Contributed by Paula Perrin, Sr. Market Analyst, SHR
Of all the challenges hoteliers face on a daily basis, none can be so frustrating -- and so common -- as connectivity. I sat down with resident SHR expert, Justin Sibit, a Tier II Technical Support Engineer, to not only figure out some solutions, but how to head off many of these problems to begin with. Thankfully, the majority of them swirl around the often-illusive state of parity. Achieve parity, and live in bliss. Here are some ideas to get you started in that direction today.
#1 Get Ahead with a Heads-Up
According to Justin, the most common issues stem from how quickly today’s savvy hoteliers make updates to their online content. Sometimes, a little too fast. “So many of our clients are super proficient at changes, they can bypass their CRS provider without realizing it, throwing them out of parity,” said Justin. “I would estimate that about 95% of all the calls we get are really simple connection issues that revolve around changes.” These changes might be made within an OTA or even in the PMS. Here’s the problem. “When you make a change in your OTA extranet, for example, it generates a brand-new rate plan ID,” Justin explained. “Some OTAs don’t notify the CRS or channel manager, so your data cannot remain one to one anymore.” The solution? Give your CRS provider a heads-up yourself as to any changes to your content.
#2 Rate Code Mapping at Your Service
Which brings us to our next solution. The reason you won’t be one to one anymore is due to mapping. Because when you are not letting your provider know what’s going on your side of the computer screen, nothing is being mapped on the CRS side. Which means what you see is not what you are getting. “Connectivity like GDS, for instance, is always changing, so if PCC and rate codes are not mapped on the CRS end, it’s as if they were never made for the hotel’s booking audience,” Justin explained. “And that’s just GDS. Don’t forget about the OTAs, and other channels as well.” Rate code mapping is something hotels might not be able to tackle on their end, so alerting your CRS is important.
#3 Metasearch Made Easier
Those other channels that Justin spoke of are a big part of the mix, but often get forgotten about. “There are metasearch sites like WIHP, Google Hotels, TripAdvisor, and more that all ride on a distribution system,” Justin said. “These behind-the-scenes resellers get your information directly from the CRS.” And that’s info that must be correct to stay in control of how your hotel is being seen online, as well as simply staying in parity, so you don’t end up missing revenue opportunities. “Channeling rates to a metasearch can be a simple one-click process or the system can send the data via the backend. Down the road, this can lead to forgotten data being sent,” Justin explained. The solution? “Keep the rates channeled to a minimum, and clean up old data regularly.”
#4 What is Pushing What?
What happens when you try to push new rate codes via your PMS? Do they go through to your CRS? “The short answer is probably not,” explained Justin. “There are a few PMSs that will allow pushing new rate codes through, but not many.” Or take a sell limit situation. “Say you only want to put five rooms in inventory to be sold on Booking.com, for instance. If you set it up on your PMS and not on your CRS, thinking it will push through, it might or it might not.” Your best bet? Don’t assume and again, let your CRS know what you are doing. In a metasearch situation, the same thing applies, but on a grander scale. “If you change rooms or rates on your PMS for metasearch, it can be messier as they are gathering info for wholesalers and OTAs alike, so you may not even know until you simply start feeling lost bookings, which can take quite a while to become aware of,” Justin said. The solution? Check the limitations of your PMS interface and don’t assume any capabilities until they are proven.
#5 Handling Turnover
Employee turnover, though not a software issue, can contribute heavily to tech issues because quite often, new employees don’t understand in-place hotel procedures. “This is often overlooked once a hotel has gone through their major implementation phase and is up and running,” Justin said. “Things like knowing your rate loading instructions can go out the window because assumptions are understandably made that your CRS must already have them.” The solution? Make sure that every new employee is kept up to speed, and knows how to contact your CRS provider on a regular basis for help.
As always, whatever you do, you cannot ever go wrong by keeping the lines of communication open, especially if you want to stay in parity. Doing so will help ensure that you can continue to reduce your connectivity frustration level while increasing revenues and delighting guests.