Have you ever thought about how easy it would be for a guest to simply click a reply button to get in touch with you ? In the freetobook labs we have 🙂
Today’s guests expect so much and easy communication is now a given, looking for emails to reply to just isn’t good enough anymore. That’s essentially why we have upgraded the freetobook email system.
With the new smart messaging upgrade (which replaces emails) you can:
Send guests automated messages as soon as they book or a set number of days before arrival or after stay.
You can add gorgeous images to show off and boost your brand
Increases your read and reply rate because its so easy to use.
Quickly spot any failed messages and fix them instantly.
Works with all bookings including OTA fake email addresses.
Conversation thread keeps your chat together.
Smart messaging is getting even better. In the next few weeks we will be adding “guest actions” where guests can interact with their booking through their smart message.
You can send them a guest action and they will be able to change it, the first one will be “arrival time” – guests will be able to click to re-confirm their arrival time and it will change automatically in their booking, no need for you to do any more work.
Smart messaging will keep getting better, just let us know what you want it to do for you. There are so many ideas just a taster includes Stripe payments from smart messages, branding for the messaging page so guests connect with your brand setting the scene for their stay.
We asked you to prioritise these 7 Pledges, to re-order them according to your needs and your ambitions. That was no easy task… as many of you said, but that forced focus is what every good business requires if it is to improve.
So here’s how it unfolded, drum roll please…
Maximise direct bookings above all other bookings (35% of
This is music to our ears, we created freetobook to enable direct bookings on websites. We wanted to build a booking engine so any accommodation anywhere in world could get an account, set up and take direct bookings in under an hour – for free. That was case in January 2011 and it’s still very much the case now, indeed that’s why we called it “Freetobook”. But there is so much more to do and we’re working on it. (some free direct booking images for you)
Continually develop, upgrade and improve functionality
came second (with 26% of the vote)
We are here 21 years down the line simply because we’ve
always believed we can do it better, we must do it better. Our “creative” drive demands that we look for
solutions to difficult problems. We also enjoy that process, it’s terribly
rewarding. This means that we don’t accept and settle in a comfort zone but
continually look around appraising the changes to your environment.
Listen, care about, support and advise your business
This is the “easy” bit for us, as a family business we find
it a very natural function yet we value the importance of it. Our support team
have an amazing record only because they care. We are not here to serve
ourselves so it’s important that we listen and feel confident to advise when
required. Having the commercial freedom
(of a family business) means we don’t compromise in our service and advice we
Keep learning to be the best booking system possible (9%)
We will. Aiming to do your best is always a great place to
start and we are fortunate to work with 1000s of customers who believe the
same. Over the 21 years we’ve seen a lot of changes so we’ve had to keep
learning new things. We have always
looked for and admired great technology.
Protect you, keep things optional for you and not tying
you in (altogether got 13%)
Our independence is a choice, just like yours. We have seen
enough stuff that does not impress us to know that we must always be clear,
open and genuine in what we do and what we offer.
Protecting independence results in more money staying local
and being re-invested locally in businesses. We live in times where technology
is enabling money to move across oceans far far away from where it was
generated and without any chance of businesses or governments being rewarded
for their investments.
So where do we go
The great news is that we are already working on some new
technology to help increase direct booking, this includes better measurement
and analysis of the current situation. Other developments will become clearer
next year and we trust we can count on your support to get them moving. There is much work to do!
Thank you again for voting and for your many appended
comments. As usual there were masses of amazingly supportive ones, as well as
some great suggestions.
Here’s a small selection of what people said against the
“We know you are the best out there, you have been amazing for us. Helpful and progressive.”
“All of the above are highly important. Thank you for giving them focus.”
“… really excellent customer service, feel like I’m contacting someone in my own company!”
“Would love it if freetobook was more mobile friendly or had a full App.”
“Good to see an honest and ethical organisation.”
“Still love freetobook and even more so since I joined stripe.”
“Thanks so much for your amazing service you have revolutionised the way we do business…”
“More reports, like annual and monthly.”
“Get the OTAs out of the booking loop as the charges are criminal.”
When you are looking to stand out in your guests mind then get messaging. Smart Messaging will take your communication with guests to the next level, making messages and stays memorable.
Freetobook Smart Messaging is your work horse taking the hassle and bore out of email communications. It replaces the old email system with a simple and intuitive interface that your guests can engage with, whilst making your administrative work quicker and simpler.
