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Hotelier news, tips and advice from industry experts.

Welcome Anywhere Property Managment System > Blog > 2018 > July

In an era of ubiquitous technology, it makes sense to integrate as many hotel systems and services as possible in order to deliver even better guest experiences.

If you keep everything separate and fragmented, you’ll be missing out on some seriously important benefits.

This rule certainly applies when it comes to a hotel property management system (PMS) and electronic point of sale (EPOS) solution; they deserve each other.

So, what are the advantages of integrating your till system and PMS, and why should you make the leap today, if you haven’t already?

Unified billing

Few hotels offer guests a place to rest their heads and nothing more; success comes when you add extras on top, from room service and in-room entertainment to a fully-fledged restaurant and bar.

If your PMS and EPOS systems are not linked, wrangling all of the additional billing information that accumulates from a guest’s movements around the hotel over the course of a stay can be tricky.

With an integrated solution, you can avoid billing errors, which will keep guests satisfied, and ensure you don’t lose out on any cash you’re owed when check out time arrives.

Improved service for guests

If your PMS and EPOS platforms are talking to each other, guests will be less likely to get frustrated by issues that might arise before, during or even after their stay as a result of human error. Missed bar tabs and drinks bills from another room ending up on the wrong invoice are classic examples of what can happen if your PMS and EPOS system aren’t integrated.

The question you have to ask yourself is why you’d bother bringing the opportunity for human error into play when you can embrace a modern, integrated PMS and EPOS system which automates everything and tracks billing through a single interface.

Happy guests are more likely to book with you again and recommend your hotel to their friends and family, which is another significant upside to the marriage of PMS and EPOS.

Extra integrations

A quality PMS which is capable of working hand-in-hand with an EPOS system should also offer interoperability with other third-party solutions.

This is why it’s so important to choose your PMS and EPOS carefully, rather than rushing to snap up the product with the lowest asking price or the one that has made the headlines in trade press.

Shopping around for the best till system and PMS to suit your needs (every hotel is different, after all) will give you access other features and the opportunity to integrate additional elements, such as instant messaging for staff and guests, online booking through OTAs, front desk functionality and more.

Some PMS and EPOS integrations do a lot more than room billing, too, so make sure you ask the vendor if end of day sales and banking figures are automatically transferred between the two and whether or not the EPOS system is aware of things like credit limits for specific bookings.

Wrapping up

Anyone who’s experienced the advantages of an integrated PMS and EPOS system first-hand will be acutely aware that it’s a huge asset for modern hotels.

The only caveat is that you need to do your research and seek out a solution that is modern, secure, flexible and fit to serve you and your guests effectively.

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Travellers today are more connected, informed and tech savvy than ever before. This has opened a multitude of new ways for hotels to gather data and use it to enhance the guest experience. However, there are challenges when it comes to gaining a 360-degree view of that data. Hotels need technology solutions that can integrate together to help build a more detailed view of the guest and use it to deliver more personalized services and marketing.

One of the most important integrations in the hotel technology suite is a tight relationship between the PMS (Property Management System) and CRM (Customer Relationship Management). By connecting data in these two systems, hotels can create memorable guest experiences at every digital touchpoint. By integrating these two systems, and other hotel technology platforms, hotels are able to have a single view of each guest and take advantage of the tools available to collect data and engage with guests while at the same time work from a shared database.

With a single view of the customer, hotel staff can ensure that engagement is meaningful and relevant at every touchpoint during the guest journey. These integrations allow a single profile to include the guest’s photo, stay history, total spend, interests, preferred room types, links to social profiles, loyalty program status and feedback from previous stays.

In addition to the single, consolidated view of every guest, hotels are also well positioned using CRM, to be transparent and upfront about how they use and store guests’ data. By centralizing their data, hotels know exactly where the data is stored, who has access to it, and who controls it.

Some hoteliers have misconceptions of CRM, that it provides an email marketing platform and not much else. CRM has capabilities far outreaching that of email marketing, by providing a consolidated view of every guest, it allows hoteliers to act on their data through segmentation, personalization and accurate, real-time reporting.

