Today’s leading property management systems (PMS) can seemingly handle almost anything. Vendors will provide long lists of features and functions, explaining that their latest software can automate every aspect of your hotel’s operations, reducing your costs and boosting your revenues. The evidence suggests these vendors are not wrong – their products can indeed deliver the results you need, but in terms of how hotels are actually using the software on the market, the reality is that some features and functions are much more important than others.

If we look at common usage, you’ll see that certain functions are employed far more widely than others. The most common are reservations, point-of-sale services, housekeeping, online booking engines, and customer relations management. Let’s take these in order, and consider the key features which go with them.

  1. Reservations – ease of use

Reservations is the most widely applied function of property management systems, and it allows front desk staff to see all the necessary information they need while speeding up the check-in process. However, for your receptionists to use this effectively, the system has to be simple to use. Nobody wants to arrive at a hotel and find that their first encounter with front desk staff involves no interaction because the receptionist has to focus solely on a screen because the process is so complex. In general, if your system isn’t easy to use you’ll fail to make the efficiency gains you should expect, and your staff will find themselves preoccupied with computers instead of with guests. Before you buy, you should try out the system for yourself, and see exactly how easily you can figure it out and make it do exactly what you want.

  1. Point-of-sale services – vendor support

The second most widely used function of the PMS is to handle transactions at the various sales outlets around a hotel. This saves time and reduces the chance of human error as all the transactions are processed automatically. Of course, these systems are handling a large amount of financial data across a number of different users, so you can’t afford any problems in the system. If anything goes wrong, you need instant support from your vendor, who must be available to provide maintenance and upgrades whenever required. If a system you’ve grown to rely on goes down, it has to be back up and running as soon as possible, so check out your vendor’s after-sales service before you choose where to buy your software.

  1. Housekeeping – available through different devices

Many hotels use their PMS to organize their housekeeping activities, and one of the key aspects of this particular function is that the housekeeping staff who must use it are typically not desk-bound. Instead they must perform their work in the hotel’s rooms, which means that in order to use the system to report problems or to track their own progress, they need to access the system from mobile devices. Studies have shown that it is this particular department which accounts for the vast majority of non desktop or laptop PMS usage. If you want your housekeepers to be connected, make sure the system you choose works effectively on tablets or smartphones, otherwise you’ll be missing out on the flexibility you need.

  1. Online booking – integration with existing systems

Online booking systems are becoming increasingly important as hotels try to take back control of the sale of their rooms. Property management systems can support this particular function, but they have to be fully integrated with the existing reservations system, and with the other distribution channels the hotel uses. Check with your vendor to make sure the system you buy is fully compatible with other software you need to use.

  1. Customer relations – data collection

A large number of hotels are now using their property management systems to build and maintain stronger customer relations. Post-stay marketing can be carefully targeted based on the data the system can obtain about customers preferences. To do this successfully, the system must be able to collect, store, and organize data effectively, making it available to hoteliers in an accessible format. Ask your vendor what kind of data will be accessible and how it can be presented, because this is one area where you can exploit information to improve the profitability of your business.