Like with any other more or less large business, hotel management requires a complex approach, as well as advanced technologies and practices. No matter what’s the size or type of your property is, business task automation and related software will never hurt. In this ultimate guide, you will read about the channel management best practices that are applicable to different businesses, including hospitability sphere.
Main challenges in channel management
Since every hotel is the whole system of rooms, managing reservations, sales, maintenance, and so on seems to be a hard task. What exactly becomes the main problem of hoteliers? Though it depends on the property, here are the most challenging things about hotel management:
- Making a hotel website convenient for users. Imagine a potential guest visits a hotel website. What do they expect from it? At least, the gallery with photos, descriptions of suite types and amenities, and, of course, some tools for making a reservation. Without the last option, all your efforts in boosting sales online will go in vain. Lack of online booking function is a huge mistake, so finding a decent booking engine for hotel website is a must, though it can be hard.
- Inability to reach the target audience. This is partially the result of the first mistake. In order to attract potential guests, hoteliers should work with appropriate booking channels (the ones that are relevant in target regions). Targeted advertising and marketing are also nothing to sneeze at.
- Measurement of channel performance. Business development is a never-ending process. Statistics and analytics are what drives informed decisions, that’s why you always need to have relevant data at your fingertips. Some hotel channel management solutions fail to provide consistent reports – if that’s your case, consider switching to other software.
- Lack of visibility into channels. Again, the root of the problem lies in the hotel channel management solution used. Channel selection and management heavily rely on the software you implement. To stay ahead of the competitors, you should understand how your customers behave. Which channels are more popular, which websites provide better user experience – all that will help you make smarter decisions and improve your hospitability business. Timely delivery and accuracy of information are mission-critical for any company.
- Lack of mobile solutions for customers is another mistake of hoteliers. Over 50% of global Internet traffic is mobile, so don’t miss out on your potential audience – find a hotel channel management solution that’s available both in web-based and mobile versions.
Channel Management Best Practices For Hotels
Now when you’re ready to correct your mistakes and improve hotel management approach, let’s read about the best techniques for sales and channel management.
Incentivize guests for direct reservations
Although OTAs are made to simplify your guests’ and admins’ life, don’t neglect direct bookings made via your website. It is always better to attract direct reservations because it’s a surefire way to improve customer loyalty. For a higher number of direct reservations to be made online, maintain your website properly and keep the information updated.
How to boost direct bookings? If your hotel is connected to a booking channel, booking prices can be compared on third-party portals in a couple of clicks. So, the trick for attracting direct bookings is to offer perks and valuable incentives for guests. For instance, loyalty programs offer the possibility to enjoy lower cost rates in exchange for regular visits, while other hotels provide discounts for amenities, their own restaurants or free Wi-Fi for guests preferring direct reservations.
Notice and adapt to changes in guest habits
In order to boost revenue management, you should analyze the historical data and statistics to make informed decisions both in the present and in relation to the future. However, basing on the revenue data is not always totally reliable.
Through the years of your business’ existence, you are likely to witness changes in your client database. These changes may be connected with different aspects such as average guest age, preferences, requirements, but they may also be more subtle. For instance, you may notice a change in how the average client books a room.
It’s important to deliver what customers are expecting from your website and hotel. Adapt your hotel booking system to their requirements, create a user-friendly platform for them to get maximum benefits from your service. Live up to their expectations, and you will see positive changes soon.
Improved mobile experience should be your primary focus
As we have previously mentioned, more than half of the potential audience use mobile devices to search for property and make bookings. Do not disregard the mobile optimization of your website and hotel channel manager. By providing a flawless mobile user experience, you can multiply the sales volume.
Use automation when it’s appropriate. It’s a fact that business automation solutions simplify our lives and boost efficiency, and hospitability business is not an exception. With suitable hotel management software, you can facilitate sales channel management and boost efficiency and increase the sales volume. Yet, many suites are jam-packed with features hoteliers don’t need, and lack features that would be of very help.
