A property management system could be defined in the simplest possible terms as a tool that helps you run your business.
To that end, like any other worthwhile tool, what you get out must be greater than what you put in. In short, what you are looking for is “leverage”, less effort, more result!
Well written Property Management Software (PMS) can achieve this, all you have to do is choose the right package. In this article I’ll give a few pointers as to what to look for, but in the end, the choice is yours.
Why change ?
“Why change, there’s nothing wrong with my current system?”
There may be nothing wrong, but the world is changing around you.
Whatever system you are using, old software, pad and paper, it probably works well, you wouldn’t be using it otherwise, right ?
Systems that don’t work, don’t last long, they are fixed or replaced.
The reason for change is not always to fix a problem but to move with the times, to take advantage of new technologies or opportunities.
Technology can be an arms race, if other properties put Sky TV in all their rooms and you do not, there is nothing wrong with your rooms but others are now “better”. So, you put Sky TV in and the guy next door puts in 50 digital channels…………. it goes on.
You change to keep up, you change to advance your business, you change to make new connections, to link to an Online Travel Agent (OTA) or two or to get a PMS that will connect you to a channel manager of your choice and get 20 more sales channels. Of course it costs money but it’s not an expense, it’s an investment. You pay for satellite TV because if you don’t, guests will go to the properties that have Sky.
When you change, it’s because you have to, or you’ll lose out to those that do.
What does a modern PMS package have to do for you?
Firstly, it’s up to you to decide what features you’ll use and what you won’t. Also bear in mind those extras that you “will never use” might just come in handy later. How about sending follow-up emails to some of your recently checked out guests telling them how wonderful your life was made by their stays. Invite them to click on a link to give you a good review on Tripadvisor. It’s much more likely to happen if you make it a single click for them.
All software packages do the same basic tasks, try to look at what differentiates one from another. How many clicks does it take to perform a common action like checking someone in? Look at the quality of reports, how many reports do you have to print to get the information you want, just one or do you need a couple to get what you want.
Good software will bend to operate how you want (to a certain extent). A simple software package that is easy to use but often doesn’t have all the features you will need, and so you will quickly outgrow it and need to choose and change again. Others will have configuration options that stretch off into the distance.
Before you choose, bear in mind one thing. Don’t try and make the software copy all your habits (good and bad) or you’re not actually moving forward. Try to view new software as a new opportunity to review and improve your business practices, “I’ve always done it this way” is the motto of so many business that were passed by, by more innovative competitors.
A software package is the summation of all the requests made of it by its users. If you can’t do what you want with your chosen package, approach the developer and make a suggestion. A good developer will take feedback from their user base and distill that feedback into features, just be aware not all requests will make the cut!
Just as no one is an island in this technologically connected world, no front desk package can afford to be isolated. The right software package for you will have connections to your favourite booking engines and perhaps a few more. Times are hard at the moment, so access to more ways of selling your rooms cannot be a bad thing.
Just remember that yes, many web sites charge varying levels of commission, the best place to sell a room is your own web site.
Web sites aren’t the only connection for a PMS, you’ll also need to connect to your PABX to charge phone calls. Make sure your PABX is supported by the PMS you choose and that you can easily change the rates you charge to guests.
The next thing is to connect to an internet charging system. Create user accounts and charge your guests for the time on the net. A system of manual entries will get you by, but an integrated system is better. As a guest checks out they are charged automatically for their net use. An integrated system also means there’s not a lot for you (or your minders) to get wrong either.
On a slightly unrelated tangent, one thing to avoid in giving your guests internet access, no matter how you do it, is to keep the guest network completely separate from your private office network.
I have seen motels use their wireless ADSL router to give access to the guests, this is a real “No No!”. Access given this way lets users see your private office PC’s, and potentially all your private data. You know, the little stuff, email, word documents and oh yes… credit card and guest data.
It’s like parking your car in downtown Auckland and leaving the windows down. It may work in Methven or somewhere nice like that, but a computer network is not that place!
The reward for installing the right piece of software is that your needs are met, your time is saved, your business looks professional and runs better.
Take your time, ask lots of stupid questions because there are NO stupid questions, only evasive answers. Ask for references as other users can give you an opinion on the product and also the support that comes with it!