Sometimes we don’t know what we want.
Take sweet potatoes.
For most of my life, I avoided sweet potatoes. Sweet potato casserole at Thanksgiving made my stomach turn, watching those marshmallow puffs disintegrate into orange goo. My mom was the only one who ever ate them.
Fast forward to about four years ago, and there I am, in the midst of my college’s cafeteria, scarfing down sweet potato fries by the handful. Sans ketchup. Delicious all by themselves.
See, all I had to do was try them. And I was hooked. (At least on the fries.)
Here’s the thing: hotel management software can be quite the same.
That’s right. Sweet potatoes and hotel software are related. Trust me on this.
Your quest to find the perfect hotel management solution can be daunting, especially if you don’t even know what all of the features mean. And what’s free and open source for that matter?
It can be frustrating, not to mention leave a bad taste in your mouth.
Because while you might not be on the cusp of all things hotel tech, you shouldn’t let all of those terms drive you away. There are so many benefits from something that could save you time, energy, and, of course, money.
Don’t knock it until you try it.
So rather than searching around for what it all means, how about I lay it all out here, right on this one webpage, so you don’t have to shuffle back and forth trying to figure out what it all means.
Ready? Let’s get started.
1. On-Premise (Installed) & Cloud Computing (Web-Based)
Probably one of the first things you see about any hotel software solution is whether or not it’s on-premise or a cloud/SaaS solution.
The names aren’t too helpful either. If cloud software doesn’t rain, does it even make a sound?
On a more serious note, let’s take a look at on-premise.
On-premise (also called “installed” in the Capterra directory) is a bit more literal. It means that your software has hardware that you can physically touch.
For hotels that invest in on-premise software, you usually have to invest in additional space to house this hardware. Larger properties tend to invest in on-premise because they have the budget for additional hardware, already have an established on-premise system, or have (legitimate) fears about compromised data in the cloud.
Cloud computing (or web-based/SaaS) doesn’t require the additional hardware. Rather, this type of deployment requires no hardware, operating entirely through a computer, or even a tablet or smartphone. You have to have a strong internet connection to be able to access your system, however. All of your data is available instantly, though you can also set up privacy settings so only certain data is available to certain employees.
If you’re a Gmail user, you’re essentially using cloud software. All of your files are saved through Google Drive, which you can access anywhere with an internet connection. No need for a USB or a CD-ROM (whatever those are). You can access your email, your spreadsheets, even your contacts and your calendar.
2. Guest Experience Management
Guest experience management is a broad catch-all for hotel management software that has a component meant to enhance your guests’ stay at your hotel.
But how does that translate into real life?
One common way is a guest profile tool, meant to track guest information, including preferences, like if they prefer extra towels in their room, and other specific requests they’ve made to their reservation. For example, if your guest has a peanut allergy, that would be good to note so room service can avoid a disaster.
Guest profiles also come in handy when it comes to guest history, enabling you to keep track of your returning guest’s preferences. Furthermore, since they are returning guests, you can also give them rewards (like a discount) or some sort of acknowledgement thanking them for choosing to stay at your property again.
If you do have a booking component that also crafts deal and discount, but still maximizes your revenue, this would also be a great way to make use of that awesome tool.
3. Housekeeping/Maintenance Management
The front desk features are obvious, but what does software have to do with housekeeping and maintenance?
With hotel management software, you can actually track rooms that need cleaning or a prep before guest arrival, or even track the number of rooms that are cleaned on a given day.
A large complaint of housekeeping staff is that they don’t have enough time to thoroughly clean each room, leading to a less sanitary accommodation than more guests would like.
“When I have time I will clean everything, but sometimes it’s so busy and management still expects everything to be cleaned as fast as on a day that isn’t as busy,” a maid told Trivago in an anonymous interview. “If this is the case, I usually won’t vacuum, and will just do a fast clean, like rinse the bath instead of scrubbing, or dusting over surfaces quickly.”
You don’t need that reputation. So why not help them out?
