The Internet is here to stay, and many businesses have made their first leap to the Internet with a web site, and many are now moving forwards using the Internet, not only as an advertising and promotion platform, but as an active business platform.
The great thing about the Internet is that it can be used as the great equalizer for small and mid-sized businesses.
The smallest Bed and Breakfast can today have as great a web presence as the largest 5 star hotels through their web site.
Whether your site is for yacht charters, horse riding classes, or anything else, if your products and services can be booked, reserved or rented, you may want to try to make the web site work for your business all year round.
You may have asked yourself why so many small businesses are so interested in getting an online reservation system on their web site.
Here are 9 good reasons why!
1. Open 24/7 to receive reservations
Many customers surf the Internet outside of business hours and they are more likely to make reservations on the spot that trying to remember to call back the next day.
Statistics show that more and more bookings today are made during the evening at home online. The reasons for this are two fold. Firstly, many companies now monitor and control Internet access in the workplace, and secondly, nearly every home today has an Internet connection and a PC or laptop.
If your normal business hours are 9 to 5, then you have no one to take bookings after 17:00, and this is when we now know most online bookings occur.
An Online booking system allows you to receive booking 24 hours a day; therefore, your “booking service” is always open.
2. Commission Free
Whether you are paying for direct advertising, or paying a commission for bookings through booking portals, in either case, you are paying a portion of your income to these sources. If you have an online booking system on your own website, you have then cut out the middleman. Another important point when using commissioned portals is that your business is promoting them as much as they are promoting you, and with the Internet, you might as well just focus on promoting your own business.
3. It’s simply good customer service
When we speak about online bookings here, we are not talking about a contact form. A contact form does not provide your customers with a clear view of your availability. A contact form does not allow your customers to book directly and pay and get confirmed automatically.
A proper online booking system must, at the least be able to perform these two tasks as they are core to providing good customer service.
4. Minimize your workload
If you are not using an online booking system today, then you may still be processing all your bookings manually. A good online booking system will handle all the aspects of the booking. It must, at a minimum, do the following:
– Automatically ensure that bookings can only be received when you have availability
– Get ALL the information required during the booking process so you don’t have to waste time asking for more information
– Send out an automated email to the booking party as a confirmation of the booking
– Automatically update your availability when the booking has been processed
A good booking system will do all this.
Also make sure your booking system doesn’t just handle the online bookings, but handles email, phone and walk-in bookings as well.
5. All your customer data in a structured system
If you use a good online booking system which also handles the walk-in, email and phone bookings, then you will have all your previous customers data in a structured system. This is important today as it allows you to market yourself to your previous customers. This customer list is often one of your best-valued resources in a business, and you want this data both accessible and structured.
6. Up selling
This is not just the domain of large companies.
When a customer is booking a car or an apartment for their holidays, its very common to have “extras” that the customer can choose. For apartment rentals it might be a welcome basket, for a car rental company, it may be a GPS system.
Your booking system should allow for the easy addition of “extras” so that you offer your customers all your great features and options.
7. Discount Codes
Discount codes are a great way to market your business in either off-season, or when you have some last spots available. Make sure your online booking system can support discount codes.
WebReserv makes it easy to download email addresses from previous customers so you can send them a “come back” discount code. The post-visit email is great for this.
8. Clear and Simple Overview
Your online booking system should have at least one screen where you can see your availability very quickly and clearly. This removes the need for the old paper book, and allows your reception staff to easily see whether you have availability or not.
9. Online payments
For the fully comprehensive business, you may want to integrate an automatic payment system. With this in place, you reduce manual workload even more, and you provide your customers with a complete easy and safe way to both book and pay for your offerings
There are of course even more advantages, but the above list should at least get you thinking about whether you should have an online booking engine or not.
WebReserv was founded in 2004 and provides all the above features and more.
The WebReserv booking and reservation system consists of a comprehensive back office reservation management system to handle all aspects of bookings, including, online, email, phone and walk-in bookings.
It includes automated emails, custom fields to handle extras, discount codes, reporting and many more features.
The WebReserv booking widget is then placed on your web site, and handles your online booking 24/7.
You can create a free account with WebReserv to try the system and upgrade if you need more features.
Other reading for small business owners:
Best Practices – http://www.webreserv.eu/articles/200909070858
10 Tips to get more online bookings – http://www.webreserv.eu/articles/20060613