How to Choose the Right Channel Manager for Your Business
Previously we looked at a number of features that any hotelier would find invaluable in a cutting edge Property Management System (PMS). Now we’re going to take a look at a guide for Channel Manager’s – what they are and how they feed into a PMS to provide an integrated one stop solution for hotel inventory.
What is a Channel Manager?
Channels are websites that allow for online booking by your guests. This could be via your own website or it could be through one of the many OTAs (online travel agencies) that exist. You will probably have heard of OTAs like booking.com, expedia and airbnb.com but likely not of Ctrip, China’s most popular travel platform, or makemytrip.com who enjoy huge popularity in India.
Some Channel Managers also offer connections to GDS or Global Distribution System. Here data is collected by a centralised reservation system like Apollo, Amadeus, Galileo, Pegasus, Sabre or Worldspan. It is a single entry system designed to provide travel agents with access to travel information from hotels, airlines, rental cars etc.
Why do I need one?
Even if you’re only connected to one channel it would take a lot of time to manually transfer bookings you received through channels to your PMS. Because of the time it would take to synchronise your bookings manually it would also increase the risk of double bookings. This is where a Channel Manager can help. Once set up it will transfer bookings across all channels automatically and almost instantly, saving you time, money and issues. We have summarised the benefits below:
- Eliminate double bookings. Any property manager in the business knows the frustration and chaos that results when this occurs. A Channel Manager receives the booking and communicates to other channels that the unit is no longer available thereby minimising the risk of double bookings.
- Manual updates are a huge drain on that one precious commodity; time. A Channel Manager will automate the process leaving you time for other tasks.
- Connect to more channels. As already mentioned there are literally hundreds of channels out there. A channel manager allows a hotelier to connect to a global audience.
- More revenue. You will notice an exponential increase in bookings as rates and availability can be managed across many platforms at the same time.
- Visibility. Travellers will visit up to a dozen booking sites before making their final choice so appearing on more channels can broaden visibility and leave a lasting impression. Additionally if a potential guest likes what they see on the channels they will often visit a hotels own website, thereby increasing the possibility of direct bookings. Read more about this in our blog; grow your business with the billboard effect
- Ease of use. A PMS with a built in Channel Manager maximises efficiency by organising processes so they require little to no manual labour.
What features should I be looking for?
It’s an obvious one but it’s a biggie. You need to be sure that your final choice is a fit for your budget. Make sure that the price your quoted include connections to the channels you’re interested in connecting to. Some channel managers only offer a few connections for a certain price. Others charge little to no monthly fee but charges commission based fees instead so decide ahead what will suit your budget best. Commission based often ends up a lot more costly than paying a monthly fee.
If you are using a Property Management System make sure that your Channel Manager offers full integration with your PMS so that you can be sure that the booking process is fully automated and streamlined. Preferably the PMS and Channel Manager you use should be developed by the same company so that the integration stays current and fully supported. It will also mean that you can access both services through the same interface.
Investigate the payment solutions used and how they manage customer information. In a previous article we discussed the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and how it will affect businesses globally as it comes into affect this month (May 2018). Any third parties will have access to sensitive information and these new regulations requires that you have knowledge of the processes they are using to manage your guests data.
Questions to ask your Channel Manager: Which channels are available through the Channel Manager and how well integrated are they? Is the channel connected through an XML or iCal integration (XML is more reliable)? Is it connected to the latest API of the channel? Channels keep improving the way they connect to Channel Managers so it’s worth asking these questions to make sure they keep improving their connections to channels from their side as well.
Ease of use
Make sure the interface is user friendly and provides you and your team with a system that can be used by everyone no matter their computer literacy. Can the Channel Manager be managed fully from the PMS you picked? If it can then the learning curve will be a lot easier for all involved.
Support & training
Make sure that your provider offers comprehensive support, preferably 24/7. Ask whether support is free and if not, what charges are involved. Find out what training is available. For example do they have tutorial videos, in house training or perhaps a remote link up? Decide at the outset what method is most practical and cost efficient for your business.
If you would be interested to learn more about Sirvoy’s PMS and built in Channel Management solution please feel free to contact our support team or why not try our free trial to see how our system can benefit your business?