A great example of this is how a central profile within a CRM can play a pivotal role in improving the guest experience across the whole travel journey. Hoteliers can automate, segment and tailor how they communicate based on data points such as:

  • Spend per stay
  • Frequency of visits
  • Preferred locations and booking patterns
  • Interests
  • Behavior
  • Satisfaction
  • Reasons for travel

This wealth of data and activity means they are now communicating via the right channel, at the right time, with the right message. All in all, a simple integration between CRM and PMS can dramatically improve how hoteliers interact with their guests and allow them to focus on what they do best – focusing on the guest.

Here are a few examples of how using segmentation and personalization can improve every day activities at a hotel:

  • Tailor transactional/confirmation emails based on reservation and preference data
  • Up-sell room upgrades, and amenities based on reservation type, room type and preferences
  • Provide a tailored check-in experience based on arrival times
  • Display and provide personalized welcome gifts in the room for arrival
  • Send reminder emails to guests to book again based on stay dates and preferences

To find out more about how a PMS and CRM integration could help you, contact us today. You can also find out more about how a PMS and CRM integration works by downloading this guide.

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A happy hotel team is a productive and effective one, but achieving harmony amongst your employees can be challenging.

Here’s a few tips for independent hoteliers who want to boost staff morale, improve communications and enhance productivity in one fell swoop.

Recognise and reward hard work

If you want your hotel staff to be committed to your organisation, it’s important to keep track of their performance and make sure they feel that their efforts are appreciated, rather than ignored.

Quarterly and annual reviews can be helpful, but don’t just ply them with bonuses or purely financial perks; sometimes what they really want is a reward of a different sort – something more memorable.

Extra time off for important occasions which doesn’t eat into their allocated annual leave is a good option.

Embrace a modern PMS

Technology will oil the behind-the-scenes mechanisms of any hotel, especially if you adopt a cutting-edge property management system (PMS) which offers the ability for employees to contact each other on the fly.

A PMS with an integrated instant messaging platform will be the best option, giving staff a discrete and convenient way to pass on information to colleagues, request help dealing with issues or provide updates on the progress of important tasks.

Train your staff to take advantage of messaging tools and other shortcuts in the PMS, or else they’ll never reap the benefits and you won’t maximise the return on investment.

Plan social events

You might feel that your staff see enough of each other on a daily basis, but the only way to keep them happy and effective as a team is to boost the social bonds between them outside the context of the hotel.

This is where social events come into play, and we’re not just talking about the booze-fuelled Christmas bash at the end of the year.

You could book in specific team-building exercises aimed at businesses, but it’s often just as effective to arrange activities that aren’t so structured or formal.

There’s no need to opt for outdoors activities to establish a rapport between employees; something simple and inclusive can actually be more effective.

For example, you could host a game night where staff get to engage and compete with each other in a relaxed, informal environment, or simply buy them takeaway pizza and extend everyone’s allotted lunch breaks.

Keep an open ear

Hotel staff who feel they aren’t being listened to by the management will almost certainly become disgruntled over time.

This means that encouraging employees to speak up if they have a problem is the only route to guaranteed harmony amongst team members.

Aside from helping people conquer the obstacles they’re facing, you might find that the issues raised are actually helpful to your organisation as a whole and could give you some fresh ideas on how to improve the experience your hotel offers guests.

Wrapping up

An independent hotel can only be successful if the team works in harmony and enjoys spending time with one another. Staff harmony and productivity go hand-in-hand with guest satisfaction and customer loyalty, after all.

As a result you can’t afford to ignore the needs of your employees, or leave the ebb and flow of morale to chance.

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In the digital age it may feel as though all your branding and guest engagement efforts should be focused on your hotel’s online presence.

However, winning over customers via the web is just the first step to building a loyal, long-lasting relationship with them.

The tougher challenge lies ahead, because grabbing guest attention and keeping them satisfied while they’re staying at your independent hotel is tricky - especially in this time of ever-rising expectations.

With that in mind, here’s a few tips on how to inspire your hotel staff and make sure they represent your brand effectively and engage with guests positively.

Adopt a consistent approach

The best way to solidify your hotel’s brand image and make it memorable for guests is to ensure that all staff are on the same page when it comes to customer service.

