According to Hospitality Technology’s 2019 Lodging Technology Study, roughly one-quarter of hotel software budgets (26%) go to property management system (PMS) software. With that rather hefty investment, the PMS is often expected to solve for a broad scope of business challenges. As the hotel systems landscape has evolved, outdated PMS software may not be designed to solve for the problems of a modern infrastructure. HT’s research indicates that more than one-third of hotels may be grappling with this as 30% are planning on changing PMS suppliers and another 8% say they will upgrade existing systems.
In this Business Solutions Brief, HT details how the PMS can resolve common business issues including ineffective employees and operations as well as unprotected guest data.
Problem: Under-Achieving Workforce
Solution: A Cloud-based PMS with Responsive Tech Support
Happy employees are often the most productive, which has a direct impact on bottom-line profits. Providing staff with technology that can make jobs easier will not only increase productivity but also employee satisfaction as well.
“More employee productivity enables us to have happier employees; happier employees treat guests better — and guests then remain loyal to our brand,” says Chris Biggers, CIO of the Boutique Hotel Collection (www.boutiquehotelcollection.com) in San Luis Obispo, Calif. “Satisfied guests spend more … which translates to higher revenue to ownership.”
Biggers goes on to note that greater employee satisfaction results in less turnover, which can also positively impact revenue.
One way hotels can make employees more productive is by upgrading to a cloud-based PMS. This is particularly useful for smaller hotels where employee jobs encompass multiple roles within the organization and need access to the PMS at a moment’s notice.
Grant Parent, guest services manager for the Santa Barbara Inn (www.santabarbarainn.com) in Santa Barbara, Calif., says he can access his hotel’s PMS, provided by AutoClerk (www.autoclerk.com), from his smartphone or laptop whether he is at work, home or on vacation. This allows him to view current check-ins, check last-minute bookings, identify VIP guests, read notes to see if there are important guest preferences, and contact employees to monitor and ensure tasks are being executed appropriately and in a timely manner.
“From a managerial perspective, it’s very powerful to have a cloud-based solution. I know what’s going on at the hotel before I even walk through the door,” Parent notes.
Employee productivity is also directly affected by the customer service support they receive from the PMS provider. No employee wants to spend hours or days on the phone with unresponsive PMS tech support, explains Biggers. After switching to Maestro PMS (www.maestropms.com), Biggers found that his company had to retrain employees to use the Maestro customer service. With its prior PMS, employees were accustomed to the vendor never fixing broken PMS functionalities.
“Maestro has multiple methods of communication — including live chat,” Biggers says, while also noting the engaged support agents.
Problem: Lackluster Customer Service
Solution: Employee Interface
A property management system that offers little or no guest history profiles can have a negative impact on how customers feel they were treated by front desk personnel.
When a guest is waiting for a staff member to search through three or four menus to find a specific section in the software, customer service can become strained. A PMS that offers a simple, easy-to-use interface becomes very important. One thing Parent enjoys about AutoClerk is that it uses the F keys on keyboards as shortcuts to navigate between sections in the PMS.
Batula Grant, director of technology innovations, Pearle Hospitality (https://pearlehospitality.ca), says Oracle Hospitality’s OPERA cloud PMS (www.oracle.com) has streamlined her guest service agents’ jobs.
“Our guest service agents no longer have to jump through multiple screens, making our booking and billing options much easier and more efficient,” she says. “It has also streamlined check-ins and check-outs, guest requests, housekeeping statuses, and room maintenance.”
Additionally, a simple-to-use interface means that training staff members becomes much easier and can reduce onboarding time.
“We can take an employee with literally zero hotel experience and put them on the front desk in three weeks’ time, less if they’re particularly adept at the system,” Parent says. “Within two months they’ve mastered the PMS.”
Washington State-based Loge Camps (www.logecamps.com), a lodging experience for outdoor lovers and adventure sports enthusiasts, has four locations and an additional five scheduled to open in 2019. It uses the Frontdesk Anywhere (www.frontdeskanywhere.com) platform for its PMS.
