Choosing a property management system that best suits your business

With the seemingly never ending growth in online bookings from online travel agents and the popularity of new technologies such as smartphones and social media, it is essential for accommodation businesses to regularly review their property management system and channel manager systems that they use to ensure that they are keeping pace with industry trends. 

There is no need to put up with slow, complicated and ineffective legacy systems; modern systems are much easier to setup and use, and can potentially give you considerable savings in terms of time, money and effort.

So now is the time to look at your current systems and ask yourself:

  • Are they easy to use?
  • Can your staff jump on and use them with minimal training?
  • Are everyday simple tasks like checking guests in and out quick and easy to do?
  • Can you easily configure your channel manager to support the way that you want to run your business?
  • Do you receive a good level of support from your vendor(s)?
  • How much are you actually paying each year for your PMS, Channel Management and Online Booking, and is this competitive?
  • Does your software do everything you need it to? (and the things that you should be doing like email and social media marketing )

Everyone’s talking about cloud-based

There is a lot of hype in the industry about using Internet (or cloud) based services to run your accommodation business. Whilst cloud based services can be quicker to setup and can be used from any computer connected to the internet, they have a number of key disadvantages.

First, as they are totally reliant on your internet connection, whenever your Internet is slow or down, you can’t use your system. If you have an office full of guests wishing to check-in or out then this can be disastrous! The reality is, that Internet is fairly slow and unreliable, especially in smaller towns and rural areas, and it will likely be quite a few years before we see any real improvements.

There are also security concerns to consider. Having all of your data (including confidential customer information) floating around the internet on some remote server can be quite a liability. What if the server gets hacked? What if your vendor goes broke? Will you still be able to run your business?

Our advice is simple; cloud based systems really are not suitable for anything other than small B&Bs. Far better to use a system such as an online security system that sits securely on your own desktop and can be accessible at any time, irrelevant to the quality of your Internet connection.

Do you feel supported?

When committing to a new system it’s also important that you know and trust the company, as this should be a long-term commitment. The benefit of having an all-in-one solution, through a company that can provide PMS, channel management and online booking, ensures that you have one main contact person for all three services, saving you time and hassle.

Affordability in the long run

When comparing systems, it is important to look at the total cost of ownership and factor-in costs such as license fees, support, setup and training.

Some companies charge a hefty license fee for the software whereas others work on an affordable subscription plan with no additional set up fees or initial outlay required. The overall cost of an all-in-one solution for a property management, channel manager and online booking system may be considerably lower than what the combination of what most companies charge to provide these services individually.

Utilise a new system and reap the rewards

Changing systems does not have to be a difficult task and it’s actually a great opportunity to dedicate some time to cleaning up your database and setting up your rooms, rates and special offers etc exactly how you want them to be.

Perhaps you inherited a system from the previous owners and you’ve always had an idea of how you thought it should be arranged? Setting up a new system allows you an opportunity to comprehensively learn about the functionality and begin to utilise it to its highest extent.

Email marketing, financial reports, occupancy rates and so forth, your property management system should be a source of valuable information that allows you to review previous data and use it to set goals and forecasts.

Do you know what your occupancy rates must be each week to break-even? Are these reviewed regularly to see what targets you must reach and set strategies in place for how to exceed these? Have you set up a newsletter template that you can send out to all the guests who stayed over the previous month, thanking them for their stay and requesting that they like your Facebook page to stay in touch or review your property on TripAdvisor.

Maximising your profit.

Your goal in business is to maximise your profits. Whilst many accommodation businesses use seasonal rates, many operators do not vary rates on a day to day basis according to demand as their software makes it too difficult.

Some companies make this easy by allowing you to override rates and minimum stays directly onto your booking sheet. It can give you lots of flexibility about how you setup your rates so you can for instance setup weekly rates, special offers and advanced purchase rates for which you can attach special terms and conditions. A few minutes every day fine-tuning your rates using yield management tools can translate to a much healthier profit at the end of the month.

The other crucial factor is controlling the way that OTAs sell your rooms online. With some companies you can on a day to day basis, set the maximum commission that you are prepared to pay and the software will automatically adjust your inventory on websites accordingly. This means that you are not paying commission during busier periods when you will likely fill all of your rooms with direct bookings.

Online marketing

Another key factor in maximising your profits is to encourage as many of your customers as possible to book direct with you via your own website, rather than a high commission website.

This means making your own website as attractive as possible, ensuring it is well ranked for your keywords in search engines such as Google and using an easy to use, feature-rich online booking service.

Many customers now use their smartphones to make bookings so your website and booking service must offer this feature otherwise you may be throwing away business. Likewise, building your business via social media websites such as Facebook is becoming increasingly important.

In conclusion

Take some time over the next few days to assess your current systems and think about whether or not it really is working for you.

Don’t be deterred by the prospect of changing systems, it is certainly, not as scary as you might think!

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