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Dear hotel owners and managers,
Today’s article is aimed at both hotel owners And PMS: it gives a global vision of the factors at play to optimize the PMS – CRM synergy.
As hotel CRMs are constantly evolving, we thought it would be relevant to provide you with some guidelines on what can and cannot be done with the PMS – CRM duo and on the major functions, links and technical exchanges to look for between these two solutions.
Export of “recently created, modified or cancelled” reservations
When you want the best possible experience with the “Customer Relationship” part of a hotel CRM, the first key element is the ability of the PMS to regularly send to the CRM the list of recently created, modified or cancelled reservations.
This constant updating of the CRM avoids creating confusion among your customers, for example by sending them greetings when their reservation has been cancelled or postponed. Without this feature, it is also difficult or sometimes impossible to identify NO-SHOWs. The traveller will then receive emails “during” and “after” his stay even though it never took place.
Another example: if the PMS sends to the CRM only the arrivals of the next 15 days and one of the reservations is shifted 3 months, the CRM, not receiving any more information on this reservation, will not know if this last one is cancelled or simply modified. It will therefore not be possible to reschedule e-mails concerning pre-stay, pre-check-in, etc.
To summarize, the more the PMS can keep the CRM up to date like a mirror, the better the customer relationship automation will be.
Export of “recently created, modified or cancelled” customers
Normally, when a PMS notifies a CRM of a reservation creation, it includes in its synchronization message the associated customer information (e-mail, telephone, first name, etc.)
It is also very important that the PMS sends any changes to the profile information as well. Example: the customer gives you his personal e-mail address on the day of arrival, but the PMS does not consider this as an update. As a result, it does not notify the CRM of this new information, which will have consequences.
So be careful what the PMS deems to be a change that should or should not be sent to the CRM.
The connectivity format
The connectivity format corresponds to the way the PMS will communicate its information to the CRM.
Today, there are several kinds of PMS that provide information differently:
- PMS that do not provide any solution to export your customer data. In this case, it is sometimes possible that the CRM developers are able to build a connector that can extract information directly from your PMS. This solution, which is not always possible to implement, is not sustainable. The PMS could indeed evolve and make technical decisions that render it ineffective.
- PMS that work with daily exports. This solution is very simple to implement, both for the PMS and the CRM. On the other hand, with only one export per day, the lack of reactivity can be a problem. For example, if a customer cancels at the last minute and the CRM is not alerted right away; ignoring this change, the CRM would incorrectly send the customer a pre-check-in…
- The PMS that has an API* that the CRM interrogates as often as possible to update customer information. This solution has many advantages but potentially some pitfalls, as the quality and quantity of data retrieved by the CRM depends on what the PMS decides to make available via its API.
- The PMS that notifies the CRM of each modification, cancellation and new reservation. This is the most optimal solution of course, practically in real time, which makes it almost impossible to make mistakes in customer relations. It is still dependent on the information returned by the PMS.
*API: a feature that allows two software programs to communicate with each other at any time.
This topic is very much related to the type of connectivity. We have seen in the previous section that there are different PMS with different update frequencies: almost instantaneous, very regular or less regular. The important information here is how often your PMS can communicate its database to the CRM. Keep in mind that 90% of the time, an update every 24 hours is enough to manage the main lines of your customer relationship.
However, if you are sending out booking confirmations and want to avoid pre-check-in emails to people who cancelled at the last minute, this will not be enough. In fact, the higher the pace, the better the results.
The list of available fields
This is another important point. To put it simply, just because a PMS has information, it doesn’t mean it can send it to a technical partner. There are, for example, PMS that do not send the amount of money spent by a customer during his stay, although it is important information to analyze the results obtained with your CRM.
It is therefore crucial to know what information about each reservation and customer your PMS is able to share with a CRM.
Not all information is equally important.
Customer information for example: some are essential such as e-mail and mobile phone number (in case of communication by sms).
Other, additional information, such as first name, last name, title, date of birth, language spoken, country of origin, etc., are all elements that will allow you to personalize your communications with your customers.
As far as reservations are concerned, without the following information, customer relationship management is not possible:
- The unique reservation number;
- The status of the reservation (active or cancelled);
- Arrival and departure dates.
Some more specific information about bookings will take you further in the management of the customer journey:
- Date of creation;
- Amount of the reservation;
- Origin (website, corporate, OTA, direct etc.) ;
- Segmentation (business/leisure, other);
- Room number and category;
- Additional services ordered;
- Reservation rate code;
- Number of occupants and type (adult, child);
- Any other element present in your PMS enabling you to better qualify your traveller.
Opt-in / Opt-out
First of all, let’s remember what Opt-in and Opt-out are, which are crucial concepts in emailing and, therefore, CRM.
