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Guest Satisfaction vs Revenue: Things to Think About

A recent post from Daniel Edward Craig on the 4 Hoteliers site (and re-posted in other places) has caused me to reflect a bit on the "business is business" side of things, as compared to the warmer, fuzzier, guest satisfaction side. The article from Daniel Craig was based on a question he had received, asking if your hotel ranks at the top on TripAdvisor, are you not charging enough? Daniel surveyed a number of lodging professionals (hoteliers and consultants), and received a variety of answers. He concludes that there is no consensus, but clearly the benefits outweigh any costs. From reading the article, it appears that by his conclusion, Daniel is saying, in essence, that being at the top on TripAdvisor is worth more than could be gained by a price increase which could cause a drop in TripAdvisor rank. A bit of context The question of raising rates, at the possible expense of TripAdvisor ranking, is essentially analogous to the concept of revenue management. That is, the approach used by airlines, many larger hotels, and sometimes other businesses, to use a fluctuating rate scale, rather than posted rates. Thus, when there is lots of available inventory, prices are relatively low. As inventory shrinks (fewer available rooms), rates increase. Other factors, such as holidays, may also play into the rate ultimately charged. Using that analogy, then, the theory behind the question would be that there is a "sweet spot" where rates are increased until the TripAdvisor position slips down, just below the top group of properties. If this theory were viable, a property would be maximizing its revenue by charging more than its competitors, while not losing enough occupancy to reduce overall revenue. The profits would be gained by (a) increased room rates, and (b) reduced costs due to slightly…

Don’t imitate Google if you want to grow your business

This isn't a rant against Google. Really, it isn't. But it is an interesting customer service lesson for small businesses, taken from large businesses. Most people who are in business can see first hand the value of good customer service. For small businesses, especially those in hospitality, this is particularly true. In the hospitality business, good customer service can lead to good reviews on TripAdvisor or other services. It can also lead to instant gratification when you see the smiles on the faces of your guests/customers, hear the sincerity in their voices when they thank you for the time they've spent at your establishment, and promise to return. The results of bad customer service are often just as obvious. On more than one innkeeper forum we regularly see innkeepers complain about the behavior of their guests. Sometimes they have good reason, but usually it is just because the guest's schedule or priorities don't match those of the innkeeper. Some of those innkeepers will tell how they responded. Others will share their own similar experiences, and tell how they fought back against the guest's schedule/requirements/preferences Still others will simply offer advice on how to resist the guest's request. We realize that some of these stories are just that - fictionalized versions. It is important to remember, though, that this advice is being offered to others on how to deal with a perceived problem. Some will take it as advice they should follow. [pullquote]Every interaction is a customer service interaction.[/pullquote] Sometimes innkeepers seem to have forgotten that every interaction with a guest is a customer service interaction. If you've ever had to deal with Google about a problem, you've seen some of the worst examples of customer service, ever. Local search expert Mike Blumenthal recently described what he called not only Google's…

Software Review: ResNexus Reservation System

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." Overview 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. User Interface 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,…

Software Review: Book At Once Property Management Software

Book At Once provides a powerful and innovative approach to their software for managing bed and breakfasts and other small lodging properties. For many, their power and innovation will be very attractive - especially in the free version. For others, it just may not be their cup of tea. Overview Book at Once is a German booking system, reaching out to become a worldwide provider, and particularly to reach the American, market. Book at Once has also become a vendor member of PAII, as part of its efforts to reach out to the US and international innkeeping market. One of the most interesting aspects of their product is that it is priced according to the features you select. The basic system is free, and that could be powerful enough for some properties. If not, additional feature bundles can be added for a monthly fee per room, or Book at Once can tailor a bundle to your needs and price it according to the features selected. Pricing for the product is given in Euros per room per month (easily converted to US Dollars or other currency), on the basis of a two year contract. We were given a full system for the review, so if you were to purchase a different option, your features may be different. The technical design of Book at Once makes it an enormously powerful system – so much so that as you use the system you are left with the feeling that it can do even more than you can see. That leaves great possibilities for future growth. User Interface [caption id="attachment_253" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Book At Once Dashboard"][/caption] In evaluating the user interface, we consider the layout of the screens (or web pages), ease of navigating the program, ease of entering (or changing) booking or guest…

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…

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