Today’s travelers want to search, choose and book their tours, tickets, and services online, from the comfort of their own homes. That is convenient for them because they can read reviews, compare prices, etc. without leaving their homes. With a credit card at hand, they can finalize their travel plans within minutes. Therefore, any tour or travel business definitely needs an online booking system to streamline their activities.
So what next for you? Do you already have online booking software? Are you looking for one? If you are, you’re in the right place. In this article, we are going to share the top 10 online booking system requirements that will help you choose the best tool for your business.
We have to admit, it is difficult for us to give unbiased tips on choosing an online booking system since we run one and love ours. That aside, we would direct customers to other booking systems if we think that our software won’t be a good fit for them. At the end of the day, our key focus is on building good relationships with our customers, so we will provide you with unbiased advice on the most important booking system requirements.
1. Talk to Your Team
Before you start researching which online system to work with, interview your team about their needs. You should brainstorm every key area of your business; from admin to finance, marketing, operations, and sales. Ask them what their key requirements for the online booking system are and which of them aren’t being met at the moment.
Align that list with your company’s overall goals so that you have a comprehensive understanding of what your company needs and wants from tour and activity operation software. This first step helps to give you a foundation for your research.
2. Figure Out What You Need and Want
Compile a list of all the things you need, and then sort the list into two columns: must-haves and nice-to-haves. This will help you understand the difference between what your business needs and wants. And that will ultimately impact your purchasing decision.
Your team should be around when you do this so that you don’t miss any key need or want.
Here are some of the differences between basic and complex booking software systems. Align your wants and needs list with this one to figure out which type of booking system you need.
Basic online booking system requirements:
- Payment options (Credit card, bank transfer, PayPal, deferred payment processing, cash)
- Inventory system
- Real-time booking
- User-friendly interface
- Customer support
- Integrations with an email marketing software
Complex online booking system requirements:
- SMS and email automation
- Language and currency settings
- Email customization
- Integration with third-party software (e.g. POS Systems, Rating Portals, etc.)
- Detailed sales reports
- Voucher and promo code management
- Distribution channel management (e.g. the Regiondo Channel Manager)
- Resource management
3. Align Booking System Requirements with Your Company’s Goals
Your team has provided their input and you have your list of must-haves and nice-to-haves. You need to add your company’s goals to this list to draw a clean line between those two columns. Sure, having a particular feature is nice, but if it does not align with your goals, you shouldn’t really be making that extra investment. The key is to focus on what is important for your business.
4. Consider Your Budget
In an ideal world, you shouldn’t base your decision on the cost of the software. However, in the real world of business, you need to figure how much you are willing to pay for an online booking system. If you go with a standard option, you will need to factor in the cost of commissions and fees as that would affect your bottom line and profit margins.
5. Is it Simple and Easy to Use?
One of the first things you need to think about while looking for the right online booking system is simplicity. How easy is it to use? Will your customers find it user-friendly and easy to book their tour? Is it easy to integrate with the other systems you are using? Think about your CMS system!
Time is essential in your business and one of the main booking system requirements is simplicity and ease of use.
6. Can You Configure Your Travel Policy?
An online booking system needs to enable you to set an advanced policy configuration. Without that feature in place, and without compliance, your business is exposed to a lot of unnecessary fees and fines.
A good online booking system will allow you to define your service, the value of transactions, departure and destination cities/countries, tour buses, meeting points, additional information, etc.
Reporting is a key part of any business and is an important feature to look for in an online booking system. An in-depth report will enable you to have a better view of your reservations and increase your level of control in tweaking and adjusting policies and other features.
A reporting tool would easily enable you to download customer details, itineraries, and other important analytics data. One of the important online booking system requirements is also to give a clear view of your financial data, payout reports, and tax information.
8. How Will Your Internal Processes Change?
You need to think about how your internal processes will change and prepare for what you may need, like additional staff training. Some of the changes that are likely to take place are as follows:
- Your daily processes will most likely become automated or be significantly reduced. For example, you probably won’t be spending as much time communicating with customers via email or phone since everything will be handled via the online booking system.
- Your staff can easily and readily view and share information among the company more efficiently.
- Your mobility will increase as bookings can be managed anywhere and anytime, on a mobile or tablet. Your staff will know the status of your business and can better and more flexibly manage schedules.
9. Is the Software Easy to Integrate into Your Site?
Cloud-based online booking systems usually have widgets that can be easily added to your site. Keep in mind that although they are very easy to integrate, you won’t have much control over the booking flow. Users are often redirected to the booking platform to complete their booking, which means that the user leaves your site during the process.
You can have more control over the process if you go with a custom solution. That way, you’ll be able to better analyze how users are behaving during the booking process and can thus optimize conversions.
10. What about the Quality of Customer Support?
This point is very important for consideration. Getting support when you need it is vital to your business. Yes, self-service support systems are great, but you need to get answers in a timely manner when you’re having technical issues. It could have a huge impact on all your business.
So you need to ask the following questions: What’s the turnaround for support? Do we need to pay extra to get our questions answered on time? Is customer support available in our time zone? Do the technical support team speak my language?
Going through booking system requirements and choosing the best tool takes time. You need to think about costs, which features you need and want; and a lot of other questions highlighted above. Go with the option that best suits your needs and gives you and your customers the best user experience.
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