Naturally, if you own or manage a small hotel or accommodation business, it’s your job to make sure everything runs smoothly. This includes all the daily operations of your property, from managing incoming reservations, to attending to guests, to ensuring the property is properly cleaned and maintained.

By now you’ve realised the most effective way to do this isn’t through manual means, but rather via a hotel management system.

The ‘best’ hotel management system makes all this and more simple, either directly or indirectly. Directly in that the system will perform many tasks autonomously, and indirectly because it gives you back many hours of your time that you can spend on equally important activities such as keeping guests satisfied.

It should be noted that purchasing a hotel management system is the same as purchasing a property management system, front desk system, B&B management software, etc. You may not be familiar with all these terms but they are essentially the same piece of technology and fulfil the same purpose – there are simply many synonyms!

This blog will resolve any final questions you have about hotel management systems before you commit to an investment.

Must-have hotel management system software features 

No matter what your primary concern is – to provide an exemplary guest experience or simply to increase revenue and profits – a hotel management system will deliver. In fact, this software will help you achieve both, for less effort than you were previously investing.

However it’s not as simple as having these goals, paying for the software, and seeing the results. Not all systems are born equal; features and functionality can vary significantly between providers.

So it’s important to compare your wishlist of objectives with what each software provider is promising. Little Hotelier endeavours to cover all bases for small properties, ensuring you have an automated, centralised hub for all your daily business operations.

These are the must-have abilities we think you need when you subscribe to a hotel management system:

  • Processing reservations via any channel
  • Check-in and check-out guests
  • Manage guest booking details and guest profiles
  • Managing inventory, rates, and availability
  • Organising housekeeping tasks and schedule
  • Processing transactions such as payments, deposits, and refunds
  • Owning guest communications
  • Managing property maintenance
  • Generating business performance reports
  • Handling front office accounting

The sheer breadth of functionality is a convincing factor, because it highlights just how much work you were doing manually before and how good it will feel to lighten the load. And afterall, what’s the point in buying a solution that only covers half the problem? Use Little Hotelier to own all these processes and give yourself more opportunities to ensure guests are happy, and identify trends that point to where you can make more money.

Reasons why a hotel management system actually works

It’s natural to harbour doubts when spending money. Most of us debate each day whether a certain purchase will deliver value for money. When it comes to your business, making the right decision is even more crucial.

If you’re looking to make the leap but are lacking confidence due to being a first-time user or are unaccustomed to using technology in general, here are some facts to put your mind at ease.

1. Cloud-based systems are foolproof
The best hotel applications like Little Hotelier are all cloud-based systems – they operate online. The ‘cloud’ allows huge amounts of data to be shared between different systems and housed in one secure location, and it can be accessed remotely. This is vastly superior to a server based system, which requires a central computer system to house and process data.

Since all you need is an internet connection you never have to be tied to one particular office or computer to operate your software. In the context of your business this means you’ll be able to use Little Hotelier to manage your back end wherever and whenever you like. In fact you could be on the treadmill at the gym and as long as you have a mobile device such as your smartphone, you can be processing reservations or updating inventory.

2. All-in-one systems don’t take any shortcuts
Little Hotelier is more than a management system; it’s also a booking engine, channel manager, website builder and payments solution. You may think you’re being sold the world and it’s too good to be true but there’s no lack of power in any of these features.

It simply makes more sense for small businesses like you to have everything bundled into one operating system. It gives you total, connected, control over your property and is much easier to manage than using different providers for each piece of technology. With these platforms integrated, you have everything you need to run your business successfully online.

Here’s a quick rundown of those additional products if you aren’t familiar:

  • Booking engine – Also known as a reservation system, your online booking engine will accept bookings from direct channels such as your own website and social media pages like Facebook. This is an essential piece of tech for you to take commission-free bookings from platforms travellers are very likely to visit.
  • Channel manager – A distribution tool allowing you to sell and manage your rooms on as many online travel agents as you want at the same time. A pooled inventory model means rates and availability are updated automatically across all channels whenever a booking is made or when you make a change. You’ll no longer need to split inventory between channels.
  • Website builder – This takes away the need for you to hire a web designer. Instead you can use this software to create a beautiful, search engine optimised, guest converting website in minutes. You simply have to provide your content and choose from a number of available templates.
  • Payments solution – Again bred for simplicity, an integrated payments solution will connect seamlessly with your management system so you can process payments, deposits and refunds without having to wrestle with a clunky terminal or constantly look for or record guest details.

3. A system that works in real-time – works quicker than you can!
We understand that nagging thought in your head – I do all this myself right now, why should I now pay for it to be done?

We agree there are times when technology goes beyond the need of necessity. Do we really need a watch that not only tells us the time but manages our email, schedules appointments, gives us Facebook updates, tracks our heart rate, measures our steps, reads the news, and who knows what else? Probably not.

