As technology develops so do your guests’ expectations.
In the last 5 years messaging apps have flourished and
entered our everyday lives. This has again accelerated in the last few months as
we’ve have had to find ways to communicate with loved ones that we can’t visit.
Family and work WhatsApp and Messenger groups have really come into their own.
These tools all have two things in common – they are conversational, less formal and richer in content. Adding images, links and other attachments means you’re able to share so much with so little effort. That sharing helps create stronger bonds and brings us all closer.
So how does that fit on a business level? Well, for starters it means our guests are
familiar and comfortable with messaging as a technology. With such a big part of the service you offer
guests driven by communication, why wouldn’t you take every opportunity to
finesse that communication?
That’s why we built Smart Messaging.
How you communicate with your guests before, during and after their stay is changing. The ease with which you can schedule key messages for your guests makes Smart Messaging invaluable. And those automatic messages can be rich in content, so attaching images and links makes them not just interesting but also very useful to guests. We know this because the guest replies say it all.
What’s also fascinating is that guests respond quickly (because it’s easy) and they become more engaged with the host. So building that relationship is a natural process. Guests even use emojis in their responses, who doesn’t love seeing a 😊 in a response! 👍
There’s lots and lots more on offer, so click here for more… We have built Smart Messaging from the ground up ourselves so it’s fully integratedwith all your bookings and continually being added to. It’s also why we can offer it at such a low price of just £4/month (£49/yr + VAT)…. ridiculous value yet again from a family business that enjoys building things that make your life easier.
In the 21 years since our birth in 1998 we’ve learnt a thing or two about making, managing and servicing accommodation bookings but the one thing we often get asked is:
… “what makes freetobook different ?”
freetobook is committed to:
build booking technology that maximises direct bookings above all other bookings
continually develop, upgrade and improve for your business
listen, care about, support and advise you whilst building things to the highest standards both morally and technically
be the best booking system possible, to study and learn from other booking systems
protect you from powerful corporations that seek to manipulate and plunder your revenue
never prevent you from leaving (by tie-in contract or any obstruction), instead we’ll learn why you left and improve to get you back
continue to make all paid services optional, clearly priced and listed publicly on our website, ensuring we advise honestly and openly as to their value and use to your business
These aren’t some corporate bull, they are part of our DNA, developed from those that work with us and for us, those that support us to grow and all those that used to work with us, they are our history and our future.
The significant success of freetobook in business provides us with the luxury to always put your interests first with fierce independence and a long term outlook typical of family values that no corporate can afford. That’s what makes freetobook different.
One of the winning valentine poems…
One valentines day a hotelier had the blues, “Which channel manager should I choose?” The OTA’s were leading them to booze! But they were cheered up when they heard the news,
“freetobook” said a friend with cheer! “they are really good, I have used them for more than a year!” They are the best by far, never fear. “they are there to help you, they are sincere”
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.”
Direct bookings save you commission, time and are three times less likely to cancel than bookings made through an OTA. As always, freetobook has your back – our new SearchPro upgrade can increase your direct bookings by up to 40%!Here are our top tips to make the most of your free SearchPro upgrade and maximise your direct bookings:
1.Customise your booking page
Your business is unique – your booking page should be too! Head over to your My Direct Booking page and select icons to appear which reflect the amenities you offer, such as wifi and breakfast. Replacing text with icons optimises your booking page, making it super clear to your guests the benefits you offer.
2.Reward booking direct:
Special offers are a brilliant way to incentivise and reward your guests for booking direct. Always make sure that you offer the best deal on your own website, even if that is the same as rates offered elsewhere – don’t miss out on direct bookings because OTAs are offering a better deal! We have a selection of Book Direct Images, try one or design your own – displaying a neat “Best Price Guarantee” sticker on your website will go a long way to increasing your direct bookings.
Using Promo codes is a more selective way to reward booking direct; the customer needs to know the promo code. Your offer can vary from a complementary drink on arrival to a discount – get creative! Your guests will feel special and rewarded and will likely mention it in their review, encouraging future guests to book direct when they hear about the benefits!
Providing a non-refundable special offer booking option for your guests ensures that they are getting a great value deal, and you are reducing your cancellations and securing guaranteed income – it’s a win-win!
3.Review your cancellation policy
Take some time to review your cancellation policy – always make sure that your cancellation policy is equal to or better than the OTA offer! This is another way to show that booking direct offers the best deal.
4.Website check up
The new year is a perfect time to review your website and optimise it to increase your direct bookings:
Update your content – is all the information still accurate? Do you provide information on local attractions and events?
Good quality, professional pictures of your property are important in showcasing your business and are worth investing in.
Is your website mobile responsive? 27% of accommodation bookings are made via mobile – your booking page is responsive; your website should be too!
Is your ‘Book Now’ button visible and in more places than just your homepage? Quick and easy ability to ‘Book Now’ will help increase your direct bookings
Stay tuned for tips and advice throughout 2018 – we will soon be hosting our first webinar where we will guide you through the ins and outs of SearchPro via live video, keep an eye on our social media and emails for more details!
Direct bookings save commission and are much less likely to cancel. The more direct bookings you get the more money and time you are saving.
1) Make sure you offer the best deal.
Research has shown again and again that customers will choose to book direct where the price is the same or better. Proving that we are naturally attracted to the idea of booking direct, believing we will get better options, better customer service and are more likely to get an upgrade.
Offering the lowest rate is critical, even if it is the same as any other rates offered.
2) Reward direct bookings
When customers do book direct you should look at ways to reward them. Typical rewards can include a discount on their next stay via promo codes. It’s also a great idea to make a reward during their stay, this will depend on your circumstance but might include something like a room upgrade, free wi-fi or a free breakfast.
Get creative and invent original rewards for direct booking, it helps you stand out.
3) Show the benefits of booking direct clearly
Customers visiting your website want to know what to expect when they stay with you but they also need to know that you want their booking direct. They will have visited many other websites and you want them to be persuaded when they are on your website. Displaying a neat little “Best Price Guarantee” on your website will go a long way to increasing direct bookings.