Automation is great, but it should be implemented wisely! Research the market of hotel management software, and leverage a solution only when you’re sure it will do more good than harm. Otherwise, you’ll end up spending money and complicating your staff’s tasks.
The more channels – the better
Well, it’s typically true, when it comes to hotels dealing with guests from all over the world. Except for the case you only deal with guests from your region, aim to cover as many channels as possible. This is one of the most crucial channel partner management best practices. Wider coverage means more opportunities and possibilities for your hospitability business.
However, if you plan to attract audience from some certain region, pay attention to locality-specific channels – they can be of much use.
Keep tabs on the market
If you want to be a leader in your industry, you have to monitor the market and your competitors. Track the demand and supply in your area to predict price changes and come up with the best deals for your guests. Check out how competitors attract customers, and which practices/programs/perks make their hotels stand out from the crowd. While you’re developing your channel management strategy, take the best you can from your competitors, and enjoy positive outcomes: growing sales volume, and stable customer loyalty.
Do not forget about PMS
Okay, finding booking channels is great, but how do you make them function in sync with each other? Here’s when the PMS (property management system) comes in handy. This is the magic tool that coordinates the work of booking channels and updates the information across then in real time to avoid double booking and keep price rates relevant. The market is full of PMS solutions, and if you don’t have any, consider it right now.
Generate positive reviews…
As a rule, people tend to leave negative reviews rather than positive ones. The hardest thing is to motivate them to write about what they liked in your hotel. In order to get a decent number of positive reviews, you should find something to encourage people to post reviews on such sites as Booking.com, TripAdvisor, and HolidayCheck. How?
You can ask people to do that during check-out when they can say thanks for their remain, or by sending an automatic email sometime later asking them to share their opinion and including a link to their hotel online profile. Alternatively, you can install a special widget or create a Facebook page to gather guests’ reviews.
Visitors can leave surveys not only in the above-mentioned websites. Your Facebook page, for instance, is the place where direct contact between your hotel and your customers can also be organized. Visitors in need of the quickest response possible frequently post inquiries on a hotel’s Facebook page. Furthermore, Facebook allows for creating a Review section on your main page, where visitors can leave their opinions and assign stars. Google is another spot where visitors can leave their reviews, as well as photos.
…and answer to them!
It might seem insignificant, but whether you reply to customers’ reviews or not does influence your reputation online. Maintaining connection with clients is one of channel management best practices. Do not hesitate to react to negative remarks – they frequently give a significant lesson or the inspiration to make truly necessary changes in your hotel. The response to such a remark, though, should not be aggressive. According to the statistics from TripAdvisor, 70% of clients receiving an impolite or even rude response regard it as the main reason NOT to stay at a given hotel. Your answers should not be identical automatic messages – approach every client individually.
Why using a channel manager?
There are many reasons for you to consider a hotel channel manager for your hospitability business. Let’s mention the most important ones.
It spares time and resources
Of course, refreshing a posting on a solitary OTA doesn’t take more than a couple of minutes, yet those minutes start to add up immediately when administrators have to renew several channels on a daily basis. Thus, administrators have to spend boatloads of time on essential data entry instead of dedicating it to something much more important. A channel hotel manager automates this procedure so that your employees could invest their energy in more critical things, such as arranging corporate financial plan or surveying competitors. By performing monotonous errands instead of hotel admins, good hotel channel management software lets employees perform what really matters for business development.
It improves brand awareness
Since a channel management solution spares so much time, it allows hotels to stay connected to more channels. Higher exposure means a higher number of bookings, though you might be astonished to discover what’s the number of direct reservations comes to your hotel.
OTAs attract a tremendous torrent of traffic, and they work perfectly by presenting that traffic to a wide scope of hotel options. Even simple association with OTA increases the amount of attention to your property. Some of those visitors may decide to visit the hotel’s site and make a direct reservation.
It guarantees consistency over channels
When it comes to channel management, selection of a channel is only half of the work. We have already mentioned, manual update of inventory across numerous channels is a boring, routine task. But the worst thing about it is the risk of posting the wrong cost or promoting the wrong room. When a potential visitor realizes that the data on the OTA isn’t right and that the subtleties have changed, it’s unlikely for him to proceed with the booking.