First up: you can set automated messages to go out before and after the guests stay. No need to worry about sending critical information.
Add images: spice up your message with gorgeous images that show off and boost your brand.
Communicate: a smart message thread is available to the guest making replies so easy and your interaction so natural.
Emojis: it’s brilliant when guests start sending emojis, it means you have connected in a fun and friendly way.
Spot any fails: you’ll see a failed message immediately so you can fix the email address that notifies your guest of a new message.
All channels: you can Smart Message all of your bookings as long as they have an email address (even to the fake emails from the OTAs).
Freetobook customers can setup Smart Messaging in matter of seconds in the “PLUS”tab. For properties not yet using freetobook, why not signup today and enjoy all the marvelous solutions we provide for accommodation owners worldwide.
The Smart messaging system is getting massive investment from us, there are already over twenty new features waiting to be implemented. These include “guest actions” where the guest can change their arrival time or other interactions with their booking.
We really believe the freetobook messenger will help you communicate better and save time… so we will continue to make it even better.
Stripe, is fast, secure and easy to use. It enables businesses all over the world to transact credit cards. Freetobook’s customers just love our integration with Stripe (Over 90% said it was good for their business)
Over two thousand freetobook customers use Stripe as their card processing system, it accepts Visa, Mastercard, American Express and recently added ApplePay and GooglePay.
Top 5 reasons to use Stripe for your card payments:
Quick and easy to setup – Just head to the “Pay” Tab in your freetobook account and get started !
Low Cost – In Europe charges are 1.4% for European cards and 2.9% for non-European cards plus 20p per transaction
No Monthly charges – Stripe only charge for the transactions you make , simple Pay-as-you-go, with no tie ins.
Secure – 100% PCI compliant for all transactions, no horrible forms to complete.
All Cards – Transactions can be online, by phone or via Bookingcom and Expedia, Stripe works for all cards.
At freetobook we rarely rave about anything quite as much as we do about Stripe. You might ask why ? The answer is simple, because our customers love it ! We even offer a 30 day money back guarantee* so you have no risk in trying it.
Some quotes from current customers will give you a flavour of the Stripe service.
“It has reduced our costs and offers peace of mind.” (The Cardinal’s Hat)
“Absolutely love it (Stripe). It has changed my life. It is so easy, great when people cancel, works fantastic… Much less admin for me. It’s a win, win all the way” (Holly Tree)
“Love it – all automatic, and you know if cards securing reservations are valid cards, you can also charge guest stays using the system. Well done freetobook! It so easy to set up and maintain even older users like me have mastered it simply like all freetobook products we use…” (Avlon House B&B)
*freetobook charges an annual integration fee of £89 which provides you with all the great functionality of Stripe from within your freetobook account.
Join thousands of freetobook users and improve the speed and ease of your payments today by adding freetobook Stripe integration! Click the PAY tab when logged in to your freetobook account.
Coming Soon: Upgrades in the pipeline include pre-auth
functionality so you can automatically pre-auth a card to make sure the
customer has the funds to cover their booking before they arrive.
Stripe on freetobook is now upgraded to include ApplePay and GooglePay
ApplePay and GooglePay are so convenient for customers, they simply pay using their fingerprint on their smartphone. Freetobook has been busy working to integrate the new functionality so your customers can now pay with ultimate ease.
This fantastic functionality makes it easier for customers to book so you get more direct bookings. “Paying for a booking is now as easy as paying for a cup of coffee” said Ele at the office..
There is no extra cost, the card transaction charges are the same low cost as they always are with Stripe and we have implemented this with no extra costs.
When customers book online, we detect if their mobile device has ApplePay or GooglePay enabled and offer them an option to pay that way.
If you send a payment request by email and they receive it on their phone with GooglePay or ApplePay they can simply pay with a single click.
There are no extra costs whatsoever so we have automatically enabled it for all customers already using Stripe.
This adds further brilliant functionality to the Stripe
product on freetobook. It already has over 90% approval rating with freetobook
users, just as a reminder these are the 5 reasons to use Stripe for card payments.
Quick and easy to setup
No monthly charges
Secure and PCI compliant
Visa, Mastercard, American Express, ApplePay and GooglePay
All cards including channel cards from Booking.con and Expedia
Coming Soon: Upgrades in the pipeline include pre-auth functionality so you can automatically pre-auth a card to make sure the customer has the funds to cover their booking before they arrive.
