Based on data from its sister company’s directory (Destination Nexus) Reservation Nexus bills itself as the most popular and most used all-in-one reservation system for US bed and breakfasts and inns. With all due respect, data from a sister company (only), and excluding data from much larger directories, makes that conclusion just a little suspicious. Nevertheless, there is little doubt that ResNexus is one of the top reservation systems, both in popularity and in features.
Because of its popularity, the apparently large set of features, and its effort to position itself as the top reservation system available, we were eager to give it a try at our Freeport Maine Bed & Breakfast. Since one of the claims made by ResNexus amounts to a claim that you will get more online bookings than with other systems, we decided to go ahead with a full month’s trial, rather than just a brief demo of the product. That also allowed us to more fully explore its features, and to take advantage of its advertised “Red Carpet Service.”
Like many modern reservation systems, ResNexus is a web-based system. Most of these fall short, either because they don’t attempt to be a full-fledged property management system, or because they have not implemented a full-feature set as is found on more complete systems. That is not the case with ResNexus. Virtually every feature provided by the best systems has been implemented in ResNexus, and new features continue to be added. That said, there are still occasional perplexing design choices that make you wonder what the developers were thinking, and the pricing structure leaves something to be desired.
Most of the user interface (web pages) seems to have a logical flow, and is relatively easy to navigate, so while the comments may seem negative, it is because most of the user interaction is so good that the rough spots are particularly jarring. In evaluating the user interface, we consider the layout of the screens (here, web pages), ease of navigating the program, ease of entering or modifying guest information and reservations, the usability of “snapshot” or calendar views of bookings, and the availability of sorted and filtered lists of guests (for marketing purposes).
The “go to” page is the calendar view, which is accessed in ResNexus by clicking on the Reservations menu item. By default the calendar displays 45 days, but can be configured to show 30, 45, 60 or 90 days. To move forward or back, you click on the month (or year) you want to view.
One curious design issue arises near the end of each month. In the default (45 day) view, with about 5 days or fewer left in the month, you see the last few days of the month, the next full month, and the first few days of the following month. However, if you need to see an entry from just a few days earlier (where, for example, the date is the 28th, you see the 28th through 31st, all of next month, and the first several days of the following month, but you want to see something from the 25th of the current month), it is not as easy as you might think. If you click the current month, you get the same view you have before clicking. If you click the earlier month, you’ll see all of that month, plus the first few (perhaps 15) days of the current month, but you can not view the 25th. The solution is to change the display to show 60 days, but that is hardly a rational approach. If a 45 day view is an option, the system should work properly without changing the settings. You can also check to box marked “Show all days”, but again, this is not intuitive.
The calendar nicely displays single letter day-of-the-week designations, and marks minimum stay requirements by putting the minimum number of days in red above and below the days of the month to which they apply. Color-coded marks show the status of a room, though we had trouble finding a legend to explain them. Orange “X” marks indicate blocked rooms, a green “+” is booked offline (entered by the innkeeper) and a blue “+” is an online booking. An arrow pointing down indicates a checked-in guest, pointing up it means a checked-out guest, and a $ indicates payment. A great feature is that the checkbox for the room and date is highlighted in pink if an online guest is in the process of booking that room and night. This is a great way to help avoid double bookings!
ResNexus allows you to import a spreadsheet of guest information, so you can have some historical data, though, like most such systems, the import ability is limited to names and contact info, without historical reservation data. You can create guest lists, for mailing, email, or informational purposes, though it may take some trial-and-error to get the information you want.
Booking systems should allow for different rates for each room, seasonal rates, specials or discounts, packages, additional items to add to a reservation, and have a way of handling bookings for multiple rooms, such as a group booking. If larger properties are also to use the booking system, the group booking capability becomes even more significant, and there should also be the ability to create rates by room type.
ResNexus provides for setting up individual rooms, and most settings seem geared to that model. However, you can also set up “Classes” of rooms, so that all rooms of a particular class can be viewed together.
ResNexus also allows for adding packages (from the website, it appears that this may be only a feature of the “Auto-Pilot” version, rather than the “Classic” version) as well as upselling items (items are all designated as “Retail”). One problem we encountered was that our packages usually involve booking multiple nights in particular rooms, plus several add-on (Retail) items, with some rates adjusted so that the package price is predefined. Currently ResNexus can only do parts of this setup. We could set up a package so that all rooms could be booked, with appropriate add-ons and number of nights, but then the price is the same across all rooms, unless you use the default room rate. An alternative was to price each room individually for the package, but then we could no longer enforce a multiple night stay for the package.
Modern booking systems allow for a number of guest communications to be sent from within the system – usually as emails. The most common are confirmation emails, cancellation confirmations, reminder and follow-up emails, invoices, and marketing emails. We feel that all these items, with the possible exception of marketing emails (due to the common use of stand-alone email marketing programs, such as Constant Contact and others), are sufficiently important that they should be included in the booking system.
ResNexus offers a Classic package, and, for an additional monthly fee, an Auto-Pilot package. Manual emails (which are customizable) are available with the Classic package, while automated emails are available only with Auto-Pilot.
