Evaluating the Service Element when Deciding on a Hotel Software Provider
So you just bought that old hotel building and you have gutted it and are starting the design and build out stage. You have hired a Director of IT to get the hotel software system up and running and have come to the point where you are evaluating PMS choices for the new hotel. So let’s go down the checklist:
Rooms Management? Check. Each hotel PMS allows you to track room availability. You can process upgrades, check people in and out and can post charges to the guest folios. You can encode and sync keys and track alerts and stay notes.
Reservations? Check. You are connected to your booking engine, you can collect guest signatures and you are PCI compliant. Our hotel software supports direct billing, guest profiles and travel agent accounting.
Rate Management? Check. You can set rates and rate restrictions, both singly and in bulk. You can connect to a channel manager and you can adjust rates by set amounts or percentages.
Reporting? Check. You can generate daily journal reports and you can manage accounts. Plus you can also manage simple AR.
Housekeeping? Check. You can manage work across staff and update room status.
Group Management? Check. You can support group check-in and check-out, you can hold room blocks, generate rooming lists and set release dates.
Service-level Enhancement? Um…hmm. Wait a second. This is a PMS! This isn’t supposed to do that!
Yes, it is true. Most of your hotel PMS candidates check off all the expected areas of functionality required to manage your hotel except, perhaps, the most important one – helping you excel at being a better hotelier for your guests. So why is that? When did the hotel PMS become like the beds and pillows instead of being a strategic differentiator for your hotel? Well, looking over the list above, it is safe to say that the PMS has its hands full with touching many different areas of the business. And traditionally, most hotel software developers have been content in staying focused on only supporting these traditional hotel functional areas. The problem is that simply doing all the items on the checklist simply makes your hotel the same as every other hotel. It supports your business, but it doesn’t bring new value to the table to grow your business.
IT Managers are not plumbers. Their job is not to find a basic system that will allow you to get through the business day. Their job is to help you beat your competition. The smart IT managers are looking to see how the hotel’s central nervous system – the hotel PMS – can actually improve the guest experience and thereby drive incremental revenue through returning guests and ancillary guest revenue.
Service level enhancement is not a new, single feature but an approach to re-thinking many of the core features in the list above. For example, under the category of Rooms Management, can your system generate convenience for the guest by providing multiple ways to check in and out of the hotel? Does your system allow the guest to peruse upgrades in the check out process at their leisure without the pressure of a front desk clerk looming over them? Is your system portable, so that staff can roam the hotel, supporting guest requests, with their fingers still on the hotel PMS via tablet or phone? Mobility directly translates to service level improvement because the staff now goes to the guest versus the alternative. Or the guest can now access live PMS data, such as available add-ons, anywhere they need to via their phone without having to go to the front desk. A mobile-enabled PMS means that mobility features are native and you can easily innovate on your service model.
Other functional areas also enhance service when mobility is added to them. For example, Group check-ins can happen anywhere, like on the arriving bus or at the convention area. Housekeeping can be mobile-enabled, so that room status is updated into the PMS instantly, thereby getting that weary traveller to their room quickly or perhaps in advance of the standard check-in time. Can mobility help Rate Management and Reporting drive better service? Perhaps indirectly – managers are no longer tied to the back-office to keep up with hotel performance or to respond to changes in occupancy and demand. A mobile-enabled PMS is cloud-based, so can travel with the manager wherever they are – which hopefully will be out in the property, facing guests.
In summary, don’t get bogged down in the PMS checklist process. Most will support the items in your list. Ask the question, “Has this PMS been designed to add operational flexibility to my hotel?” “Will this PMS improve the guest experience and encourage great reviews?” It’s okay to ask more of your PMS. Make your IT decision a strategic one, not just a tactical one.