Switching your booking system can be a lot easier than you think with our switch team.
Reliability, trust and cost savings can all make a big difference to your business and your happiness!
1. No Monthly standing charges
As a family business we believe all customers should pay for what they want and that nothing is hidden. Our pricing is optional, clear and openly listed on our website, it has always been this way. Prices and what you get for free
(other companies don’t show prices on their website because they want to charge you more or pay oily sales people high commissions to get the sale!)
2. No Minimum contract terms.
At freetobook we guarantee you will love our service, but just in case you don’t you’re not locked in, you can leave whenever you wish; we will never make it difficult, our customers stay because they want to.
(other companies tie you in to make it difficult to leave without penalty, that’s a trick we would never play – it just would not be trust worthy)
3. UK based support system
Customer service at freetobook is second to none – give us a ring and you will be connected straight to our expert support team in Glasgow.
4. Free online booking system
Unlike other booking systems we provide a high quality booking system free of charge so you get to fully use our system before you decide to opt in for any of the paid services which are completely optional and include a brilliant channel manager (Bookingcom reliability score 99.97% on 13 Jun 19) or a great low cost payment system.
5. You’re in control
Your business, your decisions. With freetobook you have control over all aspects of your online booking. You can decide to sell lower prices on your own website or have better availability on your direct booking channels…plus so much more.
” Wow this is amazing!! We have just reached 100 bookings in the last 30 days on the freetobook system. Thanks for starting it all off, and can you thank the ladies in the office for help setting up. I wish we had moved years ago!! ” (Adrian at Seed Hill)
In an open letter this week to boutique hotel and B&B owners, Airbnb have just announced that going forward they want to ensure that small business owners have access to their community of travelers. Airbnb has always been a favourite of thousands of freetobook customers; over the years a large number have registered with Airbnb and use it as a great source of bookings. It’s good news that small hotels, bed and breakfasts and unique properties are now officially recognised and welcome to the Airbnb site.
Freetobook has always been a supporter of unique, independent, interesting and diverse accommodation; these are values we share with Airbnb, so its no surprise to us that so many of our customers enjoy bookings from them. Together we celebrate and support diversity, uniqueness and personal hospitality; after all, despite our size we too are a family business passionate about our customers and what you do.
There is another reason we support Airbnb for our customers. Over the past years the big OTAs have got bigger, they continue to grow, and their commissions are cripplingly high to so many small businesses. Compared to the OTAs Airbnb has a far lower commission to accommodation owners, which gives you a welcome choice.
At freetobook we support diversity of bookings, encouraging our customers not to have all their eggs in one basket and to be over reliant on one big OTA. Airbnb is a competitor of the large OTAs and therefore an additional independent source of bookings that can help make the booking environment healthier with more players.
Thousands of freetobook customers already list on Aribnb and update their availability using our iCal feature. We are in discussions to enrich the functionality of our connection with Airbnb and help our customers get even more out of the Airbnb connection. Further news of this will be announced in the future.
Now that they are expanding their customer base to include boutique hotels and B&Bs, Airbnb are looking for new properties to list. If you’re interested in lower commission and diversifying your booking sources, check out Airbnbs list of standards to make sure it’s the right fit for you and your property. Airbnb are selective about the properties they include so you should read their creteria before registering (see 1 below)
If you are interested in becoming an Airbnb customer (or already are one) you can link your availability from your freetobook diary (you can only do this after you have an Airbnb listing).
Stripe: online payments made easier, faster and more secure. Freetobook’s integration with Stripe makes payments possible at the click of a button, keeping things simple for you – and your customer.
Thousands of freetobook customers use Stripe as their credit card payment system – this is one bandwagon you want to hop on!
Top 5 reasons to use Stripe for card payments:
1. Quick and easy to setup
Just head over to the PAY tab in your freetobook account to get started!
2. Low Cost
In Europe, Stripe charges 1.4% for European cards (2.9% for International cards) and a mere 20p transaction fee!
3. No monthly charges
Stripe charge per transaction, a simple pay-as-you-go system so you’re not out of pocket!
PCI compliance fitted as standard, no lengthy forms to complete
5. 92% approval rating
Thousands of freetobook customers using Stripe love it! We introduced Stripe in 2015 and have since had overwhelmingly positive feedback about the service. In fact, we are so sure it will be good for your business that we offer a 30 day money back guarantee on the freetobook integration charge.
