Unlike legacy systems, which chain staff to the front desk (where the only access point for completing front-office tasks is the front-desk computer on which the PMS software is physically installed), cloud PMS are deployed online, conveniently accessible to authorized users via any computer or mobile device connected to the internet.

With a cloud PMS, managers can log in when they’re away from the property to generate reports, update room rates, or provide off-site assistance to on-site staff as needed. Accessing PMS data on the go via a mobile device, on-site staff can look up reservation folios, enter bookings, log and action guest requests, update housekeeping room status, and even check guests in—all without returning to the front desk, maximizing time and efficiency.

Using a cloud PMS, modern hoteliers can essentially take the front desk with them wherever they go to serve guests better and manage their business more effectively.

Can’t Stay Competitive

Legacy PMS require expensive licences and upgrades that do not inspire hotels to keep their systems up to date, eventually resulting in obsolete software that holds business back.

Key to remaining competitive in any industry is implementing current and innovative technology that helps businesses keep up with consumer demand and behaviour, like the desire for self-service options and personalization.

From improving mobile functionality to developing new integrations, cloud PMS are constantly evolving in an ongoing mission to improve operational efficiency, profitability and the guest experience for lodging operations. Technology that unifies and mobilizes data will put a hotel ahead of another employing systems that trap data in silos and staff behind the front desk.

Properties running on cloud technology usually enjoy standard feature updates and system upgrades free of charge as new features and upgrades are quick and easy to deploy online compared to legacy installations. This ease of deployment means that cloud solutions are easily scalable too, readily growing with your business, whether further rooms, locations or revenue streams are added.

Through connectivity, constant innovation and scalability, cloud PMS give lodging operations a sharp competitive edge that keeps them ahead of the game.

Still not convinced that a cloud PMS can help your business be more successful? Read 5 Ways a Cloud PMS Directly Increases Hotel Revenue next!

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.

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.

An Independent Hotelier’s Guide to Loyalty Programs

Loyalty programs have been a part of the hospitality game for decades. And for as long as they have been around, they’ve been the subject of much debate. Like any strategy in hospitality, some consider loyalty programs an essential part of their business and others have found them to be nothing but a liability. What it comes down to is discovering the right solution for your business. With new technology and evolving guest expectations, rewards programs come in all shapes and sizes. You just need to find the right fit.

Here’s a quick guide highlighting the benefits of a loyalty program and the various options available to hoteliers:

The advantages

When implemented well, a loyalty program can do a lot for your property. Offering benefits for continued patronage builds an emotional commitment that makes a guest less likely to book somewhere else and more likely to act as a brand ambassador in-person and online.

Loyalty programs are also a great way to incentivize direct bookings, thereby improving profit margins. In fact, a recent study conducted by the School of Hotel and Tourism Management found that a hotel’s spending on these types of programs was associated with better performance and improved overall gross operating profits. They ultimately concluded that there is “strong and scientific justification regarding the investment budget on loyalty programs.”

Points-based systems

How it works >> Points-based systems are the more traditional option available. These loyalty programs award points for purchases made at the property, from room nights to products and services, which can then be redeemed for discounted services and other perks at a later date.

Tips for success >> The biggest headaches that guests have had with traditional loyalty programs came from complicated rules and annoying restrictions. To run a successful program, member points should never expire, and be easy to redeem. Avoid placing restrictions on and setting black-out periods for reservations made with rewards. It’s also a good idea to offer a variety of options for points redemption. Having scaled options (from little things like a complimentary beverage to large rewards like a free night’s stay) will make all members feel like they have a chance to benefit from the program.

In addition to creating more flexibility in the points-redemption process, you may also wish to include more options for earning points in the first place. Offering rewards for engagement on social media and online reviews can be an excellent way to generate valuable UGC (user generated content), and members will appreciate the opportunity to score points in other ways.

