Assuming you have decided to find a new Guest Management System, let’s look at the process of choosing from among the many products available.
The first step may not be the expected one, but looking at it first may save headaches later. Determine whether or not you will be using a third-party system for online bookings. That is, (a) will you accept online bookings, and (b) if so, (1) will you require that your Guest Management System provide built-in online booking capability, or do you want a third party online booking system, and then, (2) if appropriate, which third party system will you select.
Resolving these questions up front allows you to eliminate products which will not satisfy this requirement. Some guest management systems only work with their own integrated online booking module, while others interact with a variety of third-party systems. If you determine that you want an integrated system, you have effectively eliminated all products requiring a third party online interface. Conversely, if you require a third party online system, that eliminates systems using only integrated online capability.
The first question to resolve, then, is whether or not to accept online bookings. If you are one of the few for whom having online bookings and availability are not desirable, we’ll talk in the next article in this series about selecting the actual Guest Management Software. In view of the proliferation of internet-enabled devices, easy web access, and the increasing number of internet-generation inn-goers, for most of us, having real-time web availability and booking capability is essential.
Assuming that we do want online booking capability, then, we must determine if we want a guest management system providing integrated online bookings, or whether we want to use a third-party system for online availability and bookings. Considerations in making this choice revolve around whether an integrated system is so far superior to all of the third-party systems that you feel it is clearly the best choice, as opposed to keeping your options open to change Guest Management Systems, without being required to also change the online booking system.
Once again, the answers will differ for different owners, properties and areas. If all other things (features, reliability, support and reputation) are roughly equal, my personal preference is toward not being locked in to a single vendor and a single product. Consequently, unless a product with an integrated online booking and availability system is clearly superior, my preference would be to use a third-party for online availability and booking.
To determine which product best suits your needs, open up a spreadsheet, or grab a paper and pencil, and then visit the web sites of the different vendors of online booking products. List all the features of each (they may use different names for a feature, but you should consider that as only one feature) in one column, then make columns for each product, and make an entry indicating whatever is relevant for the feature from each product. Include a column for price, as well. If a product has different levels and prices, make a separate column for each. For example if we have 3 products, and one feature is “Reservation requests” (the booking isn’t final until confirmed – often requested by innkeepers who like to be sure a room hasn’t been booked over the phone before sending a confirmation to an online booking request), if only Product Number One has this, then it gets a “Yes” in that box.
Creating a listing of products under consideration and the features and cost of each will help you to determine which will best suit your needs, or perhaps, that more than one is a good fit for you. In addition, if you have some idea of which Guest Management System you plan to use, make sure one of the features for the online availability and booking system is compatibility with the Guest Management Systems you are considering.