Change is a constant in the world, and in the hospitality industry there has been very significant change in recent years. How guests search for their hotel, and what they expect and demand when they get there has changed. How the hospitality industry has geared up to meet change has also altered the landscape. Most of all, change has come in the ever-increasing adoption of technologies, at the core of which are Property Management Systems. These are suites of software providing unprecedented scope in helping hotels manage their operations efficiently and effectively.
From the mid-1970s large, hardware-based systems started appearing that did a few things somewhat faster than human staff could achieve. Because of their physical size and cost, these early systems were almost exclusively deployed by large hotel chains.
In contrast, Property Management Systems now act as a central hub for almost every task and process involved in the smooth running of properties of all sizes. So let’s take a look at what a Property Management System constitutes in a hotel, and the importance of the PMS concept to the hospitality industry at large.
Enhancing the guest experience
Manual reservations, paper-based record keeping, communication with guests and clients by phone and fax, access to rooms with physical keys (at fixed times), and almost no possibility of business analysis. That was then. The introduction of Property Management Systems in hotels automates and streamlines hotel operations, enhancing communication, reducing errors, and providing real-time insights into performance. Reservations, check in and check out, billing, housekeeping, and reporting are all improved. Even more importantly, all the touchpoints of the guest experience are also enhanced, resulting in more satisfied guests, who are more likely to re-book in future, and who spread the word about the hotel.
Up in the clouds for rock-solid reliability
When Property Management Systems were first developed - mainly to handle reservations and payments, and not a lot else - they were ‘hardware-based’, occupying space in a cramped back office, and frequently requiring visits from a specialist engineer to keep things humming. Software often came from different suppliers and had to be installed, with conflicts arising between different programs accessing the system. This hardware approach meant that when a vendor came up with a new version of their software, or even just a ‘patch’ to fix a bug, an engineer would have to turn up onsite to do their magic. And if that resulted in the system being shut down at a time of peak demand? Oh well, that’s just the way things were.
Cloud computing has completely changed this frustrating scenario. All the software is in remote servers, accessed instantly and continuously through ‘the cloud’ from the hotel’s own computers, or other mobile devices. Engineer’s visits are a thing of the past as all maintenance and any debugging takes place offsite, where the performance and security of the system is continuously monitored. However, the real beauty of using the cloud for Property Management Systems in hotels is that software and apps can be upgraded at any time. As part of a PMS package, the latest software iterations are automatically made available to users, so a hotel is always running the best, most rock-solid and state of the art system possible. Once a modern PMS is up and running, the maintenance and updating of it are ‘file and forget’ as far as hotel management is concerned. Which means that hotels can really exercise the power of their PMS.
The multiple benefits of a PMS for your hotel
A PMS won’t greet your guests with a smile or attend to their individual needs, but it will leave your staff much freer to provide the human touch that is so important and valued by guests. Personalisation is consistently rated highly by guests in all classes of hotels. Staff are unburdened of repetitive and time-consuming tasks, which the PMS can achieve far more efficiently:
- Searching and Booking are greatly assisted through a PMS. Many guests expect to be able to search for a hotel at a time of their choosing. To do this they often go through Online Travel Agents, or by using search engines to find a hotel which matches their needs. A PMS is available 24/7 to provide answers to Frequently Asked Questions - if a chatbot app is installed - and to take actual bookings. All details of the booking are entered by the guest, so their name, address, requirements, any special requests, dates and payment data are all correct.
- Inter-departmental communication is hugely enhanced by a smoothly functioning PMS. The front desk, catering, cleaning, accounting and maintenance departments are all hooked into the same system, and so are more responsive and efficient in their overlapping functions. This also promotes a flexibility that improves the guest experience - for example cleaning or maintenance rotas can be scheduled around room availability.
- Property Management Systems (PMS) often include built-in integrations to expand the range of options available. These integrations facilitate seamless synchronization across various booking channels like Booking.com or Agoda, enhance direct booking capabilities, streamline payment management, and centralize administrative details within the PMS.
- Room access, check-in, and check-out processes are streamlined with a PMS. Responding to the demand for touchless solutions, hotels leverage the PMS for quick check-ins, utilising features like reception kiosks. With additional integrations, room access can be even more optimised—instead of physical keys, guests can access their room instantly through their smart devices.
- Real-time data analytics provide a massive boost to managers wishing to raise the efficiency and profitability of their hotel, and the data is available in granular detail through the PMS. What did guests spend, and on what? What are the trends, what are the peaks and troughs of hotel occupancy (and how can these be exploited and marketed?) The resulting application of revenue management combines the benefits of data analysis and operations research with strategy, an understanding of customer behaviour, and market trends. Revenue management enables analytical detail to be applied to strategic management. What would once take hours or even days of head-scratching research into ‘the numbers’ is now available in moments through a data-rich Property Management System.