Still not convinced that Stripe will work for your business? Take a look at what your fellow freetobookers are saying…. A staggering 92% of freetobook Stripe users are very happy with the service! Check out some of their feedback below:
“Absolutely love it (Stripe). It has changed my life. It is so easy, great when people cancel, works fantastic… Much less admin for me. It’s a win, win all the way”
“Love it – all automatic, and you know if cards securing reservations are valid cards, you can also charge guest stays using the system. Well done freetobook! It so easy to set up and maintain even older users like me have mastered it simply like all freetobook products we use…”
We’re positive that you’ll love using Stripe for your accommodation payments! But just in case, we offer a full refund within 30 days of paying your subscription. Freetobook charges an annual integration fee of £89 for providing you with this great payment functionality, which can be accessed quickly and easily through your freetobook account.
So what are you waiting for?! Join thousands of freetobook users and improve the speed and ease of your payments today by adding freetobook Stripe integration! Click the PAY tab when logged in to your freetobook account.
Hotel Bonanza is a new Online Travel Agent (OTA) with a strategy of offering a lower commission for accommodation owners and a discount to guests. They have set their commission at 8% so you will find them considerably cheaper than the current dominant OTAs.
Freetobook is a family run company so our loyalty is firmly with our customers, we hear time and time again that properties need to reduce commission charges. We understand this need and will continue to support companies like Hotel Bonanza that offer a lower cost alternative.
If you already have a Hotel Bonanza account fully setup and are a freetobook customer all you need to do is request a connection in the Tab “Plus” where you can add a channel.
For those of you who are not yet freetobook customers you can find out about all the advantages of switching to freetobook …
Find out more about Hotel Bonanza and their story visit their website, join up if you like it click here…
Before next summer freetobook will have a connection for Google Hotel Ads which will give you access to Google’s direct booking channels at 10% which will also be a welcome reduction for many of you.
Freetobook, the fiercely independent family company you can rely on.
High levels of cancellation, high commissions from Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) and competition from Airbnb are big issues that a giant chain like Hilton have in common with independent owners.
In a recent interview, the CEO of Hilton talked about rising cancellation rates, high commission from the OTAs and competition from Airbnb. Every day is a school day so I thought I would consider his comments and try and interpret them for independent accommodation owners like yourself.
High levels of cancellation
Nassetta, from Hilton, says “customers…have been trained to do multiple bookings and do things that have created a scene where cancellations…have skyrocketed.” He is talking about certain OTAs encouraging customers to book and cancel. OTAs don’t really care about high cancellation rates if the customer books again through them it doesn’t matter to their profitability, they still get the booking; it’s the cancelled property who loses out.
If cancellation levels are an issue for Hilton they are an even bigger issue for independent accommodation owners where each room is so much more precious. To put some numbers on it I looked at our statistics from the last 10 months and they show that certain OTAs have an average cancellation rate of 26.5% compared to 8% on direct bookings.
Our advice here is to make sure you have a cancellation policy that does not penalise direct bookings. If you can maximise your direct bookings you will also lower your cancellation rate because direct bookings are more than three time less likely to cancel.
Hilton has responded by increasing their cancellation deadline from same day to 48 or 72 hours and made sure that their direct booking cancellation policy is always the best.
High levels of commission
Many of our customers tell us about the rising commission bills which seem to get larger every year as OTA bookings keep rising. Hilton mentions a lack of competition “More competition would have the effect of driving down distribution [commission] costs.” We have seen less competition as the OTAs take over rivals leaving only two major OTAs (Bookingcom and Expedia, who own most of the others). Nassetta, of Hilton, thinks that Airbnb could change to become a competitor for the OTAs and help drive down commissions.
Is there a place for another OTA with lower commission? Hilton certainly thinks or maybe hopes so. In common with many independent owners Hilton feels the pressure from very dominant sources of bookings and hope for a path to lower commission.
Airbnb is not competition
Hilton sees Airbnb as catering to “different travel or trip occasions” this may be true for Hilton because a big hotel chain clearly has little in common with a bedroom in a home. Airbnb feels far closer to the independent small businesses that are our customers. We also know that many of our independent customers already use Airbnb as a channel for low cost bookings so they can be an ally for everyone.
In summary, it seems that there is a surprising amount in common between Hilton and independent accommodation owners. A closer look does reveal that the same issues are faced by everyone irrespective of size along with a hope for more competition in the online travel agent space.