Opt-in: having the Opt-in of a contact means having obtained an explicit agreement from the Internet user who authorizes the organization to integrate him into its mailing list and send him electronic or postal communications.
Opt-out: Opt-out means that the person explicitly requests not to receive email marketing.
An Opt-in customer agrees to receive newsletters from you, while an Opt-out customer objects.
Ideally, your PMS and your CRM synchronize Opt-outs and Opt-ins with each other. But in reality, synchronizing Opt-ins is not necessary. Indeed, the RGPD is very clear on this subject: you do not need to obtain an Opt-in from your own customers to be able to send them your newsletters. Furthermore, the email addresses in your PMS are only your own customers, so the PMS does not have to send the Opt-in information back to your CRM.
One point that deserves your attention: Opt-out requests made verbally by your customers. Even if they can unsubscribe from ALL emails sent by the CRM (legal obligation), a customer will sometimes verbally ask your receptionists (or by sending an email) to be removed from your email database (to be Opt-out). If PMS and CRM are not automatically synchronized, receptionists will have to unsubscribe your customer on both tools manually.
If you want to check the legal information about your right to email, I invite you to read this article https://blog.experience-hotel.com/gdpr-quit-getting-scammed/
One-way or two-way?
A PMS usually works in one-way or two-way mode. Let us clarify what this means.
The one-way: the “one-way” is what we have been talking about since the beginning of this article. This refers to the data flow from your PMS to your CRM.
The two-way: the two-way implies that your PMS can also receive information from your CRM. As the CRM is able to capture additional information – first name, last name, correct e-mail, mobile number – it is very advantageous to be able to update your PMS automatically with this newly acquired information.
CAUTION: although the idea of having a single platform centralizing all information is attractive, it is perfectly utopian and in fact counterproductive. The large amount of data in your CRM could render your PMS unusable by drowning out vital reservation management information.
In most cases, we at Experience recommend two-way support only for customer contact information. If you want to get more information, the two-way can be a more complex project to set up and maintain over the long term.
Your CRM is the hub of your customer relationship data. Multiplying crossroads multiplies the chances of errors and contradictory information.
When connecting a PMS to a CRM, it is essential to know if the PMS can send your Kardex and booking history to the CRM. If this is not the case, the information on customers who have previously stayed in your establishment will never reach your CRM; no mailing will be possible with them. It’s like starting from scratch with an empty customer database.
Being able to retrieve the history is therefore fundamental, because without the record, there is no e-mailing! Fortunately, it is not very complicated to set up; and a majority of PMS do it very well.
Today, in most PMSs, there are duplicate profiles. If Mr. X stays in your hotel 4 times, your PMS records 4 reservations and 4 guests. It is not the role of the PMS to manage this type of problem and eliminate duplicate customer records, but rather that of the CRM.
Here is a concrete example, with a customer who books a first time on Booking.com, then a second time directly: the dates of the 2 stays are different, the source of the 2 bookings is different and the contact emails are different. For the PMS, there is therefore no common ground between these two reservations; and it has no way of knowing that these two customer master records should be merged.
Your CRM will thus play an essential role, thanks to the multiple information it will obtain on the customer. It will be able to enrich the profiles until it finds enough common points to merge the records and thus de-duplicate them.
In addition, hotel groups regularly operate with multiple PMSs. Sharing between databases of different PMSs is not possible. So having a CRM layer on top is imperative to centralize customer data and inter-hotel customer tracking.
Some billing points may seem insignificant to you, but they are actually important. And if you’re not careful, when the bill comes… it can hurt!
There are different business models for each PMS. You must know them and put them in perspective with your current and future needs:
- No invoice, no additional costs for the interconnection with your other suppliers;
- A single connection fee is charged per provider*;
- Billing a monthly cost per supplier;
- Invoicing different amounts depending on the amount of information you want to share with your other suppliers;
- Costs sometimes differ between 1-way and 2-way ;
- PMS that bills the supplier rather than the hotel. Note: in the end, the supplier will probably charge this cost to the hotel, which will be a financial unforeseen for you.
*CRM, RMS, Channel Manager, etc.
The goal is not to seek absolute perfection in terms of connectivity. We have to put this into perspective. If your connectivity checks a majority of the boxes, you are sitting on a fantastic opportunity to decrease your OTA commissions by increasing direct loyalty, thanks to a good coupling of your PMS with a CRM.
If you are looking for a PMS or are considering a CRM tool, you now know which features are important to work efficiently with your customer relations and to be compatible with the innovative tools on the market.
For those PMSs who have read this article, I hope I have succeeded in clarifying some points that CRMs have and will increasingly need in the future. The PMS remains the central point of a hotel and the evolution of CRM will depend greatly on the ability of the PMS to provide as much data as possible, as regularly and as simply as possible.
Thank you for reading.