Making the leap to online reservations

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domestique's picture
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03/30/2010

Hello, long time lurker and Innkeeper coming up on 8 months into a year long "try before we buy" arrangement.  It has been a great year, very busy, and much more work than I expected, (well duh, you're all thinking) but tons of fun too.

We are in the middle of a badly needed re-design of our website and now I need to start the process of adding on-line reservations, but I have a couple of questions that I'm hoping you will be able to help me wrap my mind around.  We are currently using Rezovation but I plan to switch to Res Key.  

I know this is going to be the best thing, but I am a little nervous about making the change.  As it is now, I talk to every person that makes a reservation, getting a sense of personality, what their story is, and the ability to head off potential problems like bringing kids, pets, etc... by our conversation.  I also know at any moment how many rooms are booked for the night, how many are having breakfast, and so on.  My concern is that I don't know how the new system will affect my daily life.  Do you check your smartphones obsessively to see if reservations have been made while you are out grocery shopping or going to a concert?  Do you allow same-day reservations up until a certain time?  I fear that I will be losing control.  I am an extreme plan aheader.

My second area of concern is just the mechanics of switching systems.  I have the option of having Res Key do the whole switchover for a fee, or trying to do it myself.  What do you all recommend?  I went to their website and they have a free 30 day trial, but I don't know what "happens" if I try it and that freaks me out. The Inn computer system is an old PC, and I have always used Macs, so there is somewhat of a technology confusion that occurs for me as well.  Should I put the system on my MacBook or the PC or both?  Probably a really dumb question, but I only know enough to be dangerous!

I would appreciate any feedback or suggestions of things I need to ask about before I contact Res Key again to begin.  Sometimes you don't even know what you don't know when you start in on projects like these. 

A few more things about the Inn.  We have 5 rooms with private baths, and two "swing" rooms that are set up as TV rooms, but can sleep 1-2 people if they share a bath with one of the existing rooms.  We never allow anyone to reserve these swing rooms without reserving one of the existing rooms, so these are usually where families stay.  We are located two blocks from a very large recreational lake, about 20 minutes west of metro Minneapolis, MN and are on the main street of the village --2 blocks lined with cute shops and restaurants. We start getting really busy in March, and by May it is insane clear thru to October.  November and December were surprisingly busy this year as well, and January has come in well ahead of the previous years, so we feel like we're doing something right!

Thanks in advance for your help! 

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OnTheShore's picture
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08/28/2011

We have joined the world of online reservations, too. Eye-wink

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Madeleine's picture
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09/29/2011

Yes, get online booking. No, I don't spend all day checking for incoming reservations. Generally, if someone wants tonight or tomorrow they call. You can have your rez system only accept reservations for next day on and not same day.

We have a 2-room suite that we do not allow to be booked online. We simply state for that room to 'call to make the rez' and that keeps the issues to a minimum.

Do guests that we speak to act better than guests who book online? No. Do people who call and reserve show up with dogs and kids they never mentioned? Yes. Stop using that 'filter' thing as a reason not to have what is an essential marketing tool on your website. Because you have never had online reservations you cannot say that you have successfully stopped a guest from doing something they would have done 'wrong' if you allowed online bookings just because you got to talk to them. Make sure your policies are clear on the website.

 

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Iris's picture
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I now totally agree with everything you said.  It took me a VERY long time to give up control and the feeling that I needed to speak and feel out every guest.  My first summer with ResKey is coming up and I must say, I don't need to speak to everyone.  I am FREEEEEEE. 

Also, I "installed" this program in one day. Yes, it is that easy.  I had a few questions, unnessesary questions for John, he really has made it very easy to do this yourself. When I asked him if he would do it for me, he told me that I had already done it all by myself and needed to just personalize it.  He was right.

