If you start thinking about the ‘system’ you have in place to organise and update your excel spreadsheets or physical notebooks then you’re missing out on the huge opportunities a real front desk system can deliver to your small hotel. If you haven’t heard of this technology, perhaps you’ve heard one of the many synonyms such as property management system, hotel management software, bed and breakfast software, motel management software, or similar.

Even if you’re already familiar and are considering your options, we’ll give you a rundown of what you should be looking for to boost the efficiency of your business and improve guest experience. Moving from slow manual processes to a centralised, automated, front desk system is the best choice you can make for your small hotel.

The basics of a hotel front desk system

Your hotel front desk system will automate all the daily operations of your property – it becomes the heartbeat of every task you do to run your business. Basically everything you do manually now can be performed much quicker and autonomously with front desk software. When you start using hotel front desk software you’ll immediately discover how much time you save and how much simpler it is to stay organised. Not only will life be less stressful, but you’ll have valuable hours on your hands to dedicate to making sure guests are having the best time possible during their stay.

Why do you need a hotel front desk management system?

The very concept of managing your property encompasses everything that happens there; guests coming in and out, cleaners or maintenance workers completing work, deliveries arriving, monthly performance reporting, long term planning and analysis, new channel listings and rate adjustment, the list goes on…

The point is that you have a lot on your plate and it’s likely you have numerous places where you keep and work with all this data. Using a hotel front desk management system consolidates the entirety of your workload to one place, where you can easily access and adjust it. However, thanks to the system’s ability to link all your online activity, most of the work is done without you needing to lift a finger.

Here are some reasons why you might decide investing in a hotel front desk management system is the right move for you:

1. Accepting and processing bookings is a chore

When a traveller decides they want to stay at your property it’s an exciting time for both parties. Neither of you will want a delay or complication in making the stay come to fruition. So you might be afraid to leave your desk in case someone walks in, or you might spend an undue amount of time checking your phone and email for messages.

If multiple attempts have to be made simply to communicate with each other, the process will become incredibly frustrating. Establishing dates and securing payment details should happen quickly. A guest doesn’t want, and shouldn’t be expected, to contact you directly for something that simple.

With your front desk system, the process will be automated and online reservations can be accepted instantly, no matter what booking system the guest has found your property on.

2. Managing room inventory becomes a gamble

When you’re promoting your rooms on multiple channels you have to be quick to respond to guests and perform updates otherwise the possibility of overbookings turns from possibility to probability very quickly.

To put it simply, you spend all your time chasing your tail and a guest might still experience the awful feeling of finding out someone had already booked the room they requested.

The all-in-one* nature of a hotel front desk system like Little Hotelier means when you accept and record a booking from Booking.com, other channels such as Expedia will be notified and adjust instantly to show only the inventory that’s still available. This is a huge weight off your shoulders.

* What exactly does this ‘all-in-one’ phrase mean? Whenever you hear this in the industry it means some other features operate on top of your front desk software, namely a booking engine and a channel manager.

  • Booking engine – Also a reservation system, this will secure online bookings from direct channels such as your own website and social media pages like Facebook. An online booking engine has become essential, especially with the rise of social media.
  • Channel manager – This is one of your greatest allies when distributing your rooms because it’s a tool that manages all the different online travel agents you sell your rooms through. The main operating principle is called ‘pooled inventory’ which means updates to rates and availability are made automatically across all connected channels whenever and wherever a booking is made.

3. You feel like you always need to be in two (or three) places at once

When your property is busy in peak season and you have to service multiple guests at once, it’s natural for things to get stressful. You’re trying to organise breakfast for one set of guests while others are trying to check out and yet more want to check in. It doesn’t take long for you to be run off your feet.

In a frenzied state of trying to do everything at once, people often make mistakes or miss vital details. That bottle of champagne the departing guests drank – you forget to charge them for it when they leave. The arriving guests – you haven’t had time to clean and prepare their room yet. The guests trying to enjoy breakfast – no one is around to take their request for more orange juice.

Scenarios like these happen when you aren’t able to close rooms for arrival or departure, print schedules, set housekeeping routines. Your front desk management system will allow you to do all this, ensuring you’re as efficient as possible and all your guests will receive the level of service they deserve.

