Software reviews: Online booking and property management software

As we have previously mentioned, one of the most frequent questions on innkeeping forums and elsewhere is which property management (or guest management) software ("PMS") is "best." Like most things, this is a subjective decision. What is the "best" property management software depends on your circumstances, your preferences, and your priorities.  One size most definitely does not fit all. If you search around the property management / guest management software world a bit, you'll quickly see that it is difficult, if not impossible, to find software reviews. Because of Scott's experience with this type of software (although on a much larger scale), and his ownership (with his wife, Ruth) of a small, seven room bed and breakfast in Freeport, Maine, we are adding software reviews to our information on About The Inn. About the Reviews When reviewing these products we have obtained a demo version, or in the case of web based software, a demo account, and used the product exactly as a new user would. When we review a product we have used for our own property, we are using it with our account and our configuration, so there may be minor differences from a new user's configuration. We attempt to use the version of the software which is most current at the time of the review. As we use the software, we evaluate it in regard to several categories: Rate Capabilities (types of rates and how they are supported), User Interface (ease and intuitiveness of use, availability of commonly required information), Guest Communications (emails, statements or folios), Reports (financial, occupancy, tax, gift certificates, etc.), Accounting (export to accounting software), and Online Booking (appearance, update frequency, features, etc.). Each of these areas include objective aspects (those that are simply present or absent, and subjective features (those more important to…

Google Adds Mobile Place Pages: Why you should care

Last week Google announced that its Local Business Center pages would be called Place Pages, and that they had added several new features to them. Now they have followed that up with an announcement that Place Pages now have a mobile version, at least on Android phones (such as the Google G1, Motorola Droid, and several others) and iPhones. Before this announcement, smartphones with good web browsing abilities could see much of the standard Place Pages, so in that sense this isn't an earth-shaking announcement. However, now the Place Pages are optimized for mobile, so you see larger text, with links to the different sections of information. These include location, map, business info, hours of operation, and most importantly, reviews. Why this matters The importance of mobile Place Pages appears when you combine the back-to-back announcements from Google about its Place Pages with the ease of guests posting or reading reviews - even while still at the location they are reviewing - and presto! Instantly available reviews and information by and for guests. As we mentioned in our presentation on Reputation Management, if anyone has ever used a mobile device at your property, or if you think they ever may do so, you need to be aware of the consequences and take steps to be ready for it! What you should be doing about it Some would see the ease of posting and finding reviews, as well as other information about your property, as a threat. We don't. We see it as an opportunity to tell people how wonderful your property is. There are a number of simple things you can do to both guard against the inherent risks, and to proactively use Place Pages to benefit your property. We've said it before, and can not emphasize it enough -…

Introducing Google Places: Are you a Google Place? Should you be?

Today Google announced its new "Google Places" program - which is a new name, and several new aspects, for its Local Business Center. While many things will remain the same, there are some important new additions being rolled out gradually. These could have quite an impact on businesses - especially smaller lodging properties. A few weeks ago Google signaled the beginning of this change, by calling the Local Business Center listing a Place Page. Now we are seeing the next phase in this rollout. Things that remain the same Just as with the Local Business Center, you must claim your (free) listing to be able to edit it, and participate in the other benefits of the program. This allows you to post photos, videos, descriptions, etc., about your property, as well as timely specials, coupons, and more. It also allows you to validate the location and the listing. Google will continue to display reviews and other information it finds about your property from across the internet, including related (and possibly competing) businesses, maps, etc. Favorite Places, a program started nearly a year ago, continues, with Google making QR codes (a custom bar code, readable by smart phones with bar code scanning apps) available. New features Paid advertising. Yep. We've heard it was in the works, so it is no surprise that Google will now be following the lead of TripAdvisor in charging for an enhanced listing. Currently paid listings will be rolled out in certain larger US cities. If the plan works out well (i.e., makes money), look for it to become available elsewhere, too. Business photos by Google. Google will send their photographer to photograph the inside of your business, and post the photos on the Place page. Google will own the photos, but you can request they replace…

Not For Dummies: Running A Bed & Breakfast

Maybe it's just me, but the "for Dummies" series has always been hard for me to buy. I guess you could say that, at least in some areas, I find it hard to consider myself a "Dummy." Lack of humility? OK, I'm over that, now, thank you. Not long ago I saw that Mary White, founder of BnBFinder.com, had written Running a Bed & Breakfast For Dummies. I was interested to see what Mary, an experienced marketer, and founder of one of the top bed and breakfast directories, would have to say. Disclaimer: About the Inn is an Amazon affiliate. If you click on the links to the book, and then buy it or other items through Amazon, About the Inn may receive a commission on the sale. A Little Background We bought our B&B, Brewster House, about four years ago. In preparation for that step we read several books on owning and operating, purchasing, or converting a home to, a bed and breakfast. Most of these books were minimally adequate, but not really outstanding, with not enough detail on the financial and marketing aspects of the business. One was very good, but somewhat out of date. We also took an aspiring innkeeping course. There is a great variety here, as well. Some appear to be little more than retired innkeepers telling stories about their guests, while others provide real value, bringing in experts to speak on various aspects of acquiring and operating the business. With that background, and currently speaking at aspiring innkeeping classes on computer-related topics, I turned eagerly to read this book. Running a Bed & Breakfast In the familiar "Dummies" manner, the book uses cartoons (some very cute!) to introduce the parts of the book, and uses icons to flag tips, important information and warnings of…

×