(Posted 24th January 2022)
Technology is one of the key tools that hoteliers leverage to make operations appear effortless to guests, and hotel management software is the single most important system in the entire hotel.
Choosing a hotel management software system is like buying a car: it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the plethora of options, and it can be difficult to find trusted advice about the PMS features you need most.
There’s often a misconception in business software that one size fits all. Every hotel has very specific needs based on the property size, chain scale, geography, and dozens of other variables. On top of that, every owner or manager has their own preferences in terms of design, usability, and support. It is absolutely critical to narrow down the problem you’re trying to solve to engage with PMS vendors and ensure you aren’t being sold on things that your property doesn’t need.
Technology is one of the key tools that hoteliers leverage to make operations appear effortless to guests, and hotel management software is the single most important system in the entire hotel. Whether you work at an independent bed and breakfast or a global hotel chain, your hotel management system is the nucleus of your property.
Nearly every member of a hotel team must access the PMS to perform daily tasks. Guest service staffs need to prioritize hotel rooms that must be cleaned for early VIP arrivals. Sales & event management professionals need to block off rooms for groups. Hotel managers need to access the system for data and operating insights.
Hotel management system vendor selection is one of the most important and difficult decisions a hotel operator will ever make. By the end of this article, you’ll know exactly what to look for so that you can make informed technology decisions for your property.
The Most Essential Hotel Management Software Functionalities
Let’s start with the basics. These features are true must-haves for any modern hotelier who wants to use technology to improve the guest experience, make back-office operations more efficient, and build lasting relationships with guests.
- Intuitive & easy-to-use interface: A user-friendly interface is the most important factor when choosing mission-critical software for a hotel. If your hotel software is complex and confusing, more mistakes will be made, costing you more money. Common tasks should not take lots of time and steps, as this slows down your team and limits your ability to grow quickly – hence the need for a powerful hotel management software system.
- Mobile & tablet optimized: When your manager, housekeeping team, and other staff members need to check details on a booking quickly they shouldn’t have to rush back to the office. Any system you use must not only be accessible but also optimized for use on mobile phones and tablets. Better yet, your owner should be able to check performance while on holiday.
- Clear visibility of the grid: Adding special events that are happening in the region, highlighting returning guests, and identifying guests who are yet to pay their bills are all features your grid should enable by default. Your grid should allow you to quickly & easily see key information about your guests.
- Guest profiles: Are you working on building guest loyalty? Guest profiles store your guests’ contact information, stay history, and even preferences so that you can deliver a more personalized experience during their next stay. Better yet, a guest profile with stored CC’s of your guest will make it even easier for returning guests.
- Email automation: You can communicate with guests and reduce manual work for your staff by deploying personalized, customized, and automated emails. Using your own templates, automated email functionality allows you to build a communication journey from the initial booking to targeted offers for repeat guests.
- Housekeeping management: Your PMS should allow your housekeeping team to mark rooms as clean, dirty, or out of order. Having this information in one central place gives the front desk visibility of room statuses so that they can accommodate early check-ins and room moves without needing to radio the housekeeping supervisor.
- Reservation management: Perhaps the absolute most essential PMS feature is reservations management and front office features. By housing all of your reservations digitally, hoteliers can make a paper reservation book a thing of the past. Within reservations management, you should be able to set rates, control availability, offer promotions, and visualize reservations on a calendar.
- Room management: The room management module of a PMS is like your virtual front desk. This functionality lets front desk agents check guests in and out, and cancel or extend reservations with just a few simple clicks.
- Group bookings/reservations: If your hotel plans on hosting any type of event or group of guests, then group reservations functionality is crucial. Group reservation features include allowing guests to book reservations within the room block, exporting a room list, and configuring billing settings so that you can bill one account for multiple rooms.
- Invoicing: When most guests check out, they want a copy of their bill; so, your PMS should be able to easily export guests’ folios that contain all charges from their stay. Similarly, you’ll want solid, straightforward financial reporting that helps you reconcile revenue and expenses from room revenue, outlets, vendors, and more.
- Payment processing: Gone are the days when guests paid with cash or cheque, so you’ll want a PMS with a payment processor integration that allows you to effortlessly charge guests’ credit cards and have secure access to major payment gateways like even M-Pesa.
- Business intelligence & reporting: How do you know if your hotel is doing well if you can’t measure your performance? A PMS with robust reporting features will give you insight into your revenue, ADR, RevPAR, and a slew of other metrics so that you can find opportunities for growth – and track your progress toward your goals.
- Rate management: Do you want to offer a non-refundable rate or value-added packages? If so, you’ll want rate management functionality that allows for multiple, customizable rate plans.
- User logs & permissions: With so many turnovers in the hotel industry, it is important to keep front-line staff accountable with detailed user logs to have an automated record in case of any mistakes, as well as to ensure proper training and issue resolution. Additionally, we are living in a world where consumers demand heightened security, so it is critical that staff are only able to access the parts of the hotel management system required to complete their core tasks without unnecessarily accessing sensitive information like credit card data.
Key Software Integrations to Supercharge Your Hotel Property Management System
A PMS is an important software partner in its own right, but running a hotel is very complex, which usually means that more feature functionality will be needed than a PMS can provide. For that reason, some of the most important PMS features are actually software integrations with other key systems to unlock more value and performance through real-time data sharing and triggers. Let’s explore some of the most critical PMS add-ons.
- Accounting software: Accounting is an ever-changing, complicated industry, and you don’t want to be stuck with software that is out of date when rules change. As such, you should look for software that has robust and complete integrations with the world leaders of accounting. This will empower you to streamline your invoicing, reconciliation, commission payment, and billing processes and automate repetitive tasks to help your finance department run more smoothly.
- Point-of-sale system integration: If your hotel has a restaurant, bar, spa, or other outlets, then an integrated POS can do wonders for your operations. When your POS can talk to your PMS, guests can seamlessly charge purchases to their room, and you can keep a record of guest purchasing activity to analyze trends and personalize future loyalty offers.
- Channel manager: Do you work with third-party channels like Booking.com and Expedia? If so, you’ll need a channel manager to push your rates and availability to these platforms, and more. In return, it will send reservations back to your PMS to capture more hotel bookings. A channel manager can also prevent overbookings by syncing with your PMS since it will know when to turn off distribution as a certain room type gets sold out. Channel manager software solutions are also important for hotels to optimize the allocation of rooms across channels and to ensure maximum profitability.
- Booking engine: Allow guests to book directly with you, with no expensive commissions. An online booking engine, which publishes your rates and availability to your website, collects the necessary information from guests and creates reservations in your PMS.