What makes a good booking engine?
Saying that all hotels need a good booking engine seems almost redundant these days but with so many providers out there to choose from, what should you consider before you get lost in the sales pitch?
- It should never be about the numbers. Never, ever get enticed by a provider with zero or 1 or 2% commission, it just doesn’t stack up. First of all, they need to ‘want’ your business; they need to be hungry for every booking as that is how they drive revenue for themselves, so if the commission level is so low that they are making very little return, then why on earth would they be incentivised to drive conversions through your site? Your booking engine provider is a ‘business’ and needs to earn money so that they can hire great staff and ensure that those staff are working really hard to get bookings for you. Give them a decent commission and make them work for you.
- We all know that booking engines are all about conversion but to get people right to the end of their booking process, we need to have all the ducks in a row. That means being found on search engines; having a strong Pay Per Click and re-marketing campaigns; great SEO; a fantastic web design and a seamless interaction from your website to your booking engine. Can your booking engine provider do all that?
- There should be an ease of booking and a natural flow through the whole booking process. Before you choose a provider, use their system yourself. Is it intuitive or does it force you and make you think?
- Will the booking engine sit well within your web design? Does is look consistent for your customers – it needs to feel like a seamless transition from site to booking engine.
- A good booking engine provider should be able to offer you a certain level of customisation, so for example; you might be a corporate hotel that wants to give customers information about only the date they have selected to travel, as dates before and after are just ‘noise’. Or your property could be more leisure focused when guests may be enticed more by rate then date, so would like to see alternative days when it might be cheaper to stay. Leisure guests by-in-large have more flexibility to travel so allowing them to view multiple nights is great. Can your provider do that?
- On the theme of personalisation, we all know that guests are expecting more and more recognition through the booking process. Does your booking engine welcome back customers who have been to your site before? Does it know if a customer checked dates and can it direct them right back to that date? If a customer books does it remember their name and welcome them back and personalise their journey based on the rate they have booked? Does it even do the simple stuff like remember address or payment details?
- Seems like an obvious one, but is it mobile adaptive?
- How easy is it to manage rates and availability on the ‘back-end’. The shinny customer facing stuff is great but if the back-end management is a pain for your team then this will lead to frustration and potentially mis-management. The ease of setting up rates and packages and opening and closing availability is important – which by the way should also include closing not only dates but individual rates on specific dates and individual rooms attached to particular rates on any given day.
- Can it set length of stay restrictions and micro-manage every single part of your inventory? It should do. Your booking engine should be an extension of your revenue management strategy, so make sure all of those wonderful revenue decisions you make at hotel level can be transposed all the way through to your booking engine
- We all have international guests, so can we offer multiple rates shown in multiple currencies and presented in multiple languages?
- Can you have geo-targeted rates? So for example, a hotel in the UK might want to display a particular rate to only the American market. This can help promote rates without diluating revenue from local visitors – again really useful
- Can your preferred supplier integrate to your PMS? This isn’t always the case but ideal if possible as this saves hours and hours of man-management time inputting bookings and updating availability.
- How secure are their servers and where are they located?
- Excellent reporting is a must. Have a deep dive into what information they provide daily, weekly and monthly – does the reports meet the needs of your business strategy?
- Ask your provider for their development road-map. You should have visibility on just how forward-thinking they are and what they plan to release as improvements in the future. Evaluate just how ahead of the game you think they might be, does this sit well within your own strategy?
Booking engines might be software but your provider should be all about the service. Do not engage with a provider who sells, trains and leaves. You need great support and regular meetings. You should NEVER have to pay for these meetings. They can of course be conducted over the phone but like all good relationships, these meetings need to be two-way. As a hotelier make sure you are armed with information and make sure your provider gives you great advice. And trust me that advice should rarely be to drop rates. Many providers will try to persuade you to drop rates as they feel this might entice more business and this therefore equates to more commission for them, if they get volume on this reduced price. However, that is almost always detrimental for you as a hotelier, so if that is the message you keep getting from your provider, then it is time to change provider!
(and for all things revenue, just firstname.lastname@example.org)