4. Communicating with guests is a constant struggle

It doesn’t take much for a guest to start doubting whether they made the right choice in booking a certain accommodation.

Say you’ve had a really busy day and you forget to send a confirmation email for a booking that comes in. The guest is waiting eagerly to hear from you that their room has been secured and that you’re excited to have them stay. They might even expect to be offered some additional products or services for when they arrive. If that email doesn’t arrive in good time, the guest will start to question your level of professionalism and may wonder if their reservation was even received in the first place. This can lead to cancellations and bad feedback.

It’s just one small mistake but it can have serious consequences for the revenue and reputation of your business.

There are other emails guests should receive such as reminders about their stay and helpful tips for when they arrive, and feedback requests after they leave. Not only do you have to remember to send these emails at the right time you must get the guests’ details right every time.

Sound tedious or familiar?

With a hotel front desk management system, guest information is immediately accessible and you can create standardised emails to send automatically so every guest enjoys the same experience, every time.

5. You reach the end of the month unsure if it was good or bad

It goes without saying that part of running a successful business is analysing performance and understanding what changes you can make to ensure you’re not running at a loss. But if you have no tangible way to measure performance, it becomes almost impossible to know what you’re doing right or wrong. You’ll be taking educated guesses at how you can boost revenue instead of taking strategic action.

Your hotel front desk system gives you a comprehensive overview of the performance of your property. You can instantly see guest payment details and generate monthly reports on data points like payment methods, cancellation rates, average occupancy, revenue per available room, average length of stay, and many more.

Hotel front desk computer system

When you begin using technology or software to manage your hotel you might still feel like you’re tied down at your front desk, stuck behind a computer. While you certainly can use a front desk system on your computer and it will still make life a lot easier and your daily tasks a lot quicker, it’s not strictly necessary.

The best front desk systems work on an online and app based subscription so you can use the products at any time from any device. The idea of leaving your property for hours at a time and still being in complete control of your reservations and back end tasks may seem ludicrous but trust us, it’s very possible.

Of course, someone still needs to be at the property to welcome and attend to guests but with your front desk software taking care of things, it doesn’t always have to be you.

Little Hotelier in particular is helpful in this respect. A specialised mobile app is available on both IOS and Android. Operating this will allow you to manage your rooms and reservations on the go, free of extra charge.

Functionalities include:

  • Create and edit a reservation
  • Close or reopen rooms
  • Check in and check out guests
  • Switch between properties if you run more than one
  • Set up notifications for cancellations, new reservations, and successful check in or check out

While you still have to manage your calendar and process payments via desktop, you can still do this remotely if you’re using a tablet or smartphone so the sense of freedom you have with a hotel front desk is invaluable.

What software is used in a hotel front office?

Performing front office tasks at your hotel is a necessary part of running your business, but it’s also a time consuming and monotonous task. Using software doesn’t simply make it manageable, it makes it easy.

It’s common that software used in hotel front offices is a hotel front desk system, which makes all the complex tasks of running your small hotel uncomplicated.

If spending less time in your front office environment and more time interacting with guests or attending to your own personal needs sounds appealing, front desk software is probably for you.

But which front desk software is best? A good place to start is by looking at the tools that some of the world’s biggest brands use.

What software does Hilton hotels use?

With over one million rooms across 7000+ properties, Hilton is a giant of the hotel industry. With size comes complexity, which is why Hilton have developed a proprietary platform to manage their properties: the OnQ residence management system.

OnQ is a capable tool built to address the bespoke needs of the Hilton chain. It does everything: from tracking employee performance and managing contractors, to coding room keys and ensuring every guest has the most personalised and pleasant experience possible.

But, while bespoke tools are obviously alluring, development is a long and incredibly expensive process, and the tools need constant upkeep in order to change with the needs of the chain and to simply keep functioning. A bespoke software solution simply isn’t appropriate nor particularly realistic for an independent hotelier.

What software does Marriott use?

The world’s largest hotel chain by number of rooms – almost 1.5 million at last count – Marriott International owns 30 brands and 8000 properties across 130+ countries.

