CHOOSING A RESERVATION REPRESENTATION COMPANY REVISITED – PART 2
SECURING BROAD ELECTRONIC CONNECTIVITY FOR HOTELS & LODGING BRANDS
Part 1 of this article from the spring issue of Hospitality Upgrade identified several of the key issues related to selection—by a single hotel or by a hotel chain—of a reservation representation company. It identified the variety of reservations representation service options available and the timetable for the evaluation and implementation process.
Part 1 will identify suggested steps in vendor evaluation, recommending a structure which will lead to a thoughtful, sufficiently detailed vendor selection process, as well as identify many of the prominent representation service vendors serving the lodging industry today.
The initiation of the evaluation process can range in complexity from a call or email to business development staff at these organizations to request proposals from them, to a considerably more intensive approach involving development, distribution and evaluation of a detailed request for proposal (RFP). Regardless of the degree of complexity selected, completion of several preparatory steps is wise:
- List your service needs and performance priorities that you expect from your representation service vendor (and service vendors in general).
- Catalog the services supplied by your current vendor.
- Identify the strengths that you value in that service as well as shortcomings that are a concern to you.
- Think about your future needs. Identify additional or expanded capabilities you will require as your company and the distribution marketplace evolve in the next several years.
- Compile channel-by-channel statistics for reservations delivered by your current vendor during the last calendar year and estimate the year-end booking volumes for the current year and upcoming year. If seeking call center services, compile similar data for call volumes.
- Drawing on the above preparatory research, prepare a comprehensive list of the services needed and performance standards expected from your representation services vendor.
Step 6 is essential. At its most basic level, it is your shopping list to use in discussion with prospective vendors. At the other end of the spectrum this list is the core of an RFP. Fleshed out with detailed questions probing the presence of specific capabilities, it provides a definitive description of your needs and asks the vendor’s capacity to address them. Regardless of the degree of detail you determine to be appropriate, the document allows you to compare each proposal to your specific needs, as well as to compare the proposals against one another.
KEY ISSUES TO QUERY
There is a wide variety of topics to examine when evaluating representation vendors. A simple requirements summary can run five to 10 pages; an RFP developed by a hotel chain can reach 50-75 pages or more. Regardless of the level of detail in which you choose to examine and evaluate the vendors who you are considering, the following topics are basic to all vendor evaluations.
- Corporate history and structure
- Key staff
- Customer base and references
Reservation System Functions/Capabilities
- Central reservation system (CRS) ownership/management—direct or gained from a third party
- Availability/rate data capacity—unlimited capacity for room types, rate types, room types/rate type combinations, rate seasons in year, number of days in advance that data may be loaded, that reservations may be accepted
- Restrictions available for use (MLOS, CTA, etc.)
- Level at which restrictions and policies (guarantee, deposit, cancellation) may be applied—at room type level, rate type level, room type/rate type combination level, etc.
- Revenue management supporting functions including availability of rate tiering, rate offsets, hurdle rate and BAR facilities; interfaces to stand-alone revenue management systems
- Currency conversion facilities, ability to support many nations’ tax structures
- Length of property descriptive information held in the CRS for presentation in each distribution channel, options for multilingual content
- Content management facilities for storing and distributing photographs and rich media
Web Booking Engine (WBE)
Capability of the WBE (or IBE) to fully and persuasively present your lodging, including IBE’s look and feel to harmonize with your website, adequate length of room descriptions, option for multiple photos of each room type, dynamic packaging facility, up-sell option, overall clarity/ease of booking process, pre-arrival and post-departure email options and analytics facilities.
Mobile Booking Applications
The presence of shopping and booking applications for mobile devices, and a commitment to continue evolving these at a rapid pace.
On-property System Access Portal
Capabilities available to authorized on-property staff, including: reservation download, inventory and rate management, report production and other functions. Clarity and user friendliness of the displays
Brands/versions of property management systems for which one and two-way interfaces are currently available. Data transferred in these one and two-way interfaces.
Global distribution systems to which the CRS has connections. Data maintenance tools and services for data maintenance
Online travel agencies to which direct electronic and non-direct connections are maintained. Data transmitted on those links
Voice Reservation Services
- Central reservation center (CRO) location(s)—North America and Worldwide—and countries/languages served CRO operator—the vendor or a third party?
- CRO operating hours
- Guaranteed maximum average speed to answer and maximum abandon rate for calls to the CRO
- Private label voice reservation service options
- Overflow/after-hours voice reservation processing on a private label basis
- Implementation process; typical implementation timetable
- Training resources available to property, regional and corporate staff
DATA BASE MAINTENANCE
- Data maintenance responsibilities of property staff and corporate
- Data maintenance duties completed by vendor’s staff and performance commitments
- Available classes, coaching and online resources
- User support services available to on-property and corporate staff including days/hours of availability
REPORTS/DATA WAREHOUSING/DATA ANALYSIS
- Reports available, including on-demand report production options; graphical options
- Options for subscription to periodic automatic distribution of reports
- Dashboard availability and report customization options
- Supplementary data warehousing and data analysis facilities, available either free of charge or at an additional fee.
- Travel agent commission processing services
- Corporate/preferred/negotiated rate program administration
- PCI DSS compliance certification
- Adherence to HTNG and OTA
- Other functions or services
All fees within these categories:
- Implementation fees
- Annual/monthly fees
- Transactional fees
Other fees that may apply:
- Minimum monthly/annual revenue requirements
- Formula for fee increases in subsequent years
- Contract length
Reservation Representation Service Vendors
A number of long-established organizations offer reservation representation services to the global lodging industry. These organizations include:
FastBooking – Paris, France (www.fastbooking.net)