What hoteliers should be asking of their PMS provider

The process of selecting a new property-management system is very involved—hoteliers should engage in plenty of due diligence and develop critical questions that should be answered ahead of time, including what their PMS provider will do to help ensure the hotel's success during this often-stressful transition. 

The first step in the process is to identify the pain points hoteliers have with their current PMS. What is the current system lacking? Is it connectivity, online booking, dynamic pricing? “The pain points they are currently experiencing should be able to be solved with a new technology system,” said Todd Sabo, president of RMS North America. 

Another major question hoteliers should be asking is whether their PMS can make positive contributions to their return on investment: Is their PMS a cost center or a revenue center, asked Nicole Dehler, StayNTouch’s VP of products. “Companies often spend up to 75 percent of their IT budgets simply maintaining existing infrastructure, and with legacy PMS platforms, there is a lot to maintain,” she said. “Once you factor in expensive installation costs, continual maintenance costs for running on-site servers, and the significant costs of purchasing software licenses, upgrades and integrations, you can see how a legacy PMS platform can quickly become a money pit.”

When buying a PMS, hoteliers need to first ask whether that technology will lead to the enhancement
of the guest experience. Photo credit: StayNTouch

Do third-party integrations fit hoteliers’ needs and how will any issues be resolved? “Your provider should be very clear as to what extent their integrations work with a third-party technology provider,” SkyTouch Technology CEO Todd Davis said. “You may already have a full integration with a piece of technology on your current system. However, a new provider may not have exactly the same 100 percent integration that you have today. You don’t want to figure this out after the transition.”

It is always best to avoid the “finger pointing” between providers, and ensure your technology providers agree and will work together as a partner in your hotel’s success to correct any issues as they arise within a reasonable time frame, Davis continued.

A property’s PMS evaluation should focus on correcting and leveraging neglected revenue streams that the current solution cannot manage. These usually include ancillary sales from optimized packages and amenities and provide purchase/upgrade capability online and on-property, said Warren Dehan, president of Maestro PMS.

“Do the proposed PMS vendors offer a suite of guest engagement and online functionality from point of booking the reservation through to check-out, including automated and dynamic email guest communications; prearrival registration; mobile check-out, and mobile PMS operations for enabling staff to personalize guest service?” Dehan asked. 
How are credit cards stored and handled? Can the PMS support point-to-point encryption? Plus, Luke Pfeifer, director of product management for Agilysys, suggested hoteliers know how personally identifiable information is secured and managed, especially with the current General Data Protection Regulation compliance requirements and other upcoming privacy acts like the California Consumer Privacy Act.

AutoClerk President Gary Gibb suggested that hoteliers should ask if their PMS fully embraces the latest security technology for protection of guest cardholder data, including tokenization for card-not-present reservation activity and the EMV chip standard for card-present activity at the front desk during guest check-in?

What to Plan for in the Future

Integrations into a hotel’s PMS are key for operating efficiently and effectively. Technology deficiencies, such as not interfacing with third parties, can hamper an otherwise tech-savvy operation. When asked what PMS improvements they would like to see in the future, 58 percent of hotels rank a deeper integration with their existing technology landscape as most important, according to the "The Future of Property Management Systems," a report by h2c Research. 

We asked the experts what integrations are the most important for hotels to plan for in the future and here’s what they said. 

Integrations that supplement the guest
experience give guests the power to choose
how and when they want to interact with staff.
Photo credit: Agilysys

Mobile housekeeping/maintenance improves hotel staff communication, operation efficiency, performance metrics reporting, and guest satisfaction, Gibb said. 

A solution that offers integrated modules across most all property departments such as front desk, sale and catering, condo owner, spa and activities, mobile housekeeping and guest engagement should be a major consideration for multifaceted operations, whether a single or multiproperty group, Dehan said. 

Customer relationship management also is critical. “The amount of data collected by hotels is enormous,” Davis said. “Today’s hoteliers need to understand the cost of acquisition and the lifetime value of a guest. This data should be leveraged in pricing offers, levels of service, room locations and personal messaging to guests.”

A smart texting bot that uses artificial intelligence keeps the bot up-to-date with guestroom status and enables staff to be as responsive as possible to guest demands even with limited manpower is another integration cited as important.  

“PMS integrations should supplement the guest experience, giving the guest the power to choose how and when they want to interact with your property,” Pfeifer said. 

Mobile key integration allows guests to check in on their smartphones and head straight to their rooms if they choose, bypassing the front desk. 

Mobile payments, especially digital wallets (like Samsung Pay), are essential for both in-person and online payments to accommodate all demographics.

Rate and revenue management will always be critical for every hotel, especially with flexible and attribute-based pricing capabilities, Davis said. “I see more advancement with personalized pricing—leveraging more machine learning to streamline pricing before, during and after the purchasing process,” he continued. 

Six Signs it's Time to Upgrade your PMS

Most technology has a limited lifespan and a hotel’s PMS is no exception. As property-management system technology evolves, so will a property’s needs and their guests’ wants and needs. Here are six signs that it is time to upgrade a hotel’s PMS. 

1. Employees’ voices. If they are constantly complaining about the legacy PMS, it’s likely a sign that the platform is overly complicated and gets in the way of their productivity. A PMS should offer a colorful and intuitive user interface, which increases staff adoption and reduces the time needed for training. “A mobile PMS lets the staff break free from the front desk to meet your guests anywhere in the lobby,” Dehler said. “There, they can engage with guests naturally, gauge their preferences, respond instantly to their requests and capitalize on any upsell opportunities.”

One sign it is time to upgrade a PMS is when the vendor’s level of service slips below what
operators should expect from a software solution provider. Photo credit: Maestro PMS

2. PMS support. Another sign it is time to upgrade a PMS is when the vendor’s level of service slips below what operators should expect from a software solution provider, said Dehan. “More and more a client-centered and specific market-focused vendor-support program is essential for the success of the PMS technology in the short- and long-term,” he continued. 

3. Outdated reporting. If your PMS reporting is outdated and inaccurate, it’s time to upgrade, Sabo said. “This often coincides with limited customization, restricted staff access and problems with booking, such as double bookings,” he said. 

4. Security and compliancy. Is the current PMS secure and compliant? If the PMS is not running on the most current operating system version, from a security standpoint, it is probably time to consider an upgrade, Pfeifer said. 

5. Guest data. Who owns it? If a hotelier is using a third-party for guest data management, such as an outside booking tool, then they probably want to change to a system that allows the hotel to own and manage guest data in real-time, Pfeifer said. 

6. Difficult to serve customers. Does the current PMS make it hard to serve your guests and keep them coming back? Davis said hoteliers should be able to communicate with guests seamlessly with guest messaging and be able to offer guests incentives to book direct. “If your current PMS isn’t integrated to technologies like guest messaging and if it doesn’t have built-in guest-experience and revenue-generation tools, then it’s time to switch,” he said.