To keep this huge hospitality machine going, Marriott relies on the OPERA property management system, developed by Micros, a software company owned by Oracle. The latest iteration, OPERA 5, is designed to maximise revenue and grant hotels the opportunity to personalise guest experiences.

OPERA 5 enjoys incredible penetration into the multinational hotel chain market. A few of the tool’s more notable users include Four Seasons, Accor Hotels, Crown Resorts, Travelodge, Oberoi and Jupiter Hotels.

While a popular and capable tool, OPERA 5 is built with multinational hotels in mind, and will be too expensive and complex for most independent hoteliers. It’s also fair to say that the user interface is wanting, looking less like a modern solution than something built for Windows 98. This means that the user experience is a little less intuitive than other options, and can take some getting used to.

What software does Ritz-Carlton use?

A luxury hotel chain that is really ramping up its growth, the Ritz-Carlton empire already spans over 100 high-end properties, and currently has plans for almost 50 more.

While Ritz-Carlton properties have used the Micros OPERA system in the past, it is unclear which exact property management system the chain currently uses. This could be because each property is given a licence to choose its own.

What CRM does Ritz-Carlton use?

As with the Ritz-Carlton PMS system, it is currently unclear exactly what customer relationship management system the hotel chain currently uses. In years gone by, however, they have used a combination of Covia, a global reservations capture system, and Encore, a reservation and customer preference management system.

What PMS system does Hyatt use?

Hyatt is yet another hotel chain that uses the Micros OPERA property management system. A few of the major strengths for OPERA 5, and why it’s so popular amongst multinational chains, are its multiple language options, its currency support and its high scalability.

But once again, these features are of limited use to small independent hotels who don’t span borders, and are instead looking for a simple, cost-effective and capable tool – ideally something that is built specifically for the needs of smaller operators.

And that’s exactly what Little Hotelier front desk software offers.

Ours is an all-in-one package created with the small, independent hotelier in mind. It’s efficient, intuitive, flexible and capable, and when used to its potential, it can save you up to 35 minutes per booking!

Where your Marriotts, Ritz-Carltons and Hyatts use expensive, complex systems that are designed around their specific needs, Little Hotelier front desk software offers a smooth and  simple way to manage your front desk operations, and all at an affordable price!

A small, independent hotel is a very different business to run when compared to a property that is a member of a large multinational chain. As a small operator, you simply don’t have the resources of a large conglomerate. And that extends to your IT capabilities.

A lot of independent hoteliers won’t really know where to start when shopping for a new front desk system: the features to look for, the questions to ask, a reasonable price to pay. So to help you in that effort, in our next section let’s investigate the key features that make up the most useful solutions.

List of software features used in your hotel front office

So what exactly will front desk software help you with?

1. Front desk management

Throw your books and ledgers away and delete your countless spreadsheets, small hotel front desk software provides all the tools to stay organised from one central hub.

In a matter of clicks you should have access to:

  • An editable calendar view showing the status of reservations for the coming weeks or months
  • Individual reservations so you can update details
  • Guest profiles to personalise their experience
  • Rate plans you can change according to season or availability
  • Inventory grids to adjust your sales channel strategy
  • Invoices and payments to ensure money is going where it’s supposed to
  • Performance reports so you can analyse the success of your business
  • Guest communications to give guests a consistent experience

Essentially everything flows through your front desk so you need the capability to move reservations around, close rooms, cancel bookings, process payments, check in guests, send emails, and much more. Incorporating all this into one dashboard is what makes front desk management systems so user-friendly and so efficient.

2. Cloud-based technology

It’s important you have the opportunity to be away from your front office and still manage your property effectively. That’s why your product should be cloud-based, so you can access it anywhere, anytime, from any device. If you’re attending a dinner and you need to confirm a reservation, all you need with you is your smartphone or tablet.

3. Guest communication

Talking to your guests has to be quick, easy, and personal. Using your front desk system you’ll be able to standardise important emails that you can customise to your brand and setup to send automatically such as:

  • Booking confirmations
  • Pre-stay information
  • Tips for during the stay
  • Post-stay thank you and request for feedback

Emails can also commonly include promotions to entice guests to return.

