Contributed by Ian Kemp, Client Experience Manager for Major Accounts, SHR
“Your system is only as good as what you put into it—it’s junk in, junk out—so choose carefully.” —Todd Farber, B Hotels & Resorts
In today’s ultra-competitive hotel market, hoteliers know that fully-functioning distribution channels are key. Yet many of them are still having trouble getting the most out of their channels. The root of the problem can often be traced to their PMS/CRS integration.
In a recent webinar, we shared both technical and operational information on how to minimize your PMS/CRS frustration while maximizing your distribution. Joining me were Nicole Adair, our Area Director of Revenue Management, and our special guest, B Hotels & Resorts’ Complex Director of Revenue Management, Todd Farber.
Understanding the Distribution Landscape
As Todd said, you need to choose what you put into your system very carefully. But to understand what that means, and to better control exactly where and what products are being sold at your hotel, you first need to understand the PMS/CRS connection as one that feeds all the channels of our distribution. We can break these down into direct booking, call centers, GDS, and OTAs, while we look at what a CRS should, ideally, do for each channel.
The direct booking engine, your priority, should be customizable within your CRS to differentiate you in your marketplace. For your call centers, you should be able to channel-specific offers to them via your CRS. With OTAs, you should be able to organize them by rate codes via the mapping that lives in your CRS. The GDS is integral, so you should have great offerings pushing through your CRS to your GDS platforms. With OTAs, looked at as both booking and shopping channels, your CRS should have a good channel manager integration that can reach out to smaller OTAs specific to your market.
Building a Visual Guideline
Interfaces. To de-mystify your system further, you need to look at what your PMS and CRS interfaces are saying to each other. Some interfaces are very robust, and some are not, but in any system, reservations are always number one. So, when you are evaluating a new system, or simply trying to better master your current system, you need to figure out what are non-negotiable categories for your interface, and what you can live without. For instance, if you are a group-heavy hotel, you would want to make sure that you have full group functionalities.
Mapping. Your mapping tables can live in both your PMS and CRS, so you need to ensure they align. Work with your account manager to understand what should and can be mapped. Failed updates, lost reservations, and bad reports can result from mismapping between the two systems. Todd pointed out that this is where regular auditing comes in, on a weekly basis not just bi-annually, to make sure your interfaces are mapping properly to minimize errors, and to make sure you’re receiving all your reservations.
Reporting vs. Yielding. As Nicole explained, it’s also important to create a visual guideline to know how your rate codes and rate code groups will be mapped out between reporting and yielding, such as by market group versus rate group, or rate category versus rate code group. Using Expedia, for instance, you will likely want all your Expedia rate codes grouped together for reporting, but not for yielding. So, you would build your market codes around your most common reporting function, and group your rate codes together according to how you will yield them. This will help keep everything cleaner and more efficient in managing your channels.
Ensuring Clean Distribution
As Nicole pointed out, to get the most out of your CRS, you need to make use of your system’s double derivation functionality; to 1) help ensure clean distribution of your retail offerings across all your channels, and 2) to allow for quicker and easier adjustments to your discount amounts. For example, many people will try to drive all the advance purchase rates codes directly off BAR. But this means any adjustments will require going through every single rate code for every channel. An easier way would be to derive your retail rate code off BAR, then derive all your secondary rate codes from that. By doing it this way, if you do have to change any rates, you can do one update at the retail level and you’re done.
Once a guest makes a reservation, does everything the channel or booking engine collects get passed on to your hotel? This is important to know because things can (and do) go wrong—reservations can time out and servers can stall, interfering with the reservation completion—something no one wants. This is another area where a robust CRS can really help. Windsurfer, for instance, will send a message if any system communication breaks down. And if you can loop both PMS and CRS providers into these error situations, you can keep things running even smoother.
Better Guest Communication
Do you have full flexibility to communicate with your guests via your CRS, both pre and post-stay? Are you getting guest data in a format that’s actionable? With a robust CRS, you should be able to get what you need when you need it. Todd also advised to regularly look at your website and booking through your guests’ eyes. Put yourself in their place, and run through your system as they would. Then, adjust as needed. Remember, your system is only as good as the information you put in, so make that information as relevant to your guest as possible.
The Team’s To-Do List!
- Review what flows (or doesn’t flow) between your PMS and CRS.
- Make sure that your systems are “talking” to each other
- Audit at least twice a year, and make sure to enact all system updates promptly.
- Play the role of the guest to see what they see, and keep “junk” out of your system.
- Aggressively pursue full connectivity with your partners—you’re paying for it.
- Break down your channel costs with your account manager for a better overall picture.