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Hotelier news, tips and advice from industry experts.

Welcome Anywhere Property Managment System > Blog > 2018 > March

If you run a hotel, you’ll probably come across the phrase ‘PMS’ when reading up on the latest innovations that are shaping the industry. And unless it’s properly explained, you might be confused about what this acronym means and which solutions it covers.

If you’re regularly asking “what is a hotel PMS and how can it benefit my business?” then strap in, as we’re about to tackle this topic in detail!

The origins

Back in the day, a property management system (PMS) for hotels was generally reliant on a mixture of physical documents and digital files. This complicated combination dealt with all the important elements of guest-wrangling, from taking bookings to billing and back-office bookkeeping.

As technology has evolved, the hotel PMS has grown to encompass even more features. This can include a range of services such as catering, building maintenance, sales, marketing and, of course, online booking.

From humble beginnings, PMS tech has blossomed into something truly indispensible, especially for larger hotels and national chains. But with the scalability of cloud computing, even independents, B&Bs and pubs with rooms can jump on the bandwagon.

The benefits

It may feel like the perks of having a modern hotel PMS are most prevalent behind-the-scenes, but guests will definitely notice the difference thanks to some of the front-facing features.

A cloud-powered PMS can easily be integrated with a mobile app, for example. This lets you offer remote check in and check out, rather than relying on a member of staff being available whenever guests arrive or leave.

Meanwhile, cleaning staff can be kept up-to-date with room statuses via their own app, allowing them to prioritise rooms more effectively and improve their efficiency. Customers won’t be kept waiting, and they’ll always find the place spotless when they check in.

A PMS is also invaluable for storing guest data and using it to drive marketing strategies and promotional offers. Personal details can be kept in one place securely and in compliance with the GDPR regulations, so you can track and analyse trends while coming up with offers that are relevant to individual guests.

Modern guests also expect the services they’re offered by hotels to be personalised to their needs. If your hotel can achieve this, it stands a better chance of winning repeat bookings. And for independents, this is absolutely vital to remaining profitable.

The considerations

There are a lot of things to think about before you go all-in with a new hotel PMS. And even in the age of cloud computing, there are still on-site systems available which aren’t tied to external servers, although these are fast becoming a legacy option for most hotels.

Wrapping up: how to make the right decision for your hotel

You need to pick a platform that fits your budget, as well as one that will help you overcome the challenges you face. And what is a PMS good for if not giving you the right tools to win over the next generation of guests?

A system that’s hosted in-house might have once been a good idea, but the cloud has the ability to cut IT costs, improve the number of services that are available and make your entire hotel more efficient.

This isn’t a decision one should rush, but as ‘digital natives’ and ‘millennials’ start to define the direction of the hospitality industry as a whole, you have to plan ahead to capture their attention and deliver the best guest experience possible.

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There are two types of people in the world; those who can’t stand social media, and those who’ve already stopped reading halfway through this sentence to check their Twitter feed.

Whichever camp you fall into (you are still reading this, right?!), you can’t ignore the power that these platforms wield, especially if you run a hotel.

In all likelihood, guests will use social media to find out about your hotel before they visit. They might also make direct contact and leave feedback that others can read, either during their stay or after they leave.

Interacting with guests on social media is essential; it lets you show that you care about the public perception of your hotel.

But getting these interactions right is not easy. You need to make your brand seem approachable without letting negative comments hijack the narrative.

Here are some tips to help you avoid disasters when engaging with customers.

Be speedy with your responses

The longer you leave a guest’s query unanswered, the less valued they will feel. So, try to respond quickly whenever someone tweets at your hotel’s account directly, sends a DM (direct message) or posts on your Facebook page.

Keeping notifications active on your smartphone will let you know when a guest has got in touch so that you can fire off a reply. And if you can’t be on hand at all times, setting up automated responses will stop customers feel like they’re being given the cold shoulder.

Keep a consistent tone

Working out the right tone for your social media presence is important, but sticking to it in every post is also key to encouraging great interactions.