While we understand there is some additional cost in handling the automated emails, most of the products which compete with ResNexus offer at least automated reminder and follow-up emails at a lower price than ResNexus. ResNexus (Auto-Pilot) also offers marketing emails based around birthdays and anniversaries, monthly newsletters, etc.
To evaluate performance, properly report taxes, and track marketing results, reports are a key source of information for the innkeeper. Different booking systems provide for different numbers and types of reports. Of course, if the system doesn’t capture the information in the first instance, it will never be able to report on it. At a minimum, a booking system should be able to generate reports of reservations for the coming month/day/week/year, revenue for specified periods of time, occupancy (total and by room) for specific periods of time, and revenue by date (and by room). Many innkeepers also require reports of gift certificates sold or redeemed, housekeeping issues, and additional financial reports, such as taxes collected.
ResNexus offers a large array of reports, covering most areas an innkeeper would expect or desire. Sometimes the data presented is not intuitive from the names, so exploring the reports is definitely recommended, but you are very likely to find what you are seeking. We would like to see the reports, especially the financial reports, be exportable to a spreadsheet (like Microsoft Excel or OpenOffice.org’s Calc), so you can do your own analysis on the figures, but many innkeepers would be quite happy with the default reports.
Most booking systems provide some way to use the revenue data in an accounting or bookkeeping system, such as Quickbooks or Peachtree. In a few cases, the revenue data is directly linked to the bookkeeping product, but most booking systems export the data to a file, which can be imported into the bookkeeping software.
ResNexus says that their financial data can be posted automatically to Quickbooks if you use Authorize.net to accept online credit card payments, and if the processor will provide the Quickbooks integration. That’s a fancy way of saying that your bank or credit card processor may provide the integration, but ResNexus doesn’t provide it from within the reservation system. There also does not appear to be a way to export the data from ResNexus to be used either in Quickbooks or in a spreadsheet.
Modern web-based booking systems generally provide their own online booking interface, and rarely interact with other online booking systems (such as Webervations or Availability Online). By contrast, most stand-alone guest management systems will interact with third-party online booking systems, even if they provide their own online booking module as an option. A significant drawback to not interacting with other systems is that the property is precluded from taking advantage of group booking and availability opportunities, unless they pay an additional fee for a second system.
The online booking aspect of ResNexus creates only a confirmed booking, so some innkeepers may be disappointed if they would prefer a request for a reservation, instead.
ResNexus pricing is based on the number of rooms, per month, with a discount for annual prepayment, and they do offer discounts for referring other customers. For the Classic edition, a 7 room B&B would pay $85 per month, or $850 per year. If you need automated reminder and thank-you emails (and the other automated marketing emails) that come with the Auto-Pilot edition, a 7 room B&B must add another $40 per month or $400 per year, for a total of $125 per month or $1250 per year (based on the prices on the ResNexus website at the time of this writing).
One of ResNexus’ distinctives is their Red Carpet Service. They aren’t kidding. They helped with a walkthrough of major features, they set up the look and feel of the online booking pages, they set up most of the room information and pictures, and more. This really jump-starts the transition process for an innkeeper. As time went on, they called regularly to teach, give advice, answer questions, and just to see that the system was working for us. Frankly, they spent so much time with us that we had to wonder how they will handle it if they continue to grow, as they will clearly need more well-trained staff to handle the volume of support and setup duties.
ResNexus offers a return on investment guarantee, that you will receive enough reservations between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. (your time) to pay for itself each year. That’s an impressive guarantee. While ResNexus doesn’t say this directly, the implication is that you’ll get more online reservations with ResNexus than you were getting with something else. We put the ResNexus booking button on our site, but also left another link to our old online booking engine, just as a comparison. We did receive a good number of bookings from the ResNexus button, but we received just as many from our old system during the same time. Most likely those would have used the ResNexus booking button if there had only been one choice. During the month of our test, we received more bookings than the previous year, but we also had more site visitors than the previous year. The increase in bookings was in proportion to the increase in visitors, so while we do not mean to say that the ResNexus guarantee isn’t valuable – it looks like it is very valuable – don’t expect miracles, either.
ResNexus also provides “True Seamless GDS” for those who want GDS connectivity. Rates are competitive, with a setup fee, monthly fees, but no commission payable to ResNexus other than a flat $15. Reservations made through third parties (like travel agents) who charge a commission, also result in commission charges.
Most all of our impressions of ResNexus are positive. It is a very comprehensive product, but not without a few speedbumps in the useability area. For the most part, it offers everything an innkeeper needs, and more. Our biggest stumbling block is the price. While ResNexus is far more expensive than less complete products, such as those that provide online booking only, because of adding almost 50% to the cost just for automated emails, it is also more expensive than competitive products like RezOvation GT, which provides comparable features.
If you can live without Quickbooks integration, or if your bank or credit card processor provides it, this is an excellent system, although we think it would be a better value if the reminder and thank you emails were automated and included in the Classic edition at the current price.
There is no question that, when it comes to managing guest reservations and bookings, one size does not fit all. Most systems provide an evaluation copy of the software, or a free trial account. We strongly urge anyone considering purchasing a booking system to evaluate several different products before making a decision.