Do-It-Yourself Internet Reservations--Maintain Control of Your Data

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October 01, 2002
CounterPoint
Criss Chrestman

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© 2002 Hospitality Upgrade. No reproduction without written permission.

It is all about control—control of your business, your relationship with your customer, your data integrity, your costs, your information and your assets.

Your Web site and the business you transact on it are an integral part of your business and should be controlled accordingly.

When someone signs on to your Web site the reservations process should be an extension of the exact way you do business just as when they phone into your call center. The Internet is not a single, separate channel; it is an integral part of conducting business. It is essential that your business be an e-business. It is essential that you control your business by controlling your e-business.

PMS-Assisted Control
Since you have already selected a property management system to facilitate controlling your business, your PMS should extend that control to the Internet. When you connect your business directly with the Internet, you send a consistent message to your customer. I emphasize that you should connect your business, instead of selecting someone else’s business model. When you select a third party to be the primary representative of your property, there is bound to be a disconnect somewhere. That disconnection may manifest itself in databases that are out-of-sync, resulting in people showing up at your door without a reservation or with the wrong rates. The third-party delay, missing critical information or any of the other problems that historically occur are inevitable when you attempt to duplicate functionality and data to a disparate system. A PMS that is extended to the Internet has the same booking and reservation engine that is already integrated with your property. Even if your PMS is an ASP, it still reflects your business operations.

Even though the need to control your own Web site exists, there are legitimate reasons to sometimes use a third party as a distribution channel. The inherit disadvantage of a separate system and organization can be balanced if it is a good channel. But this is a relationship of convenience, and is designed for specific business purposes. It is not likely to operate as a true member of your management team. Your PMS is a member of your team.

Connect Directly to Your Customers
You already have relationships with your customers; they know you and they want to book directly with you. So why involve a middleman? Even if this is a new customer, why have someone else control the relationship once you have been introduced? By offering the superior operating practice of real interaction with your business systems, you increase customer service. By establishing marketing offers and promotions that work with your internal systems, you increase customer satisfaction. By controlling your information, you own your customer relationship. By communicating your message, not someone else’s, you safeguard uniqueness and individuality. By not sharing your information, you protect your assets and your competitive advantage.
By controlling your own reservations site you now have contractual leverage to negotiate the best deal with third parties, who should only add value to your Internet marketing plan, not control it. The best practice Internet philosophy is to deal directly with the marketplace. After the business advantage of your internal operations has been realized and maximized, then look at third-party distribution.

Quality Bookings
While your Web site may be a more cost-effective method of distributing your product than traditional travel agent and GDS bookings, an additional benefit is the high quality of bookings that come through your Web site. A quality booking has a greater chance of turning into an authentic sale. What control does a third-party Web site have and what enforcement does it exercise to control the quality of a booking? What guarantee do you have that your inventory is not blocked with speculative or erroneous reservations? What are the booking fees for no-shows and phantom business? The cost of those rooms being held “off the market” for months and then go empty represents real lost revenue opportunity.

The higher the quality, the more likely the booking will create a purchase and you will have a quality customer relationship. Bookings made on a Web site that require a purchase, a real credit card number, are of a higher quality. Encourage shopping, but before actually assigning inventory, dissuade speculation by requiring a genuine commercial transaction. In this respect your Web bookings should be of the same high quality as your call center.

Control Your Destiny
Control your Web site as you do your property. The control of your operations, marketing and customer relationship are too valuable to give away. You can control your own Web site and your PMS should assist you by being your No. 1 Internet booking engine. Pay yourself first by investing in your e-business. The benefit is a better relationship with your customers and increased return on investment in your business.

Criss Chrestman is chief technology officer for Lodging Management Systems.



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