How To Avoid That Dreaded Overbooking

Is overbooking a sign of marketing success, process failure or just bad luck?

There’s a real stigma attached to over/double booking. Why?

  •  Is it the failure to deliver on a personal promise made to your customer?
  • Or is it the fear of your contractual obligation once a booking has been made?
vacancy by LOLren
Fear of overbooking can lead to empty rooms!

In these days of litigious customers and a compensation “culture”, it’s no wonder that small businesses err on the side of caution. These valid concerns appeal to our most human of instincts: fear. Yet when you de-construct the problem, it’s not as bad as looks!

Most businesses need to maximise their chances of getting bookings and the most effective place for this is online.  The more places you can be found and booked, the more bookings you are likely to attract. But by increasing your exposure online you may also increase the risk of double booking.

Many businesses have held back from maximising their online advertising for fear of double or overbooking. There must be thousands of lost bookings every night because businesses don’t feel confident offering their full availability.

So if you sell across a variety of places online (i.e. channels like Booking.com, Bed & Breakfast websites etc.) then you need to ensure various systems are kept in sync. It’s time consuming and can be a stressful process.

One option is to show only a selection of rooms on each channel, so they are distinct and when they run out they can’t overbook. It’s not very efficient and you need to know what channels will sell what rooms best and when.

no_vacancy_p_a_h
Effective channel management can avoid lost bookings

Another solution is to have your booking system linked to your various sales websites (or channels), so that your one diary keeps all the other channels up-to-date. This means any phone bookings you add to your diary update all the channels and any website bookings automatically appear in your diary. This technology is usually called “channel management”.

When you consider the benefits of extra exposure, additional bookings and time saved updating various sites – not to mention the end of all that worrying – channel management can represent great value. Ideally you want a channel manager that works with the key channels, is flexible and isn’t too expensive. There are some clever “pay-as-you-go” options available where you pay according to the number of bookings you receive.

This technology can free up a lot of time and allow you to disappear for the odd week (or longer) without having to take the mobile phone and diary with you!

Even if you don’t go for any of the above options, I would stress that the fear of an overbooking should not stop you selling your rooms.

After all, the definition of overbooking is the deliberate practice of hotels to take more bookings than they can accommodate in order to avoid empty rooms, on the basis that there will be no-shows and cancellations.

This is hardly a claim that could reasonably be levelled at a B&B or guest house. Most customers, if contacted quickly, will understand that with modern technology it’s a rare possibility and not a result of negligence or greed on your part.

That’s a different story if you are a large hotel that regularly overbooks and then “bumps” or “moves” a customer on arrival and just blames someone else! Been there and got the scars to show it!

VisitScotland Update

freetobook connecting with VisitScotland

One of the most exciting things on the horizon for freetobook is our new connection with VisitScotland.

visitscotlandVisitScotland has a new accommodation search system that allows all B&Bs, guest houses, small hotels etc in Scotland to be displayed regardless of their relationship with VisitScotland itself (this is known as a “polling” system).

What this means is that very soon all Scottish freetobook properties will be able have their rates and availability appearing on VisitScotland’s site whenever a prospective customer does an accommodation search.

1st June is the current “go live” date for VisitScotland’s new system. Keep checking our blog for further details and updates.

More bookings for Elgin B&B via Freetobook channel manager

Case Study: Freetobook’s channel manager brings more bookings to Ardgye House B&B in Elgin.

In the current economy, many independent accommodation providers know all too well the importance of getting new business. It’s a challenge, especially if you can’t afford expensive campaigns or newspaper advertising. Freetobook now offers some help: an easy-to-manage connection to LateRooms and Booking.com, which allows you to update your availability on both those site quickly and easily via your Freetobook diary.

It’s true that some property owners are still wary of LateRooms and Booking.com, concerned that the commission charged by these Online Travel Agents will erase their profit margin. But experience has shown that many accommodation owners who take the plunge really benefit from the increased exposure. The internet is just so big and managing to get your property in front of the customer at the right time is no easy task.

One Freetobook customer who has definitely benefited from the extra exposure is Carol McInnes, who, with her husband Alistair and daughter Kerry, runs the 4-star Ardgye House in Elgin. A beautiful 5-room Edwardian property, built in 1904, the Ardgye has been welcoming guests for over 20 years. It boasts sumptuous Family, Twin and King Rooms and is rated #1 on TripAdvisor for Elgin B&Bs/Inns. None the less, Carol had noticed that it was becoming harder and harder to compete for attention in an online world where paid results dominate the first page of any accommodation search.

Already offering online booking with Freetobook software, Carol decided to integrate with LateRooms via company’s channel manager.

“We’ve always been successful and we have a great reputation. We get a lot of bookings from the RAF at Lossiemouth and the Royal Engineers at Kinloss. We’re also very popular with German tourists visiting Scotland. But as with a lot of properties these days, it has become harder and harder for us to be ‘found,’” says Carol. “The main thing that attracted us to LateRooms was their huge advertising spend. We realised that we could piggyback on that to become much more visible to potential guests. The Freetobook system’s channel manager allowed the integration to be done quickly and easily. It really couldn’t have been simpler.”

Carol is well aware that some accommodation owners feel they’ll lose money on booking by going down this route, but she doesn’t share that view.

“I don’t see a LateRooms booking as 15% lost in commission, I see it as 85% gained on a booking I wouldn’t otherwise have got,” she points out. “I’m also noticing that guests who book through LateRooms the first time are becoming repeat customers who book with us direct on subsequent occasions, now that they know we exist.”

And although Carol has only been offering LateRooms availability for a short time, she has already seen the benefits: “LateRooms bookings are up by a third since we integrated via Freetobook. We’re much busier than we were before and we are starting to see a pick-up in direct bookings too. Pretty soon we’re looking to integrate with Booking.com via Freetobook as well.”

Connect Booking.com and LateRooms

Update Booking.com & LateRooms in one place

We all know that in the current economy every extra booking is precious. We also know that an accommodation owner’s time is valuable. There are always a million things to do and not nearly enough time to do them in. With that in mind, freetobook now offers you a channel manager that allows you to connect to Booking.com and LateRooms and update them direct from your freetobook diary.

Thanks to this new functionality, you’ll no longer have to update lots of different systems. One diary will automatically update them all so you can never go over-booked. It’ll also allow you to alter room rates across different sales channels from one place. And each time a booking is made, it will go straight into your diary with all the customer details (phone, email, and prices) captured.

Not only will this new functionality save you time and increase room sales, it will also increase your exposure via the world’s leading booking websites and eliminate the worry of double bookings.

To find out more about how our new channel manager works and all the benefits it can bring you, go here.