It’s best to opt for consistency of tone across all platforms; don’t go for light-hearted banter in your social posts if all of your email marketing is written in a more formal, serious voice.

It might sound obvious, but snarkiness and sarcasm are a definite no-no, even if you’re trying to take down someone who has been overly critical of your hotel. It’s better to kill them with kindness (or silence) than reinforce their poor opinion of you with petty pot-shots.

Aim for clarity

Even if you’ve decided to try and engage a younger audience to expand your hotel’s appeal, don’t forget that your social posts still need to make sense to as many readers as possible. So avoid the temptation to pepper them with slang terms that you don’t necessarily understand.

Simplicity is always preferable when writing a tweet or composing a Facebook status. And although social media can feel disposable, you should still take time to read over each post to avoid any embarrassing typos that could damage your brand.

Use inclusive language

Guests will feel more comfortable with your social media interactions if you harness personal pronouns when you engage with them. Don’t make your hotel feel like some faceless organisation; say things like ‘We’re looking forward to making sure you have a great stay’ or ‘Just ask us if you have any questions’.

Finally, if you are still uncertain, check out how big hotel brands use Facebook and Twitter to interact with customers to get a better idea of how to handle it effectively and gain some invaluable inspiration.

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A little while ago I was at a hotel trade show. You know the type of thing - a huge, bustling venue with vendors displaying everything from bath tubs to telephones, sheets to lamps and smart TVs to safes. We were there, of course, to promote our Welcome Anywhere PMS.

We meet some wonderful people at these events and this one was no exception, with a steady flow of suited and booted buyers from the big chains, general managers, boutique-oriented beardy hipsters and plenty of pubs-with-rooms owners.

The story of Tom and Joan (not their real names…)

Everyone we met was lovely, but perhaps none more so than the independent B&B proprietors who often stopped to peer cautiously at our hotel booking system.

After chatting with many such folk, a certain pattern emerged which troubled me. Although by no means a universal trait, many of these people regarded the property management system as a scary thing best left to others.

“Well,” said Tom (who set up his B&B after a long career in merchant banking), “we don’t need these new-fangled computers”.

His wife, Joan, chimed in: “They’re all so confusing, aren’t they? No, we’ll stick with our big diary.”

We hear this a lot, but what struck me was that Tom and Joan didn’t really mean it. Sure, their big book worked fine, but their jovial assessment was laced with fear.

Frankly I found this rather puzzling and somewhat sad. I had to assume that the couple had adapted to, say, modern cars without too much fear and had not arrived at this show in an Austin 1100 from 1971. Similarly, it’s fair to say that their uptake of other domestic systems (let’s not say “technology” as this stage) has been equally positive, even if gradual.

Tom and Joan did eventually have a little play with Welcome Anywhere, but in a tentative way which suggested the mouse and keyboard might give them an electric shock.

What struck me, and the reason for this blog post, is how much Tom and Joan and countless other B&Bers are missing out because of a fear of technology.

There’s that word!

Fear.

No one-size-fits-all approach

A B&B may to some be a lifestyle business, but it is a business and it has to be profitable – and that means beating the competition when it comes to occupancy. If the competition has a new-fangled PMS system which increases their occupancy and Tom and Joan don’t, that’s a disadvantage, right?

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking anyone for being fearful of technology - least of all Tom and Joan. Adoption of new technology is an iterative process; there’s no one-size-fits-all and if it is going to happen it has to happen naturally.

What I’m calling for is a wider support network to help those with this fear; some hand-holding, some reassurance, some comfort.

Where to start? Well, there are some excellent entry-level property management systems out there, often at very low cost (or even free). These tend to have the most basic functionality required, but won’t dazzle technology newbies, which is a perfect start.

Many B&Bs are family run, so let’s call on any fearful owners to seek the guidance of those within who have not only adopted technology, but never known life without it. It seems to me that there are generations out there who can help their elders feel comfortable dipping a toe in technology waters. We should encourage that!

How can the hospitality industry help?

The hospitality industry (and I include us PMS vendors) should offer hand-holding, support and guidance to B&B owners who would genuinely like to digitally transform their business but who are held back by fear of the unknown.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the industry came together with regional taster days – tea & tech, perhaps – to break down that fear and show how easy technology can be?