In terms of maintenance, you can keep track of areas that need attention as well as scheduling future repairs or checkups to ensure that plumbing and electricity are running efficiently and effectively.
4. OTA Integration
OTAs, or online travel agencies, are largely third-party booking sites, like Bookings.com or TripAdvisor.
Integration with third-party platforms is integral to keeping your bookings organized. Imagine double booking a room because one guest went through your homepage and another went through Hotels.com. I smell a bad review coming.
OTA integration can prevent that and even handle multiple third-party platforms, so you can invest in multiple OTA sites without fearing potential overlap. It’s a great way to stay organized and even monitor which OTAs are driving reviews to your site, ensuring that your investments are paying off.
5. Payment Processing
Payment processing can be a great way to facilitate your checkout process and give you the power over your revenue.
Payment processing features can vary across different solutions, with some able to accept multiple currencies (great for international hotels or those who pull international guests) and additional security components to prevent a data breach of sensitive customer information at your property.
Why is this important?
Hotels are now one of the most vulnerable industries to hackers. Whether it be an unsecure internet connection or payment processor, private guest information is put at risk, including credit and debit cards, comprising bank accounts around the world. Even guest profiles can be vulnerable, supplying hackers with sensitive personal data.
Sometimes these breaches occur over the course of eight months before noticed.
Don’t believe me?
Hyatt faced another breach earlier this week, their second in less than a year. Other hotels affected include Starwood properties and Marriott International.
For hotels, having a secure payment processor should be one of your top priorities, considering the potential for reputation fallout that a data breach can bring. Say goodbye to loyal guests if you don’t invest in this important feature.
6. Reviews Management
Many hotels opt for reviews on third-party platforms (or even Facebook), but it’s still important to include them on your homepage to reaffirm your quality of service.
According to BrightLocal, “88% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.” To put this into perspective, out of these participants about 30% search for hotels/B&Bs over the internet in the course of a year, with 35% reading online reviews specifically for hotels/B&Bs.
And negative reviews can actually be positive, too.
“Bad reviews improve conversion by 67%,” says eConsultancy, and that “68% of consumers trust reviews more when they see both good and bad scores.” It shows that you value all feedback. Anything too good can’t be true. (Just try not to have too many bad reviews.)
If that still causes worry, having a few negative reviews won’t matter if you have plenty of positive reviews that make your negative ones seem more like outliers than part of your overall guest experience.
7. Wearable Integration
Wearables are a hot exercise tool and a fun tech gadget. How can they translate into the real world of hotel management?
Let’s go back to that housekeeping/maintenance feature.
While you can track housekeeping progress, many hotels use an outdated method of housekeepers calling down to the front desk to mark that another room has been cleaned. With wearables, you can track these employees and potentially their cleaning times to give you a more accurate picture of both cleaning speed and which rooms have been cleaned.
But wearables hold promise for your guests as well.
Wearables also have the ability to receive guest data and can give you a picture of what amenities attract your guests.
Disney theme parks, for example, have been experimenting with their MyMagic wearables.
“Through [the] MyMagic+ [system], guests can plan almost every detail of their trip,” reports the International Luxury Hotel Association (ILHA). “Some things the platform consolidates include booking transportation to a hotel from the airport and choosing where to eat. The MagicBand also serves as a room key and ticket for attractions, replacing the need to carry around bulky key cards and folded papers, both of which are lost frequently.”
In addition to convenience, wearables also allow you to track what amenities your guests flock to.
For example, say most guests visit the pool around noon or take advantage of the spa in the morning. With that information, you can have more employees available at the pool around popular times or change employee schedules at the spa to accommodate the influx in guests.
Any other hotel management software features you need defined? What features are most important that aren’t covered here? Let me know in the comments below.
*If you’re interesting in finding hotel software or want to switch to a new solution, don’t forget to check out Capterra’s hospitality property management software directory.
Looking for Hospitality Property Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Hospitality Property Management software solutions.