Six must-ask questions to consider before buying a PMS

Calculator Your property management system (PMS) forms the administrative heart of your hotel, which means choosing the right one is essential.

And even if you’re comfortable with a platform you’ve been using for years, it’s important to reflect on whether it is helping or hindering your hotel’s growth when compared to better options on the market.

Change is a constant reality in the hotel industry – new technologies, online competition and modern guest expectations are just some of the major driving forces, and nearly all aspects of hospitality are affected.

Keeping ahead of these changes, as well as new emerging technologies, is a daunting task for anyone. But to ensure that your hotel keeps ahead strategically, a good place to start is taking a critical look at your PMS and making sure that it supports your growth.

A good PMS controls and automates a number of processes within a hotel, ideally reducing time-consuming tasks and inefficiencies within your operation.

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It’s not just about capturing bookings or keeping track of finance, but as technology evolves and expands, so does the need for your PMS to play an integral role in guest experience and loyalty management. Ideally, it should form the core of almost all hotel activity.

According to the 2016 Smart Decision Guide to Hotel Property Management Systems, the biggest benefits of having the right property management system include:

Improved guest satisfaction and quality of the guest experience

Streamlined hotel operations and reduced costs

Increased hotel occupancy, revenue and profitability

Improved performance reporting and business intelligence

The considerations of a new PMS might vary depending on the size and needs of different hotels, so we have taken a look at some of the most important questions you should ask during the research and evaluation process, as part of the study mentioned above.

1) Does the solution offer flexibility in functionality, including data access and performance reporting?

According to 87 per cent of hoteliers interviewed in the study, gaining access to PMS data and business insights is ‘important’ or ‘very important’.

A good PMS offers unprecedented visibility that allows you to take full control of your hotel’s administration, and will come with a wide array of options when it comes to data report dashboards. Having said that, it’s still important to find out what level of custom reporting is available to you before buying.

Tip: Confirm that the solution is flexible in terms of keys areas of functionality, including custom report generation.

2) How easily and seamlessly does the PMS integrate with third-party technologies and data?

With the constant development of new technologies, having a PMS with a growing integration partner list is becoming more important. An integrated partner could be anything from a channel manager to a mobile app or online guest feedback system. Less integration opportunities could mean that you end up with data spread over a number of different applications, or having to settle for apps that don’t serve your needs like they should.

A great place to start is to make a list of all the third-party providers or applications you work with, or would like to work with, and check how many of them can be integrated with the PMS you are assessing.

Tip: Ask about PMS compatibility and interoperability with third-party technologies in place or anticipated.

3) How long will it take for problems to be resolved?

It’s important to have a clear understanding of the PMS platform’s customer support process before making a buying decision. It’s also important to consider what kind of training is provided to hotel staff who will be using the system for the first time. More than 80 per centÊof hoteliers agree that user training is a key success factor in getting the most out of a PMS.

Tip: Make sure that problems will get resolved in a timely manner. Some solution providers will go so far as to guarantee response and case resolution times.

4) What is the total cost of ownership? Are there ‘hidden’ costs?

Thanks to rapid developments in technology, PMS platforms today aren’t nearly as expensive as their predecessors.

However, whether you choose a cloud-based or traditional computer-based system for your hotel, it’s important to find out if you’ll be making any surprise payments down the road Ð some examples include future software updates, technical support, infrastructure or maintenance etc.

Tip: Ascertain that all associated installation, licensing, maintenance and ongoing service as well as support fees are included in the pricing.

5) What return on investment (ROI) can be expected?

How much time your new PMS will save in terms of managing front desk activities, like check-ins and check-outs, consolidating guest accounts, and managing rates and availability across all of your different channels (OTAs, travel agents and so on) is a critical consideration to make.

How will the new system improve sales revenue? Will it help you increase bookings thanks to seamless booking engine integration, or allow you to increase your average daily rates using integrated revenue management and forecasting tools? Analyse how the PMS will improve your ROI.

Tip: Keep in mind that enhancing the quality of the overall guest experience through the deployment of a next-generation PMS should lead to a greater number of repeat guest stays and a higher volume and intensity of positive brand advocacy. The correlation between favorable guest reviews and positive economic outcomes should factor into the equation.

6) What is the PMS solution provider’s track record of success?

Lastly, it’s important to look at the company’s track record before making a buying decision. Even if they’ve been in business for years, check their client base to determine how reliable they are. The last thing you want is to be promised the world, only to be let down by poor service delivery.

Tip: Seek information about what, if any, performance issues may arise through conversations with existing clients, preferably ones in the same hotel category.

Making the right decision for your hotel

The right PMS can help you streamline your business and save you hours by automating repetitive front-desk tasks, help with bookings, channel management, housekeeping and finances, to name a few.

But before you make your final decision, consider:

Does the solution offer flexibility in functionality, including data access and performance reporting?

How easily and seamlessly does the PMS integrate with third-party technologies and data?

How long will it take for problems to be resolved?

What is the total cost of ownership? Are there ‘hidden’ costs?

What return on investment (ROI) can be expected?

What is the PMS solution provider’s track record of success?

Having a firm grasp of the answers to these questions will place you in a much better purchasing position, and set you on the path towards streamlining every aspect of your hotel’s day-to-day operations.

By Stuart Dickinson

Stuart DickinsonStuart Dickinson is a freelance journalist, copywriter and media developer with over ten years’ experience in communications. His passion for travel and tourism has seen him work with high-profile clients like South African Tourism, Fodor’s Travel Guides, City Sightseeing, The Grand Daddy Hotel, Collection McGrath, Kruger Lowveld Tourism and the Gauteng Tourism Authority.




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