Data collection is the future. With an adaptable Property Management System (PMS), a hotelier can create a welcoming, efficient first impression for guests in person or online. Creating a cozy experience requires a PMS that can fluidly connect with different technologies that immediately share data, including guest preferences, across functions such as bookings, POS and spas.
“Hoteliers are more proficient at capturing guest information to customize and personalize guest experiences. A PMS has better tools to operationalize data and CRM tools make it easier to leverage information for targeted-marketing offers,” observes Amanda Wisell, Marketing manager, Springer-Miller Systems.
“Our PMS records require guest information when a booking is made. The system records information on the back end and stores it. It displays our room options, prices and packages on our website,” says Ben MacMillan, general manager of Charlottetown’s Fairholm Inn.
Today’s PMSs are evolving to connect seamlessly with guests’ preferred technologies. “Given the [number] of people who are now making reservations on their phones, all websites and information pages have to be accessible through phones or tablets,” notes Wisell.
A PMS should reflect a hotelier’s guest- and service-‘infrastructure’ needs. “It’s important,” MacMillan states, “to note how many rooms the property has, what amenities they offer and what type of guest experience they provide. You are looking at a combination of what makes the guest experience and back-end experience as easy as possible.” Operators, Wisell says, must consider their “operational requirements.” They should “evaluate their current and future interface needs and partner with a PMS provider capable of responding to hospitality trends and new technology with interfaces in a timely manner.” Just as important are the “customer service and support offered.”
Cyberhacking is a daily concern for business and a PMS’s security features, as well as the law, must be considered when choosing a system. “Canadian organizations are responsible for protecting information,” notes Molly Reynolds, senior associate, specializing in privacy law and cybersecurity at Toronto-based Torys LLP. “This includes the personal information of employees and guests.” Reynolds notes the cyber-security obligations of an organization “apply to personal, proprietary or corporate information.”
The Privacy Commissioner of Canada requires companies to “take a holistic view,” when assessing whether the PMS will adequately protect information. “Where the information is stored and its circumstances should be considered to determine if it will receive the same level of protection as it would in Canada,” says Reynolds.
Hoteliers must be well informed when a PMS provider’s servers are outside Canada. Operators, Reynolds stresses, “can’t contract out of a country’s laws, the laws of a specific country apply.” Understanding the implications of the PMS supplier’s service agreement is also important. Reynolds advises looking at what “is the expected nature of the data” that the PMS will process. It is possible the PMS provider’s agreement will state the providers “do not want personal information stored” on their servers and will not commit to protect personal information.
It is advisable, Reynolds says to have cyber-risk insurance in the event there is a privacy breach that involves insider misuse, third-party hacking or loss of hardware such as laptops.
Ask what cyber and privacy breach insurance the provider has, what breaches are covered, what the liability caps are and what happens after the caps are exceeded, Reynolds cautions. “Read the fine print of the vendor’s insurance; see the risks,” she advises. The cutting edge of PMS is data interconnectedness, storage and analysis. Future PMS will aggregate data from guests’ social-media accounts, control a hotel’s temperature and lighting use, monitor energy use and create fine-grained portraits of guests’ preferences. This is both a competitive advantage and a responsibility.
Written by J. Lynn Fraser