In the worst case, the customer will assume that the hotel is not trustworthy and is poorly organized. This negative recognition could spread over the Net and hurt your hotel image. Inaccurate publicizing has outcomes, so it’s better to integrate a channel manager that will prevent manual errors to protect your brand from such problems.
It integrates hotel tasks and operations
Ideally, a channel manager and hotel should be running on the same platform s other hotel’s operations. Current PMS solutions frequently incorporate a channel manager together with a booking engine, income management tools, and a few other modules. With the best channel partner programs, you won’t have to worry about the integrity of data.
With total synchronization between these modules, OTAs make it very easy to manage your hotel’s tasks. This is highlighted by the fact that hotel channel management is viewed as an integrated part of tasks rather than an isolated operation. By organizing proper integration and synchronization, you simplify life for administrators and attract potential guests turning them into loyal clients.
All advanced hotels have already acknowledged that working with OTAs is a must-have for running business smartly, and OTAs are now seen as beneficial partners. Channel management SaaS solutions open new opportunities for hotels to increase revenue and improve brand image.
Pro tips for boosting revenue
These 10 pro tips will help you to increase the number of deals and control costs:
- Keep your employees satisfied and encourage them to be your sales reps. Your representatives are your most important resources. It’s imperative to keep them happy: this way, they will be able to focus on your customers and guests. Ask your group to think of ways to cut costs, improve the quality of services, and boost revenue. Reward them for their thoughts and efforts. Because happy employees make guests happy.
- Make your services outstanding. Satisfied customers make your profits grow. They are likely to tell family and friends about their experience, and let’s not forget that the Internet is the ocean where you can find a lot of reviews, both positive and negative. Keep your visitors glad by giving top-notch service, and your efforts will pay off.
- Use innovations – implement channel management software. Make your website enlisted in such websites as booking.com, Expedia.com, and so on. A website like this will create leads and help you boost the number of bookings.
- Provide value for the money. Who said people are always striving to cut expenses? Visitors are happy to pay more when they believe they are getting something truly valuable for their cash. Note that genuine value means less than perceived value. If your guests feel that a service is worth $30 while it actually costs $10, you are a winner. If you can move on the rating scale, don’t neglect such an opportunity! Moving from 3-star to 4-star rating can make a huge difference.
- Host unique events and provide interesting functions. You can significantly increase the number of appointments by hosting business meetings, special events, weddings, etc. Some massive sports events or conferences can also help you fill the rooms during low-demand seasons.
- Try to increase POS (point of sale) income opportunities – this is another important sales and channel management strategy. Joining forces with neighborhood merchants like vehicle rental organizations, cafes, amusement parks, and concert halls can help you provide additional services to visitors. Find a way to sell tickets, lease vehicles, or offer visitors special offers. Additionally, you might develop a brand line of products, for instance, shampoos and soaps, robes and towels, etc to attract guests.
- Market directly to your visitors. Assemble contact data including the visitors’ email address and/or phone number. Social media is the easiest way to keep in touch with prior visitors and draw in with new potential customers. Establish connections, offer special deals for returning visitors, and make an email newsletter for people to stay in the know about your hotel.
- Perform audit. Did you know that some hotels spend up to half of their operational budget on warming and cooling? Yet, investment in a high-quality HVAC system might save them thousands of bucks. Switching to LED lights can spare another pile of money. Audit everything: technology, food & catering, supplies, energy costs, maintenance expenses, and so on.
- Encourage visitor referrals. Make happy visitors spread the word about their experience. Reward them with coupons, free meals, or discounts.
- Be different from your rivals. Give visitors a good reason to pick your hotel. You can make your hotel stand out from the crowd by offering unique pricing models, excellent customer service, or some interesting entertainment options.
With these channel enablement best practices, you will be able to take your hospitability business to the next level! Don’t be afraid of introducing innovative techniques and trying channel managers: today, business automation is the new standard. Analyze your business and start changing it to the better right now!