In this blog I explain which measures have to be planned and implemented for the introduction of a new booking software.
Recently I booked a Romantik Hotel near the Main-Radweg and experienced the following: Unfortunately, the booking software on the hotel’s own website only offered the simplest of functions. But the most important points were fulfilled. Room type, price, cancellation and payment conditions were recognizable and the booking could therefore be made. After a few minutes a reservation confirmation reached my mailbox. It mentioned price, service and cancellation conditions. The confirmation text was obviously a standard of the software provider. Not very image enhancing, but sufficient.
The fact that only one software was implemented here, but the new processes were not understood at all, could be seen from the fact that I received a second confirmation three days later. Now with a logo and a text suitable for the hotel. But with a different, much less friendly cancellation information. The result: double and unnecessary work and a confused guest.
To make such processes better, here are the measures that need to be taken in parallel or before the software implementation. It doesn’t matter whether you are implementing a web booking or internet booking engine, a voucher shop, a software for online table reservations. Of course it also applies to the automated booking of conference rooms or wellness appointments.
1. How are the processes currently running, what will change? What will change for the team?
Online booking via your own website is never an isolated process. The responsibilities of the marketing or e-commerce managers and the order acceptance or reservation department overlap. In many areas, manual processes must be completely eliminated. Good examples are the beloved reservation book for the restaurant or the manual sending of confirmations for incoming bookings. This process must be developed and moderated. Above all, clear goals and deadlines are needed, by when all parties involved have implemented and tested the new process.
2. Planning of the new data management and product development
In many hotels the installation of web shops seems to be detached from the existing product management and processes. Thus, new cancellation deadlines are decided (without also informing the hotel software). Or the rooms are recategorized, which becomes a problem at the latest when interfaces are implemented. Of course, the existing systems must be networked with each other. Double, manual data entry must be a thing of the past.
E-Commerce projects require professional controlling. For example, the classic reservation sources in the hotel software must be adapted to the new booking channels. Example: In addition to the booking method “directly in the hotel via telephone or e-mail”, it should now also be possible to evaluate “own Web Booking Engine” in the reservation source report. In addition, it is necessary to test intensively how the hotel software deals with imported guest addresses? If duplicates of existing guest card indexes are constantly created, solutions must be sought for this.
3. Define the role of the new booking system or web shop
A new booking software can be an insignificant addition or become the most important contact point for guests and customers willing to buy. The latter should also be the goal in service-oriented businesses. It is therefore necessary to plan exactly in which areas adjustments are to be made:
- Offer of direct online booking in company contracts
- Decision on how to deal with call quotas in the future
- Development of offers for regular guests to use the new booking channel
- Development of a strategy how analogous inquiring customers and guests can be made aware of the new automated way.
Communication plan, how to point out the advantages of the new webshop.
- Agreement with all project and advertising partners that an offer must first be made bookable in the booking software before it is communicated to guests or customers. Unfortunately, newsletter offers are often sent out by the marketing agency for years, which are not bookable and where only the telephone order acceptance remains for the “conversion”.
4. Creation of high frequency (traffic) on the website and in the online shop
A good intensity of use is a prerequisite for project success. The most important topics are:
- Search engine optimization, including adaptation of important browser texts: Simple online booking
- Adaptation of advertisements with clear references to online booking, if necessary with best price guarantee
Inclusion in newsletter with description of the advantages for different groups of guests
- Regular measurement of the results. Relevant key figures are: The number of visitors to the website and the proportion who start the buying process. Conversion, i.e. the proportion of customers who complete the online purchasing process.
- Monitoring the proportion of bookings that are processed via the company’s own web shop in relation to total bookings or sales.
5. Training is an ongoing process
Together with the managers or employee representatives, it is necessary to plan how new employees will be trained for these important processes. Good software is constantly evolving. Therefore the further training of the existing team is also a core task. Often new functions are not used because they are simply not discovered. Unfortunately, the software partner’s newsletter went to the IT department, which may not know how long the new function has been eagerly awaited.
Conclusion: The introduction of new purchase channels must be the responsibility of top management
Unfortunately, the job description “manager for digitisation” has not yet become established. Especially in smaller hotels there is seldom an expert for managing such projects. So the sales manager, reservation manager or website manager becomes the project manager. Especially in companies where the boss has the PC on his desk rather for decoration purposes, these projects therefore fail or do not achieve their full benefit. A clear view of one’s own expertise and resources is therefore part of every project for the introduction of new tools. External help or the use of appropriate further training offers is often not a bad idea in this context…