However, would you like to get back hours of your life each and every week that you previously spent on the painstaking tasks of recording and updating guest details, correcting clerical errors, updating information in booking channel extranets, and sending emails to name a few? Hopefully the answer is yes.

If you were to race your technology system in performing these tasks you’d lose every time. By the time you even realise a new reservation has come in, your system will have already conveyed the information everywhere it needs to go, with accompanying updates being made instantly. This is what real-time means. Your system will perform actions without ever having the need for a second thought, recall, or moment of consideration.

That’s the beauty of an all-in-one system like Little Hotelier.

Why you shouldn’t rely on hotel management software free downloads

Any truly ‘free’ technology likely won’t give your hotel the functionality it needs to really make a difference – it could even make things worse!

Free management software downloads will typically be a static piece of tech, a product that never updates after you begin using it unless you download newer versions as time goes by. This is a hassle as you never know when you might be falling out of date.

Another reason to avoid free downloads is that they’re often limited in a number of ways, for example:

  • Restricted to Windows or Mac operating systems
  • Rely too heavily on stable internet connections
  • Clunky interfaces
  • Lack of advanced features
  • Little to no customer support (definitely not local or 24/7 support)
  • Can lack security measures and encryption
  • Not mobile responsive
  • Glitches regularly

These are just some of the reasons you’re better off sticking to a known brand in the market that has the infrastructure in place to continually work on their products and provide ongoing support to customers.

Hotel management system reviews: Compare small hotel management software providers

Before you make a commitment to one provider or another, part of your research should include combing popular review sites to see what customers are saying and how highly a provider is ranked. Your peers can be a big guiding light since they’ve experienced the same pain as you and have sought the same solutions. Reading and investigating reviews will help you establish confidence about the decision you’re making.

One of the best resources to look at is Hotel Tech Report.

On this site you’ll discover a whole range of metrics that detail the quality of many hotel technology systems, including Little Hotelier. Measures for the following will be included:

  • Likelihood to be recommended
  • Quality of customer support
  • Ease of use
  • Functionality
  • ROI
  • Value for money
  • Integration capability
  • Implementation process

Summaries will also be included of what specific features are offered, and which are not available, along with videos and screenshots where applicable. This will allow you to more easily compare providers.

Written customer reviews are where you can really dig into what other accommodation operators think of a product. It’s important to balance star ratings with written feedback, since people will always have different priorities and preferences. You can judge the positive and negative feedback as you see fit, perhaps giving more weight to one factor or another depending on your goals.

Social media is also becoming a big player when comparing providers. Visit Facebook pages in particular to see what reviews are listed on there, how many followers a provider has, and the general feel for the brand. It’s important to know if your hotel management software will deliver on its promises.

Hotel management systems are used by successful hotels

The reason hoteliers like you search for and purchase property management systems in the first place is because they desperately want a better way to manage their business. A property management system is one way to lift the ceiling higher and pave the path for a more successful hotel.

Hotels who have the most success using property management systems will opt for an all-in-one solution like Little Hotelier, because this is a lot easier for small businesses. Everything they need to run a more profitable business is included in one seamless package. Adopting a front desk system, channel manager, and booking engine through a single provider makes for a much more harmonious way to run the property. The systems already ‘know’ each other and if anything goes wrong there’s just one support team to call to solve any issue.

How to select the best hotel management software

There are many factors to weigh up when selecting which hotel management software is right for your property. You need to identify exactly what you want, noting key traits that are non-negotiable.

It might help to look at these considerations:

  • Is it more than a front desk?
    An all-in-one solution that includes a channel manager and booking engine is by far the best option for small hotels.
  • Is payment processing included?
    An integrated payments solution is invaluable for your property because it will allow you to process payments, deposits, and refunds quickly and easily within the product environment.
  • Is pricing flexible?
    You don’t want to sign onto a product that has lock-in contracts or rigid fees. The individual nature of your property should be taken into account when it comes to billing.
  • Is the customer support.. supportive?
    When you need help you’re going to need it quickly which means local support in your timezone and language is really important. A customer knowledge base is also vital.
  • Are reviews promising?
    The words of current or past users carry a lot of water and knowing if people have been happy with their experience should be a significant indicator for you when deciding on your provider.
  • Does a free trial exist?
    Trialling and becoming familiar with hotel management software is essential. It’s likely you’ll never look back once you start using it but it’s important to be sure.

How long does it take to see the benefits of using software for hotel management?

Naturally, no one likes to be stuck in limbo, wondering if and when something will occur. The good news is that from day one you should see that Little Hotelier makes life easier. Once you are set up and have undergone your software training, the product is very easy to use and maintain. You might even find yourself taking up new hobbies thanks to the time you’ll save!

Even better is that the free trial period allows you to see and enjoy all the benefits without paying anything for the first 30 days. This should be more than enough time to realise you won’t be looking back.

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).