Choosing the Right Channel Manager
The hotel distribution landscape is becoming more and more complex. We know that the ideal revenue management practice is selling the right room to the right guest at the right time and price on the right distribution channel. However, as more channels are introduced to the market, it’s getting increasingly difficult to manage every channel individually while at the same time maintaining the high level of customer service that guests expect and deserve.
These days the preferred solution is a channel manager.
What is a Channel Manager?
Channel managers allow hotels to manage their rates & availability in Realtime across their chosen channels through one online platform. A smart channel manager has a two-way connection that not only sends inventory to your booking engine and OTAs, but reservations are sent directly to your PMS; saving you time, reducing overbooking and gaining the ability to sell the most rooms as possible through as many channels as possible.
Do you Need a Channel Manager?
eZee Absolute say it best:-
“Without a channel manager every morning you rush to update all calendars with live rates and latest occupancy. You keep worrying about over-bookings or missed bookings. You repeat those same time consuming tasks every day. You might lose that potential revenue you couldn’t earn otherwise.
With a channel manager, you can enjoy your morning coffee while interacting with your guests; leave the front desk and take a vacation! Automate recurring operations to save time and money… earn higher ROI with no revenue leakage.”
How to Choose the Right Channel Manager?
The channel manager landscape is a minefield! There are hundreds to choose from with varying costs and features that may or may not meet your business needs. With so many options out there, how can you narrow down your selection?
Unless you are planning to invest in more than just a channel manager, first and foremost you must ensure the channel manager fully integrates with your current Property Management System (PMS). Remember that a smart channel manager should offer two-way integration. The PMS should be able to communicate how many rooms are available to the channel manager, and in turn, the channel manager should send bookings directly to the PMS and reduce inventory as required.
If you are thinking of upgrading your PMS, there are many channel managers that offer full hotel solutions and allow you to access both services through the same interface.
The next thing to check are what channels the channel manager integrates with. Most channel managers will have connections with the big OTAs such as Booking.com & Expedia, but it’s important to ensure it connects to the most important channel of all: your booking engine! Your channel manager should complement your Book Direct strategy and help increase direct bookings through real-time inventory updates.
Take a look at the additional channels that the channel manager already connects with that you don’t already sell on. Ask yourself is there an opportunity to increase sales/occupancy by offering rooms on these sites in the future?
In the case that the provider doesn’t support a particular channel, make sure you ask if they plan on connecting with them in the future. If not, you need to understand on what basis do they select channels to build connections to? i.e. a minimum number of hotels need to request the connection before it’s built.
An obvious but important item for consideration – does the channel manager fit your budget?
Make sure the price you’re quoted includes all the connections to your required channels. Some providers only offer a few connections for a certain price and additional channels are at a cost. Others charge monthly or commission based fees. Are all the features you’d like included in the price or are they add ons? For additional features, is a once-off payment or a monthly fee involved?
4. User Experience
Ensure the interface is user-friendly and provides the hotel with a system that can be used by virtually anyone.
Don’t forget to establish if the channel manager complements the daily tasks of the Revenue & Reservations teams. The perfect channel manager will suit your property and business goals. Are you able to manage rates according to your current pricing strategy i.e. per day, per channel, per room type and per rate level? Can close-outs, MLOS, closed to departure/arrival be managed simultaneously and easily? How far ahead can you manage inventory? Some channel managers only allow you to manage inventory for a maximum of 365 in advance – does this suit your property and business goals?
5. Reports, Analytics & Other Tools
A smart channel manager will offer tools allowing you to analyse historical and future performance in order to optimise your channel mix. These may be included or offered as optional extras. Most will include basic reporting to review your revenue KPIs and get insights into where your business is coming from. Some offer rate shopper tools to keep an eye on your competitors rates, and even parity monitoring tools to track & spot parity discrepancies to ensure you aren’t losing revenue!
6. Training & Support
Don’t forget to ask about the training provided before & after setup. Is it virtual or in-house? Can you get multiple trainings if required for your team? Is there a cost involved for training new employees?
More importantly, does the channel manager come with dedicated & comprehensive support? Hotels don’t have a closing time and neither do their booking engines. If an issue was to arise at 1am or 3pm, does the channel manager have the resources in place to assist and how quickly do they respond? Do they have a knowledge base or video tutorials to refer to if required?
7. Field Research
Once you’ve narrowed down your selection, reach out to hoteliers who are already using the channel managers on your list. This is the most valuable thing you can do before making your final decision. Ask questions to establish the pros and cons. What do they like and what do they not like? Has investing in a channel manager benefited them? After all, they are already using the system so if you have any doubts, this is a cost-effective way to find out!
There is no such thing as the perfect channel manager. The best channel manager for your hotel depends on the needs, strategy & goals of the business. It should integrate seamlessly with your PMS. It should be easy to use and connect with all required channels at the right price. A smart channel manager provides the tools to support your business goals. Most importantly, the provider will provide concise training and offer ongoing dedicated support to your team.
Net Affinity connects to all major channel managers. If you’d like to check if your preferred channel manager is compatible with your booking engine please contact us.