Instant rewards

How it works >> Instant rewards is a much newer concept in the world of loyalty programs. Many travelers today (particularly Millennials), are looking for immediate value. The idea of a free stay in the distant future just isn’t compelling enough to sign up now.  For this reason, many hotel brands that cater heavily to a younger cohort have adopted models that forgo traditional rewards for smaller perks (like free wifi, room service vouchers, or a complimentary beverage) that can be earned through immediate actions taken (like booking direct, sharing on social media, or signing up for the rewards program). Members get the instant gratification they’re looking for and don’t have to worry about earning points and navigating the redemption process.

Tips for success >> Like anything else in business, you need to analyze the numbers to ensure you’re creating a model that benefits your business. You need to know how much an action (like booking direct or posting a positive review) saves or makes your business and then choose an appropriate reward within that margin.

Partnership Programs

How it works >> For many independent hotels, running your own rewards program isn’t particularly feasible. With just one property, it can be difficult for members to accrue enough points for it to be meaningful. This is where partnership programs come in. Companies like VOILA and Stash Rewards allow independent hotels to sign up and benefit from a shared loyalty program. Members benefit from more property options worldwide, and your hotel will gain access to a much larger pool of (already incentivized) customers.

Tips for success >>  All partnership programs are different, so make sure you know what you’re signing up for. If they take a commission for all bookings made using the program, you need to know that it’s going to be worth it. You’ll want to look into the demographic that the program caters to, the number of members, and the traffic the website receives. Be sure to read lots of reviews⏤paying particular attention to those from properties similar to your own.

A loyalty program can help your business build a dedicated base of returning guests and maximize direct bookings. Consider implementing one at your property today.

How Hoteliers Can Turn Negative Reviews into a Positive Online Image

Responding to negative reviews is the key to creating a positive online reputation for your business.

***Guest post from BlueJay Reviews, a WebRezPro partner***

Many hoteliers dread negative reviews, however it’s important to know that when negative reviews are managed correctly, they can actually help to create a positive impression among your existing and potential customers.

When your property does receive the unfortunate negative online review it doesn’t mean that your property and service is actually terrible. The truth for any business is that no matter how great your business is, not all customers are going to leave happy. While you can’t prevent all bad reviews, you can have a game-plan for when it does happen.

Negative reviews can be a blessing in disguise

It’s only natural to be upset and defensive when a customer leaves a negative review, but these feelings are misguided. Here are two reasons why negative reviews can actually help your business:

1.) They legitimize your review pages.

A mix of negative and positive reviews shows customers that your online reviews are genuine. If a review page only has very positive reviews then consumers reading those reviews will become a bit suspicious about whether the page is genuine or not. Research has shown that customers will trust reviews more if they see both positive and negative reviews. After all, no one is perfect.

2.) They bring to light valuable feedback.

Negative reviews can uncover real problems and challenges that your property may be facing. This valuable feedback can not only help you improve your systems and processes but can also give you guidance to make simple changes that can improve your business’s overall guest experience. Also, responding appropriately to negative feedback from a guest could be the key to that guest coming back in the future.

The way you respond to negative reviews both online and in action at your property can have major consequences on your bottom line. All reviews, positive or negative, have an important place in your online reputation. The key is to effectively respond to the feedback and use it to grow your business.

Why you should respond to negative reviews

Potential future guests are looking at your property’s review pages. Research shows that 92% of consumers check online ratings and reviews before making any buying decision. This is truer in the hotel and travel industry than any other industry. 40% of consumers will form an impression of your hotels’ reputation based on those reviews.

It’s critical that potential customers who are reading your property’s online reviews gain the impression you want them to have. Customer perception is shaped by how well your business responds to negative reviews. The way you publicly respond to negative reviews shows potential customers what kind of service they will receive if they choose to stay with you. Potential customers understand that sometimes people have a negative experience at a business, but what is most telling is how that business handled that negative experience. Customers want to know that they will be treated respectfully if they choose to stay at your property.

I received a negative review: what do I do?