- Having access to the facts and figures of guests’ expenditure and their billing can be relatively simple in individual cases (although even then accurate tracking of all costs is of course essential). However with a group booking, a PMS has to be able to track and correctly bill all the different parties, whether they are members of the same family, or a coachload of tourists. The PMS must have a folio, payment, and invoicing system that is straightforward and user-friendly, so that handling different folio items across individual and group reservations - and creating invoices - is automated, and easy.
The must-have features in a hotel PMS
These are just some of the major benefits of having a modern cloud-based PMS, so if you’re thinking that your hotel really needs to update its existing PMS, or you want to investigate the field for the first time, here are some of the features you should be looking for:
- Reservation Management with real-time room availability, instant booking, automatic confirmation and ongoing updates.
- Efficient check in and check out that streamlines the processes, with minimal paperwork (or none), and which frees up staff to be much more guest-facing.
- Automated billing that generates and manages invoices accurately, keeping perfect record of all additional spending within the hotel.
- Room management that assigns rooms based on guest preferences and availability.
- Cross-department integration to coordinate housekeeping, maintenance schedules and other guest services.
- Dynamic pricing that gives the capacity to adjust room rates based on demand. The big chains and OTAs do it, and now a hotel’s profitability can be boosted by using this powerful tool.
- Performance reports across all operational areas provide data-mined insights into occupancy rates, revenue, and other performance indicators.
- Guest profiles and preferences are stored in the PMS, enabling enhanced in-stay and post-stay communication, greatly increasing the sense of personalisation.
- Technology integration must ensure that the PMS will successfully handshake with other ‘third party’ tools and providers, such as payment gateways, and the OTA ecosystem.
- Data security is of course paramount, and every PMS has to be completely ‘watertight’ in respect of keeping guest information safe, and protecting the hotel’s own data. The system must also comply with all data protection laws, and other local regulations (such as recording guest’s passport details).
We’ve described the features and benefits of a smoothly functioning Property Management System for hotels, and that’s exactly what we supply, so we know what we are talking about! We are SabeeApp, and for more than ten years we have helped hotels of all sizes, worldwide, with our PMS, specifically tailored to the hospitality industry. It is cloud-based, bringing all the benefits which we have already broached in this article: Hassle-free remote operation and diagnostics, with regular updates to the software. Our Smart Solutions suite of apps simplifies processes, eases the work of hotel employees, and increases guest satisfaction. Take for example, the advanced communication features and benefits which come within Smart Solutions:
- Continuing communication is essential and easy, once those first details are logged by the guest. First comes an automatic confirmation email sent out with all the details of the booking clearly stated. If the guest made any mistakes, these can be corrected by them at this stage and re-submitted. Confirmation emails (and indeed all other communication from the hotel) are customised with the guest’s name, and can carry the hotel logo or other branding. And it’s not just emails that can be sent - guests can choose their favoured communication channel, such as WhatsApp or Telegram.
- Multi-language availability is a big bonus to guests and the hotel, with SabeeApp’s Guest Advisor currently available in English, German, Spanish, French, Turkish, and Hungarian. Guest advisor also enables:
- Instant feedback right after check in, allowing the hotel to request and receive comments from guests within 30 minutes of arrival. This means swift action can be taken if there are any potential issues.
- In-stay communication to the guest’s mobile device enables messaging about special offers, restaurant meals, upsells, and more. Guests can also message the hotel to change details such as check in and check out times, and request cleaning, maintenance, or in-room services.
- Post-stay communication will start with a personalised (but automatically generated) thank you note to the guest. From then on, the SabeeApp’s PMS will ‘remember’ significant dates such as birthdays or anniversaries, and message guests appropriately.
- Extra services can also be easily requested with a click, such as airport transfers, spa appointments, or room service.
Of course as well as the suite of Smart Solutions apps, all of the core ‘must-haves’ that we have already listed as essential for a PMS are present and correct with SabeeApp, including the ability to see and review:
- Reservation details and guest folio at a glance, so that guests can review and track their booking information and in-stay expenses.
- ID scanning with OCR technology allows guests to input documents into the PMS using Optical Character Recognition, pre-stay. This saves both the hotel and guests time, and ensures that registration is error-free.
- Keyless room access through the guest’s smartphone is possible in the increasing number of hotels which are fitted with ‘smart locks’ on rooms. SabeeApp partners with several providers in this field.
These are just some of the features and benefits of the whole, comprehensive SabeeApp PMS offering. With this article to hand, why not get in touch with us and run through your own checklist of what you need, want and expect from a Hotel Property Management System. We are confident that we can tick all the boxes in our free, no obligation demo.
Please do get in touch, and be ready to embrace significant, and profitable change.