4. Channel manager functionality

Your hotel channel manager allows you to promote all your rooms on all your connected sales channels at the same time and have each one update instantly and automatically when guests make a booking. You can view all your information in real time and make adjustments as you see fit.

5. Booking engine feature

It’s imperative your front desk system has a booking engine feature so you can accept bookings directly from your own website and social media pages, and have this information processed in the same manner as your other bookings from online travel agents.

6. A way to welcome international guests

You’re going to be at a severe competitive disadvantage if you can’t accept international bookings, so ensure your front desk system is equipped to connect with international travel partners such as overseas OTAs.

In addition, multi-currency and language features are a given if you want travellers to have a seamless experience when booking with you. At least five languages and 80 currencies should be available.

Have you looked at a front desk software review?

Front desk software reviews are vital when you are reaching the decision making stage of your journey. It’s important to get a clear overview of software providers and to see what your peers are saying about the product.

To feel happy when investing, confidence is a key factor and reviews will help establish this.

One of the best resources to access in this industry is Hotel Tech Report.

Here you’ll find reviews and overviews for many brands, including Little Hotelier. You’ll see ratings on how likely a provider is to be recommended, the quality of customer support, ease of use, ROI, value for money, functionality, integration, and implementation.

There should also be a digestible summary of what features can be offered, along with videos and screenshots.

Customer reviews are where you can see direct feedback from other hoteliers about the software you’re considering. Here you can judge the positive and negative feedback as you see fit. This is important since some people may have issues that are not a worry for you at all, and vice versa.

You want to be sure that a solution is delivering on its promises, so it can also be useful to check reviews on Facebook and other social media pages.

Where can you find a hotel front desk software free download?

Adopting and using hotel front desk software that delivers a result is going to require investment. That’s the bottom line if you want to improve your business for an ongoing period of time. So if you do discover a free download it likely won’t include all the functionality that you need.

The technology that makes front desk software so effective is sophisticated and under constant development to ensure it stays that way, so the industry leaders such as Little Hotelier will charge a monthly fee.

However, if you sign up for a free trial to experience all the features and benefits of a product before you decide if it’s worth the monetary commitment.

How to choose the best hotel front desk system

Making a decision like this is a big, albeit very positive, change for your business so you should place every provider under scrutiny to ensure you get the best result for your property.

Some key traits that should be non-negotiable include:

  • The product should be more than a front desk: An all-in-one solution is the best option for your small property, since you won’t have to look elsewhere for a channel manager or booking engine.
  • Payment should be flexible: A lock-in contract is the last thing you want and a one-size fits all approach to pricing is also ill advised. Check out Little Hotelier’s pricing scale to see where your property stands.
  • Attentive customer support: Everyone likes to get help when they need it most so if you’re experiencing issues you want to know your provider will be on hand to resolve any problems. Ask yourself if they have support for your region, language, and time zone along with dedicated training from real people.
  • Positive reviews: Reviews generally don’t lie. Look at ratings for important aspects like price, functionality, support, and ease of use to determine the objective quality of each software you’re considering.
  • Free trial: This is essential. For a system that will help you run your entire business, you absolutely must be able to try before you buy.
Try Little Hotelier's Property Management System

Hotel front desk software: Key takeaways

  • A hotel front desk system will handle all the daily operations of your property
  • Processes will be automated and centralised for your convenience
  • Front desk software operates online so you can manage your property from anywhere on any device
  • You can use a hotel front desk system to save time, boost revenue, own the guest relationship, and report on your property’s performance
  • Make sure the product you choose has a strong brand and positive customer reviews
  • Enter into a free trial to see all the benefits of front desk software before committing to a purchase

By Dean Elphick

Dean is the Senior Content Marketing Specialist of Little Hotelier, the all-in-one software solution purpose-built to make the lives of small accommodation providers easier. Dean has made writing and creating content his passion for the entirety of his professional life, which includes more than six years at Little Hotelier. Through content, Dean aims to provide education, inspiration, assistance, and, ultimately, value for small accommodation businesses looking to improve the way they run their operations (and live their life).