I can imagine a world where hospitality technology companies are recognised for their work in breaking down this fear, through the clarity of their communications, the time given to explain things and generally understanding potential customers’ anxieties (and coming up with positive ways to gently remove them). For their work in this area, the best would attain a badge of honour to be proudly displayed.

Final thought

B&Bs are the engine of our hospitality and visitor economy.  The sector should be with them every step of the way.

Get involved! Tell us what you think about John's thoughts in the comments section, below!

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It sometimes feels like the big boys of the hotel industry get to play with the tech toys before anyone else. And while the upfront cost of investing in cutting edge systems can be an obstacle for independents, trends tend to find a way of trickling down… eventually.

If you consider yourself to be a tech-savvy hotelier, here are five movements that are being embraced by the big chains which could soon reach independent operators.

Smart TVs

You may know that smart TVs with internet-enabled abilities are entering circulation at mainstream hotel chains. And with brands like Samsung driving down the price of their intelligent displays, this technology is becoming more accessible.

Smart TVs are about more than just meeting guest expectations and opening up a new world of content; they also appeal thanks to their interactions with other gadgets.

From mobiles and laptops to games consoles and beyond, a modern television can enhance the stay of any guest.

Virtual Reality

VR has gained a lot of traction thanks to affordable headsets and the engaging, interactive experiences on offer. As such, it can be surprisingly effective as a tool for marketing hotels and destinations.

In the not too distant future, you’ll be able to give guests a preview of rooms in full 3D before they visit or highlight local attractions with VR. It’s an exciting opportunity to get creative and sell that empty bed space!

Wireless Charging

Providing guests with a place to plug in their gadgets is standard practice in the age of the smartphone. But modern devices are moving away from cables altogether, thanks to wireless charging technology.

Apple’s most recent raft of iPhone handsets come with wireless charging capabilities as standard, but it was actually a little late to the party; many of its rival mobile makers had already embraced this tech.

Adding wireless charging stations to a hotel room will make things super convenient for guests and could be a real selling point for your hotel (plus they’re relatively affordable, which is a bonus!).

AI Customer Service Capabilities

While true artificial intelligence is still a way off becoming a reality, hotels are harnessing this tech in the form of chat bots which can deal with guest questions in an instant.

Adding a chat bot to a hotel website makes it simple to engage with potential customers from the outset. And if you have limited customer service resources at your disposal, this can be a great way to avoid missing out on guests who may otherwise head to the competition.

And finally… Personalisation

Guests like a personal touch when they visit a hotel. And various technologies are coming together to ensure that each visit is as unique as possible.

In-depth analysis of data is at the heart of this movement. Mobiles are particularly useful here, since they can provide location-based insights into customer behaviour which are highly relevant for hoteliers.

Successfully managing your relationship with guests from the point of first contact to the follow-up marketing after their stay is less of a pain thanks to personalisation.

Tell us what you think!

Which tech trend above excites you the most as a modern independent hotelier? Tell us in the comments section, below!

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For some guests, a visit to a hotel is an excuse to forgo their usual frugal behaviours and take full advantage of the facilities available to them.

Whether blasting the air con at max, charging all their devices at once, running a piping hot bath or getting fresh towels every 24 hours, eco-friendly habits go out the window when someone else is footing the bill.

Meanwhile, hotels are increasingly under pressure to improve their sustainability and cut their carbon footprint. So, what options are available to environmentally conscious hoteliers?

Recycle, recycle, recycle!

With recycling resources in abundance today, there’s no excuse for sending all hotel waste to landfill.

A lot of the hard work can be taken out of the equation if you encourage guests to sort their waste materials for you. Add a separate bin for recycling to each of the rooms in your hotel and you’ll be off to a good start.

Leverage renewable energy

There are lots of sustainable alternatives to electricity generated by burning fossil fuels. And with solar and wind power becoming more affordable, adoption doesn’t need to be a drain on your finances.

