Category: Software

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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…

7 Things to Consider When Choosing Guest Management Software

Our B&B, Brewster House Bed & Breakfast, was recently in a position to re-evaluate its guest management software choice. You would think that the frequent evaluations (and upcoming reviews!) of various systems (we'll call them guest management software, though some call them property management software) would make this an easy thing to do, but it never works out that way. You see, while we did a careful study of the available software before our initial purchase, every time we have to review that decision, there are new players, with new products, and the older players and products have changed, and their pricing has changed. So, while we felt we made the best choice for our property at the time, it is always worth the time to review the competition instead of blindly renewing with the same product. 1. Take the emotion out of the equation From forum discussions and other contact we've had with innkeepers, it is clear that some guest management software companies give the impression of being a faceless corporate giant, while others give the impression of being the small, user-friendly company. Some make friends by giving things away, or being helpful in public forums. One may make you disinclined to buy from them, the other may make you want to help them out, but neither of these emotional reactions is a solid foundation for an important business decision. 2. Compare features that are the same Almost all products provide a list of their features on their websites. However, there is no industry standard for naming the features, so be sure that you understand what the feature actually does. For example, if being able to export guest transactions to an accounting program (such as Quickbooks or Peachtree) is important to you, make sure you know what the company…

Tracking Reservation Sources

A few months ago we wrote about the importance of tracking the sources of reservations, and mentioned that we would be testing the Intell-A-Keeper software available from Acorn Internet Services. While the high season bookings will get busier in the coming weeks, we thought it was time for an update on that process. [pullquote]the results are both interesting and enlightening[/pullquote]We have been using Intell-A-Keeper (IAK) since January, and find that the results are both interesting and enlightening. In the interest of full disclosure, I (Scott) have recently started doing a small amount of part-time technical work for Acorn Internet Services that is unrelated to Intell-A-Keeper. We pay the same amount for our IAK service as any other customer would pay. Our Prior Tracking Method Before using IAK we would track our reservations by asking guests (via an online form for online bookings, or directly if over the phone) where they had located Brewster House Bed & Breakfast. We tracked those results in a spreadsheet each year, so we could compare year-over-year changes. We also used Google Analytics to determine hits on our website, and the sources of the traffic, and configured Goals so we could attempt to track the source of bookings. In general, we knew that guest responses were not reliable, but without a better tracking mechanism, were not able to determine which were valid. Using Google Analytics only partially helped in this regard, as we could get a booking, then not be able to determine how the guest came to our site. This is largely because Google Analytics tracks only the last referer (yes, the correct spelling is misspelled - go figure) - the last source before coming to our site. To attempt to do better, we talked with Acorn and installed Intell-A-Keeper. Setting up Intell-A-Keeper Set up…

Slide Presentation: Selecting Guest Management Software

This week we attended the PAII Innkeeping Conference in Austin, Texas. Our first presentation was “How to Select Guest Management Software” on Tuesday afternoon (changed from its original time on Wednesday afternoon). Since it seemed that many were not aware of the schedule change, we wanted to make the slides available for viewing here. During the presentation we also gave access to a Google Documents spreadsheet to help in comparing different Property Management Systems, and evaluating them according to your own priorities. The slide presentation explains how to use the spreadsheet, and we'll describe it again, below the presentation, but if you only need the link to the spreadsheet to download it for your own use, you will find the Guest Management Software Comparison spreadsheet here. Selecting Guest Management Software View more presentations from Scott Thomas. Using the Spreadsheet The first two columns breaks the features we will consider into several categories (User Interface, Online Bookings, Reports, etc.), and identifies the features within each category. The column titled “Importance” is a numeric value you define, setting a value from 1-10 (10 being highest) of the importance of the feature to YOU. The values in the spreadsheet are samples, only. Your values may differ. Also, you can add more features (or delete irrelevant features) by adding rows between two other rows (or deleting a row). However, if you make such changes, you may need to update the formulas which automatically calculate totals in various sections. Read through all the features and edit the values in the Importance column to give relative importance of each feature to you. Download a demo copy of the software you are considering (or sign up for an online evaluation of a web-based system), and try it out, paying specific attention to the features listed in your…

Selecting Property Management Software (Part 3)

In our previous posts on this topic we discussed a basic approach to selecting guest management software and online booking software, and considerations affecting the choice of web-based systems versus locally installed systems. As promised, we'll discuss some of the features you may want to consider, and ways of evaluating them. Deciding what features you need We'll list a variety of features, grouped by category, but you should make your own list. Some of the features we think are important may not be important to your property, or you may have others that are very important, but that we haven't considered. Just as properties differ, so do the features they want to see in the Property Management System. If you click on the image of a spreadsheet at right, you'll find a spreadsheet (in Google Documents) that you may view or download, with sample comparisons of a variety of features to consider. You'll want to open a copy of the spreadsheet, either in your browser, or download it and open a local copy, so you can follow along (and make any changes you need). We've separated the features into several categories, in an effort to reduce the effort at comparison. The categories we've selected are Rate Capabilities (types of rates, and rate attributes that you can set),  User Interface considerations, Guest Communications (confirmations, reminders, follow-up, etc.), Reports (pre-designed reports, custom reports, occupancy, financial, etc.), Accounting (export of accounting data, interface with accounting software), and Online Booking (whether incorporated into the Property Management System, or independent, whether it can be customized to fit with the property web site, update frequency, and items that can be displayed. Within each category there are several features listed, most of which are commonly found in different Property Management Software. If there are any you feel…

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