A Better-Run Hotel
By Julia Dowejko
September 15, 2018
When we started designing the hotel software that’s at the heart of the Benson system, we wanted to introduce new industry standards, rather than just improving on existing ones.
Of course, we wanted to design a hotel management system that was easier to work with, but we also wanted one that would function faster, and more stylishly too.
We aimed to remove as many steps as possible, so that instead of spending 5 minutes tapping behind a screen, a hotel employee could complete a check-in within five clicks. Why is this important? The less stress there is around administrative processes, the more guests perceive that the hotel functions smoothly as a whole. But in order to project this image, there is much thought that must go into the software design to make processes appear seamless.
Here are three ways we did this:
1. Doing things in reverse
Say you’re calling up a hotel to check availability of rooms. In many older PMS software systems, you can’t search for available rooms until you have typed in the guest’s name. This didn’t make sense to us. Why should someone give you their name over the phone if you haven’t even told them if they can stay with you yet?
With Benson’s hotel software, we did things in reverse. Capturing a guest’s name is now the final step in the booking process – after you’ve let them know what rooms you have, and explained what rates are available for these rooms. This takes a change in mindset with hotel employees, but once they grasp it, they really get on board with this new, improved process.
2. Data storage
We wanted to keep the hotel management system as lean and clean as possible. What I mean by clean, is that Benson will not be happy if someone captures “1” as a contact number, simply because the system has made that a requirement before they can do anything else.
We also wanted to prevent the adding of duplicate data, which can end up being very confusing for users. To do this, we had to prioritise which data the system holds on to, and which it doesn’t.
For example, Benson makes a clear distinction between who a “Guest” is and who a “Client” is. When a reservation is created on Benson, the hotel has the option to capture some detail about the guests, such as their names and email addresses, but it is not mandatory at any stage. This saves the hotel from having to capture guest data that may not be of future use, taking up unnecessary time and space. However, should a guest start staying over at the hotel more regularly, the hotel can then create them as a “client” where they have the option to capture a plethora of information. This helps facilitate a stronger, meaningful and more accurate connection between the hotel and their clients.
3. Back ups
Some guest houses, hotels and safari lodges are in remote areas where the Internet isn’t always running properly.
So, what happens if a guest is checking out and needs their invoice but the Internet is down?
To get around this, we created a Dropbox integration at the core of our hotel management software, where Benson sends invoices and all necessary information to Dropbox every 15 minutes. If the Internet is down all a Benson user needs to do, is go to the folder, double click on the invoice and print it out.
I’ll be listing some more ways we altered the web booking engine, crafted the language and worked on the design of our PMS software in Part 2 of this post – so keep an eye out.
A Great User Experience
In part 2 of this series, we build on the topic of hotel software design, talking about how we created Benson to be more functional, relatable, and better looking.
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