Xenowledge MD John Jones knows a thing or two about cloud-based hotel property management systems (“PMS”) and their uptake by the independent hotel sector. In this light-hearted article, he debunks the most common objections to adopting a cloud PMS.
1. “Our internet connection is poor” Well, that being the case, you have bigger problems. If you have poor internet connectivity, you’re not future-proofed for other sure-fire emerging technologies, and your guests probably can’t get on your wi-fi network, if you have one (see below).
In truth, poor internet connections are often down to owners being unwilling to invest. I once knew a hotel whose owners constantly complained about their internet, only for me to discover that they were paying £30 a month for a low-end domestic contract. There are hundreds of offers out there for fast internet, and it need not cost a fortune. Plus, of course, fibre broadband has a robust rollout plan in the UK so there’s a good chance it is coming to you soon.
For those businesses which are genuinely in internet blackspots, all is not lost. There are community networks to which you can connect along with your neighbours; SIM card routers are available, using mobile phone data to bring a decent connection; fixed internet via radio waves is a possible solution, or perhaps satellite internet if you are really stuck.
2. “Our wi-fi network is rubbish” Ever heard a hotelier admit their beds are rubbish, or the breakfast unpalatable? Thought not, because the quality of these facilities is a crucial component of the hospitality product. And so is reliable (and may I say, free?) guest Wi-Fi.
It’s amazing how some hotels still view Wi-Fi as an unnecessary frivolous add-on. I’ll wager a bet with you now: any guest who experiences nil or poor Wi-Fi will leave damning reviews of your hotel on social media.
There’s no excuse – get a specialist in to audit your infrastructure.
3. “We like our data on-site” Legacy, on-premise systems still proliferate the sector, with old Windows XP computers grinding away under a reception desk somewhere, happily storing customers’ unencrypted details on the hard drive. That’s not safe as in its simplest form the data on the PC can be stolen, literally by swiping the box or removing the hard drive when the unit is eventually scrapped (which it will be, soon). And for those hotels which do have a local or WI-FI network emanating from the same machine, anyone on the network with the will and the brains can get to that data, too.
Some hoteliers even have a misguided notion that, somehow, if their data is close to them they’re safe in an emergency. Not true. How many of us remember the days when, in the event of a system crash, somebody (usually a night porter, or waiter who happened to be good with the X-Box, or someone’s spouse who worked in IT in the 70s) would be scrambled to coax the thing back to life? The computer and its software would often be resurrected hours later, but with the loss of customers’ details and bookings.
Cloud PMS products store their customers’ data in Fort Knox-like data centres. It is encrypted and the database which stores it has fail-over contingencies, which means if the system does go down, a secondary system immediately kicks in. Plus, of course, you have an army of techies on hand to fix any issues before you even know about them. No, you really don’t want your data on-site.
4. “The staff won’t like it” Sure, a lot of people don’t like change and there will always be someone who struggles with new systems. But the truth is, many of your staff are probably technology-natives who live on their smart-phones and whom curse your ancient PMS every time it crashes.
Staff love to learn new things and will be motivated by your forward-thinking nature when you introduce a new cloud PMS. Even your technology luddites will get it, eventually, when they realise how much easier their lives have become.
With the right training, staff will be really positive about “their” new toy.
5. “Customers won’t like it” Come on. Who doesn’t want real-time online booking, choose-your-own-room functionality, concierge facilities on their smart phones, faster check-in and seamless communication with the hotel?
Customers want to see their favourite hotels innovate, evolve and invest. Web-based systems allow for faster check-in, room service ordering, quicker resolution of problems and a personalised guest experience.
Customers will love it, believe me.
“6. It’s not the same as our old system” Quite right, because your old system has DNA from the 1990s and is, frankly, antiquated. Here’s a comparison to chew over: when you eventually part-exchange your 1990s Ford for a new 2020 model, will you complain to the salesman that the new car isn’t exactly the same as your old one? And that it also has a head-up display and connects to an app? Oh, the inconvenience of technical innovation.
Contemporary property management systems are far more intuitive that many of the older products, with many more years of improvement built-in. They are much easier to learn, too. Sure, some things might be in different places, but once you (quickly) get the hang of it you’ll wonder how you managed previously.
7. “We paid $10,000 for our system fifteen years ago, so we can’t abandon it now” I get this argument, but in truth it is an emotional one. On these figures, you have been paying $83 per month for a system and one which, in recent years, will have become less and less fit for purpose. In years gone by the PMS supplier may have provided hardware at the point of installation, too, but attaching a current value to an obsolete PC running Windows XP and your PMS is just misguided.
There are, of course, situations where you are chained to your obsolete kit because it is the only equipment on which your aged PMS will run. If that’s the case, you’re sailing towards a precipice. Please, take yourself to a trade convention and be prepared to be wowed by the PMS options available to you.
Coming back to the financial argument, think of it this way: you don’t still cry over that blast chiller you bought fifteen years ago, which has since been replaced, do you? 8. “We can’t afford it” Well, I bring you good news because the answer is “you can”.
The market for PMS systems is intensely competitive and the producers cannot out-price themselves without sacrificing their business. Costs have reduced organically and significantly since the old days, with development being easier and quicker (although let’s not for a moment under-play the complexities involved – software developers are a very clever bunch). Most cloud-based PMS products are offered on a monthly subscription basis, which includes what used to be called hosting, support, updates and so on. These elements are bundled into monthly payments, so there is usually no annual fee (unless you would rather pay for a year and receive a discount). You don’t own the software, you just pay to use it – that’s why many companies call it “Software As A Service” (“SaaS”).
We also need to consider the value equation, here. A modern PMS’ functionality will be more relevant to a contemporary hotelier’s needs with greater functionality and usability. That’s added value and therefore should attract a higher price, right? Well, it doesn’t and usually the price is lower. I’d say that makes a SaaS subscription a no-brainer.
9. “We’re not big enough” Ok, if you are a three room B&B then you can probably manage your inventory on a spreadsheet or even a spiral notebook. However you still need to abide by data protection laws and your guests will delight in online booking.
The truth is, this isn’t about the size of your establishment, it’s about improving efficiencies and giving the guest a fantastic customer journey courtesy of technology. There are even some free PMS products on the market, so why not try before you buy?
10. “We’re going to retire/sell soon, so why invest in a cloud-based system?”Lucky you! That being the case, you’ll want to get top dollar for the business you have lovingly curated. New buyers and acquisition specialists will look very positively on any business which already has great technology, together with the happy staff and customers it brings.
Decent producers of web-based PMS products will offer easy routes for transferring ownership of the system and will actively seek the new owner’s business. Clearing out clutter before any prospective buyer arrives is always a good idea, and that includes obsolete software.
One final thing, if you are retiring and handing over the keys to your next generation, they will absolutely thank you for installing a modern product. Just involve them when evaluating which one to go for.
Xenowledge Ltd provides consultancy services for hospitality businesses, including technology audits.