Do not be afraid to make the switch

check it out www.wayfarerlodgings.com if you want

 

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Hillbilly's picture
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IrisoftheWayfarer wrote:

I now totally agree with everything you said.  It took me a VERY long time to give up control and the feeling that I needed to speak and feel out every guest.  My first summer with ResKey is coming up and I must say, I don't need to speak to everyone.  I am FREEEEEEE. 

Also, I "installed" this program in one day. Yes, it is that easy.  I had a few questions, unnessesary questions for John, he really has made it very easy to do this yourself. When I asked him if he would do it for me, he told me that I had already done it all by myself and needed to just personalize it.  He was right.

Do not be afraid to make the switch

check it out www.wayfarerlodgings.com if you want

 

Congrats on getting set up. I have a suggestion for you. When a customer clicks on a room to make a reservation for a specific date. They will get confused on how and where to make the reservation. You need to crop your bookable pkgs pics down in size. They way it is now you have to scroll to the bottom of the page to make the reservation. Most people will not know that. If you crop the pics it will bring the portion for guests to fill out and they will be able to do so without searching of it. I did the same thing and had a lot of calls about it.
Just a suggestion.

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Iris you know I went straight to your blog and said "WOW!"

Great job, your regulars must adore all the photos and information! yes

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Iris's picture
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Thank you so much, JB.  I have been very lazy. I can't think of much to write about lately, lol.   

Arks's picture
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Madeleine wrote:

Make sure your policies are clear on the website. 

Yes. Doesn't guarantee they will read them, or follow them, but it gives you that "I have read and accepted the policies" thing they have to agree to before they click to finalize the online reservation. That can be of value to you.

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Joey Camb's picture
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All I can say is GO  FOR IT! - we have commission free online booking and would never look back - means if I am out at the supermarket I can check availability on my phone and then put the booking straight in to close it out on 3rd party web sites if I need to - otherwise the bookings just toddle on in the back ground sending me an email for every new one - which is a nice "oh another room sold" feeling and it it didn't need me to deal with it!

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Arks's picture
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05/22/2010

I have ResKey set to cut off online reservations "1 day from current". If somebody tries to make an online reservation after the cutoff time, ResKey will show them a message (which you can define yourself). Mine says...

We are very sorry, but we don't accept on-line reservations on such short notice. Contact us at xxx-xxx-xxxx and we'll make every effort to "work you in" (but no guarantees)!

domestique's picture
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Brilliant idea, thanks for sharing!

 

seashanty's picture
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good for you!  there is a learning curve but you will get the hang of it.  i KNOW you will.

i am going to suggest that you have a cut off time for online reservations for the next night's checkins.

this is what i did ....

let's say friday night is only half booked.  and  after 8 pm thursday night no more online bookings can come in for the next night.  BUT, you can always answer the phone and take a last minute booking if you want to.

and until you are comfortable with the online reservations, you might find yourself calling people to double confirm their reservation.  nothing wrong with that. 

i bet you quickly find you don't need to do it.

your setup of the system will probably require tweaking and adjusting until it functions just the way you want it.

i flew solo much of the time and could not have got 1/2 the bookings i did without online reservations ...  think of online reservations as another 'person' helping. 

good luck!  let us know how it goes for you.

domestique's picture
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03/30/2010

Thank you so much everyone,  obviously I need to master replying, copying and such on this forum, but I truly appreciate your feedback and great suggestions.  I know it's all going to be fine, I'm not a total moron, but some days I question that...I can't wait to be within spittin' distance with the new website, the existing one is so horrible it makes strong people weep.  When it's ready, I will do the reveal and wait for your collective suggestions!

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05/30/2008

Glad that you are making the leap!  You can probably set up your rez system that potential guests need to call within whatever timeframe prior to check-in.  I had mine set up that folks had to call if checking in within 24 hours.  This was after our C&VB sent me walk-ins (I had to get that straightened out with them, too) and sent me walk-ins that they reserved the rooms for them online.  I had a 5 room B&B and since I did most of the work, I was not set up to deal with walk-ins.  I had almost all of our guests reserve online.  The people calling within 24 hours were usually looking for deep, deep discounts. 

