By: Charla Brewer, Blu3 Management Group
All Systems Go, Not always to your benefit…
In the world of outfitting, campgrounds, resorts & activity centers (more often a combination of each of these industry types), you have likely been ‘on the hunt’ for software to help you run your business. You want it all, right?
- Online Reservations
- In House Reservation Management
- Employee Management
- Sales Reports
- Check-In Forms
- Marketing Tools
- Point of Sale.
Hey, can’t blame ya’!
You’ve started your search at the top, with Online Reservation Systems many times, it’s certain. We all want to compete in the online marketplace these days. If you find a system that intrigues you, your next step is trying to incorporate the rest of your day-to-day functions into this system, or find another one that will integrate with this one, and then another one, that will fit with that one … you get the picture.
Likely, you feel flustered at just the thought of developing new strategies to manage the aftermath of implementing an online reservation system. You may have even stopped at this very point a time or two and thought, “there is always next year.” Read on for a few tips and tricks we’ve learned to help you with the arduous task of ‘Searching for a Complete Software Management System.’
It’s easy to find online reservation systems that handle one key component of your operations, but the multiple facets of what you offer? Have you ever felt like you were left trying to fit a square peg into a round hole to get the other vital components to work within one system? This becomes very taxing. The other key components of your business are just as important to you, and we all understand that.
What Not to Overlook in the Decision Making Process
There are a few important questions to consider when deciding to purchase a Software Management System. All are equally important to your day-to-day operations and can place you in a position to provide the best customer experience out there. We’ll save the topic of “The Customer Experience” for another article, let’s get back!
When researching Software Management Systems, ask yourself (and potential suppliers) these key questions:
1. Will the system integrate smoothly with my website?
Many times, your online reservation pages are a sub system of your website and have a completely different look and feel, leaving your site visitors feeling confused.
2. Will there be one database for all of my inventory?
It is very important not to over book or miss someone's reservation because they made it online. Those who reserve online deserve the same level of customer service as someone who calls you or is at your place of business. Most Online Systems equate to double data entry into another system, that manages the rest of your reservations.
3. Will the system cover my other Important Management Functions?
This list is quite long. It’s a wonder you ever get any rest!
- Customer Relationship Management
- Marketing (Emails, Newsletters and Promotions)
- Point of Sale Purchases
- Guest Check-In Procedures
- Vehicle Registration
- Guide Scheduling
- Back Office Management
4. Will I receive the proper amount of support and training after I purchase?
This is one of the major factors in the decision making process. As an owner or manager, learning new systems is hard enough. Teaching a team how to use a new system is even harder. You should make sure the company you choose pays special attention to the implementation, training and support area of this purchase--and check references to ensure their claims are consistent and substantiated.
Due Diligence in the Research Stages will Pay Dividends
When trying to find a system that takes care of everything for you, plan on moments of frustration. You’ll wonder “why bother” and then be right back to researching the very next day. With these steps, you’ll save time, avoid headaches, and find peace of mind in the search for the right system that best fits you and your business.
7 Steps to the Decision-Making Process
1. Write a List of what your ideal system has to have. For Example:
- A. Reservations (Both Online and Via Storefront)
- Retail Integration (The ability to sell products alongside your reservations)
- Marketing Systems (Email Confirmations, Email Marketing Campaigns)
- Management Features (Time Clock, Sales Reports, Customer Reports)
As long as your bases are covered, any additions will feel like a home run!
2. It all starts with Google and the three R’s: research, check reviews, look for referrals.
You should always be privy to what is on the market. Remember, just because it’s out there doesn’t mean it was meant for you. But this is a good starting place to consider alternatives.
3. Pick your Top 3 Systems and list the Pros and Cons for each one.
Sometimes the only way to see what will work is to first cross through what will not.
If Steps 1-3 are not going well for you…
4. Talk to Other Outfitters.
AO is here for you. As a vital resource bank, just reaching out to another member can prove invaluable.
5. Check AO’s Vendor List to see who has been and who will be at the Conference each year.
These will oftentimes be the leaders of the pack. They know their product works and are at the show to help you from research to decision making. Click on over to their websites and go back to step 2.
6. Pick up the Phone and Call an AO Vendor.
Don’t be afraid to ask for Demos and Tutorials of the Systems you are most interested in. The right provider will be able to make you feel comfortable before the purchase is made, and will sustain your comfort level once you’ve bought. That’s when you know it’s right! When a vendor asks you how your business runs before showing you how their software works, you know they know their stuff and they care.
7. Hire a Consultant to coach you in the decision-making process so that you can make a wise choice.
We all have our areas of strength. Yours may or may not be computers and the inner workings of software. By hiring someone who knows technology and understands your business, you can alleviate a lot of the stresses of making this great decision. A consultant will save you time and money, resulting in an effective decision in the end.
And now, without further adieu, you have the tools you need to find a “Complete Software Management System” that works ‘For’ You! The next step is use them.
About the Author:
Email: Charla Brewer