Choosing the most suitable property management system (PMS) is time-consuming and often confusing, if not daunting, task. There are obviously some features you immediately think of when you want to choose the best PMS such as a channel manager, a booking engine for direct bookings, or being mobile-friendly. But it is still quite hard to choose the best PMS as finding the proper one from the long list of PMS providers, who all claim to offer the best, is tricky.
Zeevou has put together this article containing a checklist of essential functionalities as well as the might-come-in-handy ones. There is no such thing as the best PMS for everyone so one must find the most suitable one for their case.
6 Must-Have Factors When Choosing the Best PMS
1. Functionality Factors
Booking Engine for Direct Bookings
Having a built-in booking engine is the first on the list of how to choose the best PMS as it prevents loss of time and money, which would otherwise be given to OTAs in the form of commissions. Direct bookings give you the chance to grow your business instead of providing credit and fortune to OTAs and other third-party reseller sites. Some PMSes offer websites with some functionalities. Sometimes you will not need any developers or design skills to get the website up and running.
In addition, some personalisation may be possible for websites provided by some PMSes. You may also find a PMS which makes an SEO-friendly direct booking website. Moreover, there are PMSes which allow you to integrate their booking engine with WordPress through a plugin or to other websites using an iFrame. Of course, by hiring a professional website designer, you can further personalise your direct booking website. The direct booking website will be the shop window of your vacation rental business where potential guests can check your properties and book online, with all the info flowing into your PMS.
Rates and Availability Calendar
This is an online calendar that gives you an overview of the general information in the most simple way. A nice colourful or eye-catching layout is not sufficient to operate your serviced apartments. Essentially, the availability chart should provide quick access to different features in the fraction of a second. Having a calendar that gives you the necessary information such as rates, unit availability, reservation status, and cleanliness status can save you a lot of time and headache. Furthermore, PMS providers that offer you the option of changing rates directly on the calendar, will offer an added bonus.
The best part of working with a good PMS with a channel manager at its core is, perhaps, the coordination and synchronisation it can bring. When you want to list your rental property on third party channels, including OTAs and property listing sites, this feature becomes crucial. A channel manager synchronises the rates, the booking calendar, and cancellations between all the channels and keeps you from falling into the trap of overbookings.
In short, all your rates and availability are pushed to the external channels which your channel manager supports through two-way API connections. It is very important to know if the PMS provider charges you for each booking coming through from channels or whether all fees are included in the total subscription price. Make sure to look at reviews of channel managers, as there are many out there making false or misleading promises. There is a huge difference between promising and delivering, so stay alert to safeguard against unexpected turns and twists.
Managing a vacation rental or operating a serviced apartment business often relies on being connected to different channels and promoting your rentals on various booking platforms. Once you start listing your properties on different sites, you should also start looking for a tool to organise all the communications in one unified place, or you will lose control in the tangled network of outgoing and incoming communications. In addition, you should try to automate messages wherever possible. SMS and email templates with custom trigger rules, a solid unified inbox, and email address collection for direct communications with guests are among the factors that should be considered when choosing the best PMS and thus make using a PMS a worthwhile investment.
You may need to be able to manage your hospitality business 24/7 wherever you may be. So, having access to a Property Management System which is compatible with different devices like smartphones, desktops, and tablets is a must.
The rentals you rent out have a long list of cleaning tasks. When you get a booking, a cleaner should follow a thorough checklist to clean the floors, toilets, and doorknobs, besides replacing bed sheets and covers. There are also check-out and mid-stay housekeeping tasks to be taken care of. You may need to hire some cleaning staff or contract an outsourced cleaning company. You should also find a way to check each time whether or not the cleaning staff has done a good job. It is necessary to check whether the PMS you are about to pay for offers sufficient features for you to automate your housekeeping management the way you would like to as to reduce errors and increase your profit margin.
Dynamic pricing tools frequently recommend rates for rentals based on the market supply and demand, seasonality of the area of the rental, special events, holiday predictions, and the number of days left to book. These tools help in setting the most profitable rates. You may find it essential to ensure that the right PMS either provides this themselves or integrates with third-party apps that offer dynamic pricing.
The hospitality business comes with a wide range of tasks that you need to take care of on a daily basis – from pricing to guest vetting, to communications and accounting. If you have more than one property, it is almost impossible to manage all the tasks single-handedly or manually. Having access to a collection of cutting-edge integrations is like obtaining additional arms with added functionalities to better automate a larger number of tasks.
The right PMS should have an ever-growing integration list of third-party companies that help you in the management of your short term let. Such integrated partners can provide features such as payment processing, bulk SMS sending, e-signatures, dynamic pricing, bookkeeping, guest vetting, etc. Many of these are key for any vacation rental owner or serviced apartment operator. A poorly integrated PMS can make your business management complex by not facilitating the services through strong and varied partnerships. Although having integrations is crucial for a PMS, you must find out how much you need to pay monthly for each task automated through its integrated tools.