Consistency is the key to success, so provide equal training opportunities in guest engagement for front of house employees and those working behind-the-scenes.

From housekeeping to the accounts team, every member of staff should provide an equivalent level of approachability and support when interacting with customers.

Be empathetic

To further develop a unified, company-wide strategy for guest engagement, ask your staff to examine every obstacle from the customer’s perspective (both online and within the premises).

Having empathy for guests will make it easier to find ways to overcome whatever problems they encounter during the booking process or questions they might have during their stay.

Obviously, it’s important to keep the hotel’s best interests in mind, but encouraging flexible thinking and a desire to ‘put yourself in the guest’s shoes’ will empower staff and boost their engagement skills.

Personalise communication

From the moment they book a room to the instant they check out after their stay, it pays to communicate with guests in a way that feels unique and tailored to them as individuals.

It’s straightforward enough to ensure that the personal touch is applied automatically to emails and other digital correspondence, but what about once customers arrive on site?

Providing front desk staff with the information that can help them greet guests and deal with their needs effectively is vital.

A bespoke approach, which takes into account any specific requests (rather than forcing them to repeat details they already provided when booking) will go a long way to earning their respect, and can be achieved by integrating your PMS with a customer relationship management system.

Consider clothing

It may feel a little draconian, but creating a dress code for staff will make a world of difference when it comes to building a brand that’s consistent, approachable and professional.

It doesn’t need to be especially rigid, but if you can provide uniforms or create fixed guidelines for what’s acceptable, you’ll present your business in a much more cohesive way.

Affordability and practicality are of course important when it comes to clothing, so don’t go overboard with designs or rush to implement a uniform that won’t let hotel employees do their jobs effectively. Ask for their input before ordering, and you’ll reduce the chances of a mass revolt!

Wrapping up

If raising guest engagement at your independent hotel is something you’re keen to achieve, there isn’t a tried-and-tested path to take. A mixture of the ideas above or those ‘borrowed’ from hotels at which you’ve stayed will most likely be needed.

Whatever approach you choose to raise staff guest engagement, you’ll almost certainly need to tweak your tactics over time in order to see what works and what doesn’t before you settle on the perfect approach.

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In a move designed to help hospitality businesses better engage with and retain their guests, Welcome Systems has announced a strategic partnership with Guestfolio, Cendyn’s customer relationship management (CRM) platform for hoteliers.

Guestfolio CRM will empower Welcome System’s customers to deliver the right message at the right time through marketing automation across multiple channels. This in combination with a robust email marketing platform, TripAdvisor integration and consolidated guest profiles will offer insights into guest reservations, room stays and inquiries, leading to measurable impact and revenue growth.

Welcome Systems, a UK leader in hospitality software solutions, will use Guestfolio to provide its clients with the ability to integrate every ‘digital touch-point’ before, during and after a guest stay, providing a cohesive view of visitor data in a single platform for tailored guest marketing.

John Jones, MD of Welcome Systems Ltd, explains:

“In an increasingly competitive hospitality sector it’s never been more important for hoteliers to communicate and engage with their guests. Our partnership with Cendyn is a major step in overcoming obstacles to this.

“The way people anticipate a hotel experience has completely changed over the last few years. From the moment they consider booking a trip through to the point they arrive, the focus is on a comfortable, unique and hassle-free stay.

“Our Welcome Anywhere property management system (PMS) is a perfect fit with Cendyn’s Guestfolio CRM platform, meaning our accommodation business clients can now benefit from the best of both in a single package.

“Guestfolio simply plugs into Welcome Anywhere, extracts historical guest data and synchronises all present and future reservations. From here the system creates tailored marketing campaigns and notifications that can be actively pushed out to guests based on their known likes before, during and after a visit.

“This allows for seamless pre-arrival, confirmation, modification and cancellation messages to be neatly tied in with Welcome Anywhere’s cloud-based PMS, which works across smartphones, tablets and PCs.

“We’re particularly excited about Guestfolio’s Concierge App, which also works on mobile devices and desktop computers. It can be adapted to mirror a hotel’s brand and is instantly updated with guests’ travel requests, details of special hotel events and other attractions in a local area.

