When you’re listing your hotel on a range of OTAs (online travel agencies), as well as your own business website, it can be tough to manage bookings from multiple platforms.
An online booking management system helps you manage the day-to-day tasks of the booking process to keep it in motion. Not only can these systems keep on top of bookings, but in some cases, they can also accept online customer payments.
According to research on hotel booking preferences, 65% of users prefer to book directly with the provider than OTAs when listings appear at the same price. Setting up an online booking management software that works across different platforms makes the booking process easier and quicker for both you and your guests.
There are lots of online booking systems to choose from. While a lot of providers have similar features and components to their systems, it’s up to you to find the service that works best for your needs and improves customer experience.
Here are some factors to consider when selecting an online booking system:
Things to Consider As A Property Manager
One of the most important factors when selecting an online booking and management system is how much it’s going to cost.
While pricier systems will offer more, the ability to upgrade your system to a different package as and when you can afford to, means you can start with a package that fits your budget initially.
Online booking systems tend to have different payment structures – paid monthly, by commission or made up of user fees – so make sure you select a payment structure that works for you.
There are also additional fees that appear in certain systems, which includes:
- initial set-up costs
- booking fee charges
- costs for handling credit card payments
- costs for adding additional users like cleaners
- extra charges for simple updates
Get to grips with the different features on offer, and how they can be used to improve the online booking process for your hotel.
- External calendar sync
The ability to sync calendars from each platform into an external calendar will make it more convenient for you to manage bookings.
Find an online booking management system that can synchronise calendars across different sites. While not the only option, one way to do this is using a channel manager.
A channel manager is a tool that enables you to list all your hotel rooms on all connected booking sites at the same time.
The purpose of a channel manager is to update the availability of rooms in real-time on all sites being advertised. When a booking is made, it will automatically update your availability calendars, saving time and reducing the risk of double booking.
A tool that is widely used in the hotel industry is iCal (short for iCalendar). To put it simply, iCal is a file format that is capable of representing information in a calendar on a time basis.
iCal allows you to report on the availability of a type of accommodation in a streamlined and easily accessible calendar. While you can synchronise bookings between calendars on multiple OTAs and independent booking sites using iCal, the only information you can save is the availability of accommodation.
- Insight reports
Ideally, the online booking management system you choose will be able to report advanced insights into your hotel business and customers.
Reporting features allow you to look closely at analytics to see how your business operates on a daily basis. Get a better understanding of customer demographics and receive information on real-time cash flow with reporting features.
It is worth looking into how insights are being determined, to make sure it is accurate and reliable. Establishing patterns can help you figure out what is working and what isn’t, which can shape the next steps going forward in your hotel business.
- Customer Support
By selecting a provider for your online booking management system, you become a customer. So easy-to-access customer support is vital to make sure any immediate problems are handled before they impact your customers.
With start-up guides, training videos and technical support on hand to answer any queries, all your difficulties working with the system can be addressed.
How quickly these issues will be resolved depends on what communication channels are available. While you may receive instant responses with a phone call or live chat, on the other hand, email or contact form may take longer.
As guests should be able to book accommodation outside of business hours, ideally 24/7, it is important to check how much downtime the system experiences to fix bugs and update the software.
Features That Will Improve the Booking & Enquiry Process For Customers
- A ‘book now’ button for your website
Including a ‘book now’ button on your hotel website can speed up the booking process for customers, creating a smooth booking experience.
While potential guests may have visited your website to browse for accommodation initially, the option to book means that if they find a listing of their liking, they won’t have to waste their time trying to find the appropriate page to book.
- Automated emails to confirm bookings
Many customers expect an email to be sent to their email address once a booking has been secured.
Rather than manually sending out emails to customers, automate this process with an online booking management system so customers receive their emails instantly to confirm details.
These emails can also act as reminders when it comes close to the date of their arrival at your hotel.
- Chat tool for answering customers’ enquiries
Setting up a chat tool on your website can be useful for guests that want to clarify something before they book at your hotel.
Not only can owners build a rapport with their guests through a chat function, but can also allow a guest to ask specific questions that can’t be answered through a FAQs page.
Bridging the gap between an email and phone call, a chat tool enables you to instantly answer guest enquiries as best as possible.
- Option to book through social media
If potential guests happen to find your hotel through your social media, then an option for them to book there directly is useful because this brings in more customers from social platforms.
The ability for customers to book through social media gives you more payment avenues, adding to your revenue overall.
Our final statement
The right online booking management system will make the booking process simpler and quicker, boosting bookings for your hotel property.
With the booking software automating repetitive tasks, such as replying to email enquiries and sending out arrival information, you can save time and focus on other elements that improve the customer’s experience with your business.
By operating around the clock, your hotel can take bookings 24/7, which is convenient for your customers. Managing the availability of rooms through this system reduces the chance of guests double booking.
Research is essential when it comes to finding the best online booking management system for your business. If you choose to go with a provider, make sure you’ve considered the factors listed above in your final decision.
Even though it can be a costly upfront investment, selecting the right system that caters to your personal needs and requirements can make the booking and enquiry process more effective for your customers in the long term.
Need assistance managing your online bookings for your hotel? Visit the Keey website for more information!