2. Financial Factors
Apart from the subscription fee you need to pay for the PMS software, there are always some surprising costs hiding down the road. Below you find a list of probable hidden costs that you should know to :
- Future software updates
- Extra charges per booking
- Premium support
Managing vacation rentals means that you need to calculate your profit based on the income from your bookings, any add-ons you may have sold, and a complicated list of different costs. It can get really hard to have a clear grasp of the profit you are actually making each month. And that’s not even the full story! Posting guest invoices, expenses, and reconciling payments for different sets of records all require significant admin time and can be drastically affected by human error.
Reliable software that shows you the general performance of your business saves you precious time. Having a built-in accounting software or one that integrates with your PMS enables you to:
- Get an overview of your cash flow
- Reconcile payments easily
- Send online invoices to your customers
- Keep a record of your expenses
Make sure the PMS has thought about regional requirements such as currencies, taxes, payment regulations, and any other requirements specific to the locality in which your business or properties are located.
3. Marketing Functionality
Does the Property Management Software you use help you improve your revenue by increasing the number of direct bookings?
One of the essential ways a PMS can help your marketing efforts is by reducing the money that you are leaking out as commissions. Having a booking engine connected to your website can definitely increase the number of direct bookings, and thus your profit margin. A simple reservation process encourages direct bookings, and everything flows right into the PMS’s calendar and booking section.
Integrations with WordPress and other third party website platforms are also among the essential factors for increasing conversions on a direct booking website. You should also make sure that the software is actually working for you, not the other way around. For managing your direct booking website, check whether the PMS provider gives you the tools to fully track your traffic through Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics, which are essential if you want to spend money on Google Ads or Facebook Ads for example. To drive direct bookings from previous guests and maximise your income a GDPR-compliant list of contacts for email marketing would be a bonus to the best PMS. To choose the best PMS check if the PMS providers have developed any feature to collect a real e-mail address and GDPR-compliant marketing consent s for email marketing from all guests.
Running a vacation rental or serviced apartment business also means accumulating a database of sensitive information about your guests, investors, and staff which you should protect from any leak through insecure software. Besides that, the PMS should provide secure payment gateways for the guests. So data protection and secure payment must be among your concerns while looking for the best PMS.
There are a couple of factors concerning data security and secure payment. You might find it useful to take a look at them now to see what you need and to what extent the PMS provider is addressing them:
- Point-to-point encryption (P2Pe)
- Two-factor authentications
- 3-D secure links
- 24/7 system monitoring
- Continuous data backups
- GDPR-compliant personal data storage
- PCI-DSS-compliant processing and card storage
- Locating the servers at secure server hosts such as Google or Amazon
- The geographic diversity of servers to reduce downtime risk
Check if the Property Management Software offers technical support 24/7/365 as in the hospitality business, you cannot wait if something is not working. Check if the vendor offers you support in your region and time zone, and also if there is a person answering or a bot.
Look if the group in charge of your onboarding will support you later and you can contact them whenever you have questions. Make sure that their main goal is not just selling you the software and then leaving you to your own devices.
Since your work is based on technology, software upgrades and innovations can be defined as a responsibility. The PMS provider should realise the fact that the tech team must be able to keep up with the race of technology evolving. So to choose the best PMS, ask your provider if they give importance to standard software upgrades and see if the updates are regular and free. More importantly, if you buy a cloud-based software, you are going to use always the latest version.
5. Flexibility & Adaptability
The ideal PMS should give you the freedom to grow your business, expand it and be creative. Look further ahead to choose the best PMS and check if the provider allows you a wide variety of choices for your growth in the future. Another important factor to consider is the attitude that the people behind the software have to their partnership with you as their client. Are they open to suggestions and feature requests? Do they proactively seek feedback from their partners as to what features would help them succeed in their hosting business? It is important for the best PMS provider to realise and convey to you that they understand that a great product is not enough – it must come coupled with outstanding service.
The last but not least important factor to choose the best PMS is usability. This software is supposed to make your job simpler and more delightful. So being user-friendly, easy to learn, and well-designed is not only a luxury but also a sign which shows how the Property Management Software provider cares about you and serves your needs.
What Does Zeevou Offer as a PMS?
Zeevou is a Property Management System and Channel Manager which has been developed to automate almost all areas of your short term rental business, remove the headache of managing day-to-day operations and save you time. Zeevou values your requirements by developing the tools specifically tailored for direct bookings. Apart from the many features and integrations within its PMS and Channel Manager, Zeevou has created a free booking platform, Zeevou Direct, which is fully aligned with its mission: To bring about The Direct Booking Revolution!
If you are a vacation rental owner or a serviced apartment operator and want to learn more about what Zeevou has to offer, you can book a Free Demo here.