“All of this represents the effective use of granular ‘data mining’ and ultimately frees-up a hotelier’s time for other things.

“This is quite unlike anything else on the market and, as the hospitality sector becomes increasingly aware of the value and power of data, we’re thrilled to be at the forefront of these developments.”

Charles Deyo, CEO & President at Cendyn, adds:

“We’re delighted to be partnering with Welcome Systems. Adding them to our data connectivity suite is a testament to our dedication to provide the most integrated CRM platform in the industry

“One of the biggest challenges that faces hotels today is being able to take action on their data. By integrating their PMS with a CRM, as we are doing with Welcome Systems and Cendyn, hoteliers are able to understand and leverage their data to improve the guest experience like never before. We continue to work with robust and innovative PMS vendors like Welcome Systems to ensure hoteliers can take advantage of technology that works fundamentally to put the guests at the heart of what they do.”

Find out more

To find out more about the integration between Welcome Anywhere and Guestfolio, click here.

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The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has taken online travel agents (OTAs) to task in the past week over how hotel rooms are displayed to customers, according to BBC News.

This news arrives in the wake of claims that some of the leading sites which offer booking capabilities are misleading consumers when it comes to the availability of rooms.

An investigation by the CMA into this issue is ongoing and, thus far, the sites which are suffering the regulator’s scrutiny have not been singled out. Complaints raised by investigators relate to the fact that rooms are apparently sometimes ordered according to the level of commission that hotels pay OTAs. This (it's assumed) means that the rank a room achieves isn’t always related to its quality or suitability, making results less relevant for guests.

There are also other concerns being aired, covering everything from the transparency of the way discounts are handled to the ‘hidden’ fees that only come to light further into the booking journey.

This is a hot topic for the CMA and the industry at large, since it estimates that around 70 per cent of consumers who compare hotel rooms online do so via an OTA.

Of course, it could be argued that OTAs have also done a vast amount to help consumers get better prices for hotel rooms, while also empowering providers of accommodation with a means of boosting their visibility, introducing new business and increasing bookings.

The latest findings of this investigation are a timely reminder that OTAs now face increasing pressure to operate fairly and that the same goals should apply to independent hotels. This all relates to the guest experience, after all - and that's what really matters.

Putting guests first

The most important thing to remember when navigating the choppy waters of online booking is that customers need to be thought of above all else and beyond any issues you might have with OTAs.

For example, if you plough all of your efforts into perfecting your listings with popular OTAs, while neglecting your hotel’s website, then winning those all-important direct bookings will be much harder.

Of course, you can’t rely on direct bookings and shun OTAs altogether, since they’re crucial to alerting customers to your hotel’s existence in the first place, such is their dominance on Google and continual investment in what many would argue is the best online booking experience.

Essentially you need to strike a balance between a well-honed OTA presence and a compelling on-site experience for people who want to book with your hotel directly.

A big part of this is about building trust and making sure that guests don’t necessarily need to book a room with you through an OTA to get the best deal. Loyalty programs for guests who regularly stay with you can help here, but most of all you need to focus on delivering rate parity across every platform on which you advertise rooms.

This is tough with the level of competitiveness that exists on OTAs, as well as the unavoidable costs of commission. Thankfully, with regulators cracking down on anti-competitive practices, the ability to combine an OTA presence with successful direct booking strategies will potentially become easier for independent hotels.

Wrapping up

OTAs are here to stay and still offer significant value as marketing channels for hotels, so independent operators must learn to leverage them as best they can, whilst optimising direct booking and keeping on the right side of regulators.

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In episode 7 of the Welcome Systems podcast, we invite Charlene McKenzie, a student at Cardiff Metropolitan University, to talk about the opportunities and barriers faced by hospitality students who are looking to take their first steps into the industry.

Offering a unique perspective from a future hospitality industry employee, Charlene tells us her thoughts on the skills shortage, Brexit and how the hotel industry can better accommodate students with internships.

If you enjoy this podcast, please subscribe on iTunes to ensure you never miss a future episode!

To find out more about the H&C Expo, click here.

https://soundcloud.com/user-568165456/the-welcome-systems-podcast-ep7-interns-skills-shortages-and-brexit

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