The 5 Hidden Costs of Free Hotel Management Software

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It’s hard to overstate the importance of hotel management software when you’re in the hospitality business.

Software is the machine that keeps your business humming. Without it, guests might be sent to dirty rooms because the front desk isn’t aware that housekeeping hasn’t taken care of that room yet. Or, a guest’s room service order disappears into the ether, leaving you with an unhappy customer and a bad review.

hidden costs of free hotel management software

That’s why it’s so important to choose the right software. As a hotel manager, your eye is always on the bottom line, so you may be tempted to just grab one of the free software options out there—especially if you run a small hotel.

But some people who initially go with the free option find out the hard way that it was a mistake. So before you choose your software, beware these five hidden costs of free hotel management software.

1. Maintenance and customization is difficult

When you think about it, software is a lot like hardware. You still need to maintain it, and you may need to customize it as well to suit your hotel’s needs. When you choose free software, you’ll likely be on your own as far as maintenance goes, and certainly when it comes to customization.

The reality is that every hotel is different, especially smaller and boutique hotels, so customization can be crucial. You undoubtedly have some quirks, such as a Jet Ski rental service you offer to guests that needs to be managed along with all the other aspects of your hotel.

Paid software often comes with technical support and a team that can customize software or add features based on your needs. That’s a perk you won’t get with free software. Grabbing a free software option off the shelf is going to get you the basics for booking rooms, taking payments, and managing housekeeping, but not a whole lot beyond that.

And when it comes to maintenance, if your software is out of date, and won’t take payment through a popular new service such as Venmo even though your particular customer base likes paying with that method, for example, there’s not much you can do about it.

2. Lack of good customer service means more headaches

It’s crazy just how big of a difference good customer service can make no matter what the product, and hotel management software is no different.

Throw a dart and pick whichever software option you want out of Capterra’s software directory—I guarantee you’ll notice that customer service is one of the top things the reviewers mention when they rate the software, whether they thought the service was good or not.

When you have a problem with your software, and it’s inevitable you will, having customer service there to walk you through the issue can make your life a lot easier. And it’s not just about saving you headaches: your staff may struggle with the software as well, and may need the customer support in order to do their jobs.

Free software typically doesn’t offer customer service beyond pointing you to a forum or FAQs. As a result, any issue that crops up will have you scouring the internet for answers, wasting hours when you could be running your hotel. Paying for software and the customer support that comes with it will avoid this headache altogether.

3. The software may be free only at the beginning

You know what they say: there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Or, in the case of free software, you’ll get a free lunch but you have to eat your steak with a single chopstick (unless you want to upgrade to the fork and knife for $19.95).

Many “free” software options will get you set up with a very basic management system that will allow you to handle things at first, but once you find out you need accounts for more of your staff than you thought, or you find you need a certain feature that isn’t included in the free package, you end up paying anyway. And that often ends up being an emergency buy rather than a well thought out and considered purchase.

And even if you download freeware with nothing to upgrade to, you may find that it really doesn’t work for your business and you’ll have to spend time and energy adapting it, or you may need to hire a software engineer to alter the code so it works for you.

4. Productivity might take a hit

There’s a bigger risk to getting free software than simply finding out it has hidden fees or that it’s giving you unnecessary headaches. If you find you’ve chosen the wrong software, you might see your productivity hammered.

Free software typically doesn’t come with any training or support, so you may find you’re not only having to educate yourself on how to use the product, but also your staff. That can be incredibly time consuming.

And if halfway through you find out the software just won’t work for you, you’ll have to go back to the drawing board with nothing to show for your wasted time and effort. Sometimes, it’s better to carefully select a software option with all the features you need as well as all the training you and your staff require to get up and running quickly, and then just open your wallet and be done with it.

5. You’re missing out on necessary features

Our hotel management software directory currently offers a staggering 350 options. There are so many software options out there and they all have some incredible features that you may not be aware of but that can make your life easier.

For example, did you know that RMS Hotel has a dynamic pricing feature that automatically adjusts rates based on the rules you set so you can maximize your occupancy and your profits? Or that Hotelogix creates professional-looking financial reports that forecast your revenue, allowing you to confidently make financial plans for your hotel?

Shop around our hotel management software directory and take a look at what features the different software options offer. You can shop by a specific feature, and compare multiple software options based on what they offer.

Have you switched from free to paid software?

Did you get free hotel management software and then decide to make a switch to paid software? What prompted the decision? What are some of the advantages of paid software that you’ve experienced? Please, let us know in the comments below.

Looking for Hospitality Property Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Hospitality Property Management software solutions.

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About the Author


Dan Taylor

Dan is a content writer at Capterra, specializing in hotel management, construction and real estate. Outside the office, he enjoys spending time with his family and friends, catching up with the latest offering from HBO or paying a visit to a new place.


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