It’s important to take a deep breath and not let the initial emotional response you may be feeling come across online in your response. Respond to negative reviews tactfully to turn the customer’s negative experience into a positive one. Don’t be overly defensive, keep the conversation going. Make sure that you follow up with the customer until the customer’s issue has been resolved. Once the problem has been solved, you can politely ask the customer to edit the review or delete it altogether.

Here are a few helpful tips on how to respond to a negative review:

Be sympathetic and apologize. While dealing with an upset customer, take a step back and put yourself in their shoes. Whether or not it’s your fault, a polite apology can help retain the customer. The words “I’m sorry” are very powerful not only in your personal relationships with friends and family, but, believe it or not, in business as well. Even if you aren’t completely to blame, offering a sincere apology has the power to defuse a situation, sometimes even instantaneously. By apologizing, you show your guest (and potential new guests) that you hear them and acknowledge their concerns. You make it clear that you are willing to provide fantastic service for all of your guests.

Provide a solution. In addition to apologizing, offering real solutions to the problem is key. The solution should show that you’ve put an effort into the response and aren’t just posting a canned response. The solution should show genuine concern and thoughtfulness. 

Offer to take the conversation offline. If a customer is very angry it may be wise to offer to speak to them offline. Explain that this will help you ensure that the problem is resolved quickly. Don’t be afraid to provide them with your direct contact information in a private message.

Say “thank you.” Show that you appreciate their time and feedback. Be sympathetic to their concerns and thank them for leaving feedback that will help you build a stronger business.

Get more positive reviews. Responding to negative reviews is very important, but it is equally important to minimize the impact of negative publicity.  It is important to get more positive feedback coming in for your property. Email or text review requests to your customers. Studies show that 70% of customers will leave a review when asked. WebRezPro with BlueJay Reviews integration can help you automate this process when guests check out.

Stay on top of your reviews with BlueJay Reviews

Staying on top of customer feedback is hard. The BlueJay Reviews platform can help. With BlueJay you can maintain a steady stream of fresh reviews, manage feedback, respond to reviews immediately (even automatically) and share positive reviews on your social media pages plus more. To learn more about the WebRezPro integrated review management program with BlueJay Reviews please visit: https://www.webrezpro.com/partners/bluejay-reviews/

Ephemeral Content: A Hotelier’s Guide to the Newest Social Media Trend

Look out social media marketers, there’s a new buzzword in town. Ephemeral content is the latest medium to dominate the internet, and despite what the name might suggest, this trend is showing no signs of disappearing soon. It has captured the attention of consumers around the world and that makes it a medium worth your consideration.

New to the concept? Here’s a quick overview to get you up to speed:

What it is

Ephemeral content refers to photos and videos that are only accessible for a short time period. In addition to Snapchat, which pioneered the disappearing content, this form of media is also gaining popularity on Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp.  In fact, Instagram stories are used by more than 500 million people every day.

Why it works

FOMO >> Photos and videos that vanish after a specific period take advantage of a powerful psychological phenomenon: the fear of missing out. Because content is fleeting, viewers have to act fast; there’s a sense of urgency to see, respond to, and send content while it’s still accessible.

Authenticity >> The fact that ephemeral content is, well, ephemeral, takes off the pressure to post highly produced content. Videos and photos don’t need to be high-quality or high concept.  The medium is made for spontaneous and informal posts, allowing businesses to showcase their human side and build a stronger relationship with their audience.

Low stakes >> What’s great about short-lived content is that it doesn’t stick around and clog up your main profile. You don’t need to worry about how your Instagram stories will impact the feel and layout of your permanent feed, which means you can be creative and spontaneous with your posts.

What to post

Daily updates/offerings >> Your ephemeral feeds, which typically last 24 hours, are the perfect place to post daily updates and reminders. If you have an on-site restaurant or bar, snap a quick photo of the daily specials with an invitation message to come down for a bite. And when you have any special deals or events, announce it on your ephemeral feed.

Special moments >> Take advantage of the room for spontaneity. When a special moment arises at your property – whether it’s a particularly beautiful sunset, a wildlife spotting, or a celebration for a staff member’s birthday – shoot a quick video to share it with your followers. They’ll appreciate being included in the moment.

