How to choose the most profitable technology for your company? Before searching, comparing and making up your mind, you should understand the effects on your business, during and after the implementation, and be prepared to face the big changes that are about to take place.
This post covers four essential areas to consider before implementing a Booking Engine:
- Identify the strengths and weaknesses of your business
This implies the identification and prioritisation of the elements of your business that you think need a boost. It is an important step to define the core set of features of the booking software you are looking for. It may not be necessary to implement everything at once (and it may not even be possible, depending on your company’s organisation), but you should have a clear idea of which areas should be dealt with at an early stage and which ones will generate greater productivity, efficiency and profitability in the long run. Modular solutions are a good option as they enable growth at the same rate as your business does.
- Choose the optimal solution according to your needs
Do you need a tailor-made Booking Engine or does the existing online booking software, normally delivered as “cloud” Software as a Service (SaaS), is enough? This decision can only be made after digging deeper into the pros and cons of the different existing technology solutions, to determine if the standard functionalities are enough or if you need more.
The tailor-made solution often represents a higher initial cost. However, on the long run, it allows a much higher level of control and meeting specific needs. Sometimes, a small failure on the cloud online-booking platform can lead to serious harm for your company. One of the most important factors you should consider is that systems developed for a general customer may not offer the specific functions you need and that may not even be included in the roadmap of the software developer or may never be implemented at all (unless many customers request them).
One of the advantages of the cloud-based or ready-made software lies on the fact that the implementation time is relatively short, as such software does not require planning and development times. Another advantage is the initial cost. It is important to highlight “initial” as, whereas the license for a tailor-made booking engine often implies a higher initial cost, long-term expenses may be lower than cloud solutions. That is why performing a few calculations may be useful: many systems use a model based on commissions, which means that as your income grows, your expenses also do. We recently performed a comparison based on a booking estimate, and a solution based on commissions ended up costing almost 10 times more than a commission-free solution at the end of the year, which is pretty significant.
Uptime also is an essential factor. In cloud systems, you depend on uptime to get the search results on your solution. Understanding its Service Level Agreement (SLA) is also important when considering these types of systems.
The quality of support offered by the technology supplier when things do not work as they should, or simply when help is required, is a key issue. Sometimes, cloud-based systems offer different levels of support, depending on the level of service purchased: the more you pay, the more support channels will be available and the faster the response will be.
- Identify how the internal processes of your business will change (for example in flexibility, from manual to automated) and get prepared to face them
It is important to identify how your processes will change and what preparation you need to face them, additional training for staff, etc. Here are some of the changes you can expect:
- Many of your daily processes will be automated or significantly reduced. For example, you will need to spend less time communicating with customers by phone or e-mail (name, contact information or credit card information will be handled through the system). You will avoid wasting time by calling or sending e-mails to customers to confirm their bookings, manage changes in availability, etc.
- The accessibility to information by the staff will allow them to manage it in a better way.
- Mobile office: bookings will be managed from any place and time through a mobile phone or tablet, which will allow you to be aware of the state of the business and manage its schedules more effectively.
- How systems will be integrated into your website
Cloud-based booking systems often offer booking widgets that can be added to your website. This involves advantages and disadvantages: obviously, it eases integration, but, on the other hand, it implies little or no control at all over the flow of bookings. In such cases, the user is very often redirected to the booking platform in an external domain (not yours), which means that the user leaves your site to complete the process.
With cloud-based systems, it is very difficult to achieve an efficient integration, something that, however, is within the reach of customised solutions. Controlling the booking process as much as possible is always desirable for several reasons, among which is the analysis of the user’s activity during the booking process, in order to improve the conversions. If the customer completes the booking process on an external site, it is not possible to access this information that would allow to make decisions about how to improve the business, whereas your own website is an inexhaustible source of data.
In conclusion, the selection and implementation of a distribution technology-platform or booking engine poses challenges. Considering the previous areas and planning accordingly will contribute greatly to achieve the right combination for your business.