Even if you just supplement your existing energy supply with some renewable alternatives, rather than going all-in immediately, you’re taking a step in the right direction.

Avoid water waste

While modern hotels may benefit from baked-in improvements to water management, older premises are often not as well equipped in this department.

Thankfully there are lots of cost-effective adaptations that can save water, including devices which reduce the amount used in each flush of a toilet. Even contemporary shower head designs can create savings, both for the environment and your bank balance.

Overhaul laundry handling

A lot of a hotel’s resources are tied up in keeping sheets and towels clean. So, if you can improve the efficiency of your laundry processes even a small amount, the cumulative benefits will be significant.

Replace old, power-hungry machines with modern equivalents which boast better energy ratings. Or if you outsource your laundry, only work with third party firms that are committed to combating waste and avoiding environmental issues.

Get creative

Your eco efforts don’t need to be kept behind the scenes. Why not create green spaces around your hotel which are not only easy on the eye, but also do more to curb climate change than concrete and tarmac?

You could even start growing vegetables and fruits on-site as part of a gardening project, which will be worth boasting about on social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram and will also be a tasty treat for guests to enjoy!

Work with customers

You might worry that actively promoting your green policies will put off guests who want to relax without having to obey more rules. But in this environmentally aware age, the opposite is true.

Ask visitors if they’re willing to stick with the same sheets and towels for more than one night (it’s standard practice in many major chains today). Even think about giving them tips on how to travel locally while leaving their car at the hotel to reduce emissions.

With a positive attitude and a few good ideas like those above, you can make your hotel a fine example of environmental friendliness.

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If you run an independent hotel, guest engagement is essential. You’ll want to build a relationship with your customers so that they remain loyal after their first visit.

This is easier said than done, especially if you’re not a natural marketing whiz kid. And you need to strike the right balance between building your brand and letting your guests get on with their lives uninterrupted.

To help you out, here are five things we think will help you get the hang of guest engagement, whether you’re starting from scratch or updating existing strategies.

1. Know Your Audience

It may be tempting to send out offers and deals to every single one of your previous guests who are still on your mailing list. Unfortunately, this approach is guaranteed to annoy some people.

Receiving marketing that isn’t relevant to their interests will create a bad impression of your hotel. Instead, it’s a good idea to drill down into the data, assess which customers will be a match for your various packages, offers and services, and target smaller segments to get the best results.

2. Make Suggestions

Guests will feel that you understand them better if you give them a few ideas about activities and offers that are best suited to their lifestyles and desires.

Suggest local events which fall into their areas of interest when writing marketing mail-outs. Just be sure that these are relevant; it might not be appropriate to send a customer who visited alone on business an invitation to the next family fun day, for example.

3. Encourage Feedback

Unless you take action to engage your guests after their first visit, they’ll probably forget about your hotel altogether. By simply requesting a quick review following their stay, you’ll stand the best chance to boost the likelihood of repeat business.

You can also try other tactics to earn future bookings. Why not email customers in the run-up to their birthday with a discount offer that they’ll recognise as an opportunity to treat themselves?

If you don’t follow up on the first visit, you’ll never establish lasting relationships with guests.

4. Avoid Oversaturation

Remember the balancing act we mentioned earlier? Engagement isn’t about bombarding people with constant blog posts and emails or prodding them for interaction at every turn. It’s about working out the right time to strike and not taking advantage of their contact info too often.

Ultimately, it’s the little things that count. From the unique touches that make guests feel welcome the minute they arrive, to the help and support you provide throughout their stay and beyond, good customer service goes a lot further than an unwanted shower of emails.

5. Share What Makes You Special

Being honest about what sets your hotel apart from your competitors is the best way to get potential customers interested. And you shouldn’t be worried about being copied by rivals, as imitations rarely match up to the real thing.

You could use social media to give people a behind-the-scenes look at how you operate, from preparing food in the restaurant to choosing quirky accessories to create compelling room designs. Don’t be shy to experiment with new platforms to generate engagement.

These tips are just the ‘tip’ of the iceberg when it comes to guest engagement! So, get experimental and see what works for your independent hotel.

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