User-generated content (UGC) >> When guests tag your property in their own ephemeral posts, you’re given the option to add that post to your own story. Take it. There is nothing better for social proof than UGC. When your followers see authentic content of real guests enjoying your hotel, they’ll have no doubts about the legitimacy of your own promotional content.

Tips for success

Use the extras >> Don’t just post a photo or video as is. The story feeds on social media platforms have several features that you can use to elevate your content. You can add filters, overlay text, post polls, adorn images and videos with stickers, and even add tags that users can click to make purchases. And be sure to take advantage of the “swipe up” feature which brings users directly to your website when they swipe up on a story.

Promote your story >> Boosting your story will help your content reach more potential customers. You should use this option when you have a particularly enticing post, like a special offer or details about an exciting event.

As a marketer, it may seem counterintuitive to spend time and energy on content that disappears so quickly, but don’t let that scare you away. Ephemeral content is taking over the social media space and monopolizing the attention of consumers today. It’s time to embrace this medium so you can continue reaching and engaging with new guests. Good luck!

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.

How to Make Music Work For Your Hotel

As a hotelier, your biggest concern is ensuring a great guest experience. Of course, that means providing excellent customer service and five-star amenities, but it also means creating the right atmosphere. People experience things with all of their senses, so ambiance matters. An overwhelming scent or off-putting lighting can tarnish a guest’s impression of your property. And the same goes for music. The right soundtrack has the power to change a person’s mood and influence their behavior, so you should be putting much thought into the music choices at your hotel.

While you should aim for music that reflects who you are, that doesn’t mean you should be playing the same playlist throughout your property. Context is important. What’s appropriate in the lobby is likely not the best choice for the onsite bar or hotel gym. Here are a few tips for choosing the right music for each space in your hotel.

In the lobby

The atmosphere in the lobby, more than any other space, should be a reflection of your brand identity. It’s the first experience a guest will have at your property, so it should set the tone for the rest of their stay. Look for music that expresses who you are. Is your property classic and elegant? An instrumental might be the way to go. Cool and trendy? A contemporary playlist of indie songs is likely more appropriate. If possible, incorporate a few local artists to celebrate your community.

You should also consider the tempo of your musical choices. Weary travelers will appreciate something calm and soothing when they arrive. Slower music will also make any wait times feel shorter and less stressful. 

At your onsite restaurant and bar

Restaurants are dynamic spaces that can change a lot depending on the time of day, and day of the week. You’ll need a few different playlists to meet the varying needs of your restaurant. During the day, fun light tracks will create an upbeat atmosphere without interfering with lunchtime conversation. Happy hour, on the other hand, can be livened up with an energetic playlist of upbeat songs.

Music can also be used to influence behavior. If you’re hoping for patrons to linger (and spend more on drinks) a slower tempo will encourage customers to settle in and take their time. For high turnover, however, stick with fast and loud tracks that will motivate guests to act quickly.

In the gym

When it comes to a gym playlist, your guests need music that will get them in the zone. Typically, that means something energetic, with a good beat. Electronic and pop music are excellent choices for this space. Just remember to use the radio version of the songs you choose and keep the volume at an appropriate level. You’ll likely have guests that will want to listen to their own tunes (with headphones), and blaring background music will make that difficult to do.

In your guest rooms

The music in guest rooms should be entirely under the control of your guests. It’s their space, and you want them to feel comfortable. A bluetooth speaker they can connect to using their smartphone, makes a great addition to any room. Your guests will appreciate being able to bring their personal playlists with them.

Music is a powerful medium, with the ability to affect our experience and behavior. As such, it’s something that shouldn’t go overlooked by hoteliers. Putting together an effective playlist may sound intimidating, but you don’t have to do it yourself. There are several music-curating companies out there, like Soundsuit and Ambie, that have been used by hotels to strengthen their brand identity and improve guest experience.