Online reservation software is the tool that businesses use to process reservations. They are used to schedule customers in, as opposed to doing this manually with a pen and paper.
The benefits of online reservation software include – the ability to process online payments (and therefore speed up cash flow), a much more organised and centralised approach to customer bookings, and increased efficiency thanks to the time saved on administrative tasks.
As you can imagine, many of different kinds of businesses need this kind of scheduling software.
The market has matured to a point that there are many products that focus on specific industry niches, including motels and bed and breakfasts.
Motels and bed and breakfasts use online reservation software to manage reservations, distribute online inventory, and run the day-to-day operations of their accommodation businesses.
Here are some examples of typical scenarios where an online reservation system helps the owners and operators of small accommodation businesses, such as motels and bed and breakfasts.
Without online reservation software, it will be difficult to know when guests are going to check in, because you can’t make it a required answer upon booking online – whether it’s through one of your channel partners, or your very own website.
It makes it difficult to run your property in an organized fashion. Owner-operators have plenty on their to-do list, including cooking and cleaning at times, but you can’t afford to have no one greeting guests as they arrive. Guests then need to wait as you prepare the room for them, resulting in further delays.
On the other hand, if your online reservation software includes all the components necessary for online distribution (booking engine, channel manager, and front desk system), all of the booking information is immediately accessible from your reservations calendar. You can make it a required field to provide check-in and check-out times at the time of booking. That way you can be totally organised and plan out your day with confidence.
By forcing guests to either email you, fill out a contact form, or give you a call in order to check your availability make a booking, you slow down your occupancy rates. It simply requires more effort for your guest, and for you.
This is probably why the combined share of online channels has continued to grow at the expense of offline channels (walk-ins, calls made directly to the property, and GDS’ used by travel agents).
Consumers are preferring to book online if only for convenience. This is especially true for leisure travelers who are unfamiliar with a certain area (TravelClick).
Using an easy-to-read interface, online reservation systems allow guests to select their dates and display your availability and rates. Usually, your website answers all the frequently asked questions for you.
Sensitive data in the payment process is also an issue. Guests will feel more comfortable entering their credit card details into a secure booking form, rather than over the phone or via email.
Not only does online reservation software allow for a professional payment process, but it will make sure your guests’ sensitive data is safe from hackers.
There is a phenomenon in e-commerce called ‘shopping cart abandonment’, and the same applies to booking accommodation. If the payment process isn’t as smooth as possible, a lot of travelers abandon your website at this point.
To encourage them to stick around, SiteMinder reports that your online payment process should be totally secure, simple, and flexible in terms of currency.
Currency in particular can be a big trigger. In fact, a third of US and UK travelers would abandon the purchase if USD and GBP are not displayed, and French travelers are the most likely to cancel their booking if they can’t see Euros.
There are certain emails that each guest expects to receive – for example, booking confirmation, cancellation confirmation, reminder before their stay, and a feedback request following their stay.
If you don’t have an online reservation system, it will be impossible to make this an automatic process. At best, you’re stuck creating templates in word documents, relying on your own memory to send individual emails at the right times.
A task that could be so easy to set up becomes a massive waste of time. Automating this process gives your guests confidence in your business.
If you’re running a motel or bed and breakfast, it’s not a chain hotel – you have a limited budget to play with. With that in mind, you need to be smarter about where you allocate your money.
Advanced reporting is the key to tracking the return on your investments. Without a system doing it for you, you’ll be stuck trying to manipulate data in spreadsheets – which could take you an entire day – instead of being able to access it within a few clicks.
Online reservation software gives you a complete overview of the daily running and performance of your motel or bed and breakfast. Instantly view guest payment details, easily generate monthly performance reports, or select a view of outstanding payments in one simple click.
Online reservation software gives you immediate access to all the guest information you need. You could be on a boat with your mobile, or in the park with your iPad – all you need is internet access to log in.
Without it, all communications with your guests – from payment to contact and booking details – are stored in multiple places. This forces you to jump from one program to another to find what you’re looking for, which takes a significant amount of time.
Storing your guests’ data in this way is not going to work as your business grows. You need to be able to access it instantly, when you need it.
Selling your rooms through other channels gets messy without online reservation software. Each time a booking from one channel comes through, you’re stuck updating your availability in each other channel individually. This is a massive time suck.
Distributing inventory in this way is very risky – you could end up with a lot of double bookings and unhappy customers. Additionally, if you allocate a certain number of rooms to a particular channel, and not all the rooms get filled, you miss out on revenue.
Without online reservation software that supports channel management, there’s no way to automatically update your inventory across all channels.
There are a variety of booking software providers which you can choose from. However, as a small accommodation provider, you will need to consider your needs and your budget.
Factors to consider:
If you would like to find the best hotel booking engine for your motel or bed and breakfast, download our interactive buyer’s guide.
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