For you as a hotelier, hotel management software is one of your most important assets. Choosing the one PMS system that will best fit your hospitality business means to make a good research on the latest hotel PMS solutions and what's trending in property management systems in general. Doing this while managing all your other duties might be tough. Relax, you don't have to be an IT expert, neither to hire one. You just need to ask the right questions - first to yourself and then to your prospective hotel software provider.
Step one: ask yourself.
A hotel management system is not worth the investment if it is not capable of increasing your revenue and improving the quality of your working life. You will need to ask yourself a few questions before you start your evaluation process.
- What operations do you want to automate? Front desk, housekeeping, reporting, you make your own list. Make sure to include all challenges you and your staff are currently struggling with.
- What features do you need beyond traditional hotel operations? These could be web booking engine, channel manager, guest loyalty, restaurant POS, revenue management, self check-in, data API and so on. Mark each functionality as 'must-have' or 'nice-to-have'.
- How much do you want to pay? Make your homework and define a budget for your IT project. Be precise and split the costs if possible - how much for the hotel software, for Internet connectivity, for hardware etc.
- What do you want to achieve? To answer this question you will need to identify your current strengths and weaknesses and have at least a mere plan about what you want to push further or improve. Hint: watch your competitors and see what they do better or worse.
- What is the level of IT expertise in your company and do you want to invest in it, too? This will help you decide about the type of software you need - cloud or in-house.
Now prioritize your needs and create your own questionnaire or check list. You are ready to approach hotel software providers.
Step two: ask the software vendor.
This is the stage of the research process where you talk to prospective hotel PMS providers and evaluate their products to find the management system that suits your particular business best. The most important thing is to ask the right questions and do it in such a manner that will eliminate routine answers. You know, the type of non-informative conversation, “Is it easy to use?” “Sure it is.” You get nothing. What you want is for your future hotel software provider to take you seriously and give you precisely the information that will serve you in making the right decision.
Here's a sample but not exhaustive list of questions that are specific and leave no room for evasive or misleading answers:
- How can I do [put any operation here]? Can I do [a setting or customisation] myself or will I need your support?
- Can I add or remove features in time? Will my price change if I do? My property is closed in certain periods - do I pay for them and what happens to my data?
- What is the implementation process? My current equipment is: [include devices and operating systems], can I use it and will I need to buy some other specific hardware? What training will my [put any position here] need to start working with the hotel system?
- We do [specific operation in your hotel], can this be handled by you hotel software? Is there an integrated [web booking engine, channel manager or whatever feature you want to have]?
- My accounting software is [name of software]. Can the your PMS system be integrated with it or can data be exported? Do you offer an API for interface development? Do you offer [specific integration, e.g. TripConnect]?
- How often do you release software updates? How do you decide what new features to develop? Can a custom PMS feature be developed upon request? Are software updates included in my subscription?
- What are the precise security measures you take to protect my data (encryption, backups and so on)? Who is your hosting provider (for SaaS)? Is your software compliant with PCI DSS?
- What are your helpdesk service hours? Is there a FAQ section on your website or any knowledge database? Is any online or in-app help provided? Do you have video tutorials?
- How many users can I have with one subscription? Can I set different rights and permissions for them? Is the price per user or per subscription (to identify hidden charges)?
- Are there properties or businesses similar to mine that use your property management system? Can I see examples of your work? Could you provide some referrals?
You sure can add your own questions to the list and this was the genuine idea behind it. The trick is not to ask open questions and get some vague responses. The trick is to stick strictly to your specific challenges and to ask specific questions about the instruments you will get to deal with them.
Once you limit the number of potential PMS vendors and create your Top 5 or Top 10 hotel software systems list, other questions will certainly arise. Ask again, and again, until you find it - your perfect hotel management software that will serve your successful hospitality business and help you improve your bottom line, your service and your working life all alike.
One last tip: Only go for a software solution that is offered with a free trial, live demo, or both. Live demonstration is when someone from the software development company joins you, on-site or in an online session, and demonstrates the hotel PMS features you need. Hotel management systems, like any other enterprise or maintenance software, combine multiple functionalities and sometimes it's hard to get the full picture at first glance. Getting a live demo before starting your own trial is a good way to get a common idea of how the system works and if it does match your needs and requirements. So ask, always ask, ask everything. Good software providers shouldn't fear your questions.
Know someone who needs new business software but feels hesitant about the whole process? Share this article to help them with the software evaluation and the negotiations with potential software vendors.