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Online Booking Systems offer tools and functionalities that help hospitality businesses streamline their booking processes and manage reservation requests. They offer features such as booking (rooms, tables, vehicles, etc.), payment processing, availability checking, and calendar management. The software has wide applicability in the hospitality, estate agency, and rental industries.
The benefits of online booking systems
As an owner/manager of a reservations-based business, reservations software allows you to set up a flawless, user-friendly booking system. Some of the key benefits of implementing reservations software are:
- 24/7 availability for bookings/reservations: With a well-implemented reservations system in place, your business can accept bookings 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Customers can access your online portal or use partnered booking platforms to make reservations anywhere, at any time.
- Avoid booking errors: One of the main advantages of reservations software is avoiding incorrect reservations or double-booking. With a centralised reservations system in place, everyone will have the latest information regarding room availability or rentals.
- Automate booking processes: Reservations software automates the entire booking cycle, from booking requests to payments. Property owners/managers can streamline various operations in the reservations process, such as handling customer enquiries, accepting payments, and managing calendars. A rule-based system lets users set up automated workflows, which allow guests to automatically receive booking confirmations via text or email once payment has been received, for example.
Typical features of online booking systems
- Online booking: Accept booking requests online and process them based on availability.
- Payment processing: Accept and process payments, and share receipts with customers.
- Group reservations: Make arrangements for groups who request reservations at the same time.
- Booking notes: Capture requests made by customers during the reservation process and share these notes with staff members.
- Customer support: Provide support to customers via phone, live chat, or email.
Considerations when purchasing online booking systems
- Figure out what you need: Reservations software vendors offer a broad range of basic and premium features. Your feature requirements will be unique based on your business size and type. Basic features such as real-time booking with payment support are fairly standard, while premium features like built-in marketing automation, multi-currency payment gateways, and integration with existing applications may not be necessary. Make a list of your "must-have" and "good-to-have" features before compiling your vendor shortlist.
- Integration with existing systems: Reservations software may not be the first or only tool you use, so it's important that it integrates with your existing technology tools. Before making a purchase, confirm that the reservations software you pick fully integrates with your POS , database , and compliance management software , to name a few.
- Buy reservations software or build your own: The decision to go with third-party software or develop a system in-house depends on the complexities of your reservation/booking process and desired customisation level. In-house developed software can be aligned to your existing interface and functionality requirements, but demands significant time and money. On the other hand, third-party reservations software (especially cloud-deployed systems) can be implemented within a few hours at a reasonable price, but may offer lesser customisability.
Relevant online booking systems trends
- Chatbots are transforming the booking process: Chatbots (AI-backed conversational interfaces) are transforming the way booking enquiries are received and answered. Chatbots can replace or significantly reduce the need for staff to handle customer enquiries, and can address queries without human intervention. According to Humley, more than two-thirds of Americans would like to use chatbots to improve their online travel experience.
- Predictive intelligence will help improve the guest experience: Reservations software includes tools that capture a variety of customer details. According to Zebra Technologies, 49% of hotel and resort owners are looking for ways to turn guest data into business-relevant insights that can enhance guests' in-stay experience and improve customer loyalty. Most reservations software vendors have started (or will start) offering predictive analytics capabilities bundled with their solutions.