“The easy-to-use interface allows our team to understand the back-end administration with relatively little training, which enables us to flatten the organization and not have that expertise rest in any one person,” says Cale Greenbacher, co-founder and president of Loge Camps.
“In a small company like ours that redundancy in skill sets and ability to make changes to the PMS is critical.”
Additionally, a PMS can contribute to a positive customer service experience when it allows staff to quickly and easily see information on repeat or VIP guests. Parent finds the guest profile feature of AutoClerk particularly helpful because it allows staff to view notes from guests’ previous stays.
“The profile feature lets us record if they have a certain room preference or early check-in preference,” he says. Plus, wishing guests a “Happy Birthday” or “Happy Anniversary” at check-in can go a long way in making them feel special and appreciated by the hotel.
Problem: Inefficient Operations
Solution: Integration to Key Hotel System Applications
For Grant, a key attribute of Oracle Hospitality OPERA Cloud is that it unites booking channels, accounting features, payment methods and data tools together in one screen.
“We have eliminated the need to navigate multiple applications to perform a single task or operation making finance and revenue easier to monitor,” she says.
Grant has even been able to integrate the hotel’s restaurant POS and spa POS with the PMS so that when guests checkout, the guest services team can print a single final folio containing all guest charges at the end of their stay. Grant is considering PMS integration with major social media and customized marketing strategies in the near future.
AutoClerk integrates with the hotel’s housekeeping system, website and third-party management system. Housekeeping is able to mark a room as clean and ready for check-in in the PMS simply by dialing a number through the room’s hotel phone. As rooms are booked, both the website and third-party websites are automatically updated so that a staff member isn’t required to manually update
AutoClerk also recently partnered with Akia (https://akia.ai) — a technology company that leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to power conversations between hotel staff and their guests via text messages.
“It’s really great,” Parent says. “It allows guests to interact with the hotel before they even arrive and without having to be placed on hold during a busy time at the front desk.”
Akia can create work orders for housekeeping and maintenance, order valet service, or even call for a bellman — and it’s all integrated with the PMS. Soon Akia will be able to offer Santa Barbara guests even more personalized content. The hotel will be uploading information on its waterfront shuttle so that guests can have their questions about the route, time and cost answered by Akia. It’s also looking into having Akia offer guests a list of amenities and attractions near the hotel.
“We’ve been using Akia about four weeks now, and we’ve had some amazing feedback,” Parent says. “We’ve actually had guests come in and ask to speak to Akia.”
Problem: Unprotected Guest Data
Solution: Strict Security Measures
The PMS is also an important component to keeping guest data safe. Oracle’s PMS offered Grant PCI compliance which was “non-negotiable for Pearle Hospitality.”
Grant felt that by choosing Oracle’s cloud-based PMS, her hotel would be using a system that was “more secure than the typical server-based systems located on the property because it would be hosted in an environment managed by people whose sole job is to keep it secure.”
A hotel’s PMS can also prevent the company from keeping guest data secure. Biggers found this to be the case for his flagship hotel, the Cliffs Hotel and Spa, before switching to Maestro PMS.
“Our previous PMS’ underlying architecture ran on Server 2003,” he explained. “The extensive requirement of dated versions of Internet Explorer, Adobe Acrobat and Java made it increasingly difficult to support without serious security considerations.”
Biggers’ IT team — with backgrounds in government and large-scale enterprise environments — appreciates that Maestro embraces industry standards, rather than trying to set their own.
“This allows the IT department to maintain its own standards in regards to reliability and security,” he notes. “Plus, we can integrate Maestro’s systems into our own internal IT systems for backups, backup rotations, security, monitoring and more. We were even able to give the Maestro IT team access to our VPN, ensuring security mandates are met, instead of being met with blank stares when mentioning something other than a direct Remote Desktop Protocol connection.”