Good luck!

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Hillbilly's picture
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10/22/2011

Welcome back! The only thing you might be upset at is why you waited so long to take online res. the software is web based and you can login from any device. So yes, your Mac will work just fine. I would recommended using Firefox for your browser. Our reservations jumped by over 20%. Once you have it set up its very easy to use. I would recommended settIng it up yourself so you learn the system. John will still help you. Depending on where you live (info for anyone thinking of switching) this I a good time to do it if this is your off season. This way you can learn it before things get cranked up. I no longer take reservations over the phone. To risky. I want them to agree to the terms. Oh and for our business, taking credit cards and deposits online is a lifesaver. I can then press one button and charge the Balence. So easy! Good luck!

Arks's picture
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Bob wrote:
I would recommended using Firefox for your browser.

I've always used IE9 with ResKey and have had no issues whatsoever. I don't think you should need any particular browser. It should work fine with all major browsers. In fact, if it DIDN'T work with all major browsers, I wouldn't want my reservation system hosted on it since I want all guests to have a smooth experience making reservations!

Arks's picture
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domestique wrote:

Should I put the system on my MacBook or the PC or both?  Probably a really dumb question, but I only know enough to be dangerous!

ResKey is totally web-based. It's not something installed on your own computer. You just go to their website from ANY computer, log in, and you have all your reservations right there, and are ready to make changes to your prices, wording of what the guest sees on your reservation page, the e-mails it sends them automatically, everything about the reservation system.

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06/24/2008

Well welcome back, it has been awhile!  Glad things are doing so well for you.  While this is not why you posted I am going to mention it anyway -  cut the apron strings!  Your life will be ever so thankful and your business will not suffer if you do not speak with each guest before they arrive. 

Make sure your website and polices address each of your concerns as to why you want to speak with them directly.  People that are going to try to bend the rules will do so if they speak with you or not but most guests are courteous and will abide by the rules you have.  

About ResKey, you should sign up for their 30 day trial so you can get a feeling for it.  You can adjust it to allow same day check in or have it block rooms for same day and have a statement to call for same day availability.  This is my current setting and works well.  ResKey is very flexible and allows you to reword sections as you desire. 

When someone books ResKey sends me an email, I have email notification on my phone so I get notified where ever I am of the booking.  You can have it automatically send the confirmation if you wish.  If someone calls to book while you are out, you can log in using your smart phone to ResKey and log in the booking so the room is then blocked from viewers. 

You will find that if you use online booking to its full ability, you will free yourself of some very needed time to enjoy for yourself. 

domestique's picture
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03/30/2010

Thanks for the info and pep talk!

gillumhouse's picture
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05/22/2008

AMEN Sistah!!! Frees up time to do other things.

My lack of taking cc# is not a desire to speak to people but because this throwback to yesterday does not like to enter cc# so do not ask others to do it. The speaking to them can take time so if I was more comfy with it, would probably make the switch to slam, bam, thank you for the res.

gillumhouse's picture
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Domestique - I am one of the backward ones - I do not take the cc# when they reserve on ResKey. They get an email that I will call within 24 hours to get the number and confirm the reservation. So I DO talk to them - JB and others just git 'er done when the reservation is made. ResKey does it both ways. I do not kow from Mac so cannot help you there.

I do not take same day BUT ResKey has a form that can be filled out by a guest requesting to be put on the waiting list. I found out about that when I got a waiting list request for that day (a funeral) and I had all I needed to call and say come on down and another time I had blocked rooms but because to the timing and she was a repeat, was able to take the reservation. He has a LOT of neat features and is always adding more. I would not trade it for any other system.

I am a noodnik with tech, and John has not gotten frazzled enough with me yet to tell me to go pound salt. A very patient man.

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