Embracing Guest-Centrism: Powering the Modern Era of Central Reservation Systems (CRS)

A Guest-Centric Approach Redefined

In the past, SHR Group placed the Central Reservation System (CRS) at the core of the distribution process. However, our vision has evolved, and we now position the guest at the heart of the system.

Empowering independent hotels and regional brands, our comprehensive product suite, featuring the Internet Booking Engine (IBE) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM), is strategically designed to boost revenue and cultivate lasting guest relationships throughout the entire guest journey.

Crucially, our Central Reservation System (CRS) acts as the linchpin, seamlessly connecting hotels or brands to all their booking channels. This global reach spans both direct and indirect channels, ensuring visibility where potential guests make their purchasing decisions. By being present and bookable in diverse channels, languages, and preferred platforms, the CRS not only broadens its reach but also capitalizes on revenue-generating opportunities.

Furthermore, all pricing and selling strategies are conveniently managed within the CRS, streamlining operations and providing a unified approach. Our mission remains steadfast—to establish enduring connections between hotels or brands and their guests, prioritizing meaningful relationships over short-term gains, while strategically positioning them to reach a global audience and meet guests where they are.

Our pioneering approach, centered on deeply integrated, cloud-based software, built with an API-first approach, delivers scalable, brand-centric guest experiences tailored and customized to support each hotel’s unique context and strategy and our CRS tool is designed to connect the hotel to their guests in a more intuitive way, alongside our IBE, CRM and RMS. 

Beyond the Realm of Open Pricing – The Importance of Using a CRS

Relying solely on a channel manager raises critical considerations, primarily concerning the relationship between the channel manager and OTAs. OTAs, by their inherent nature, predominantly focus on the open-priced leisure market, utilizing a date/rate/occupancy model for essential data. This approach can provide a limited perspective on the complete distribution and booking landscape, neglecting segments like business and group/event travelers.

In this constrained scenario, you might find yourself disregarding tactics related to loyalty or length-of-stay pricing, as opposed to simple open pricing. Remember the intricate distribution strategies mentioned earlier? They encompass various methods, such as blended rates, derivation, double derivation, sell limits, loyalty rates, and more, all aimed at reaching your guests and increasing online and offline bookings.

Modern CRS systems go beyond the linear model of solely connecting to OTAs, enabling the creation of finely tuned strategies and booking concepts. Guest-centric strategies demand control from the hotelier, which can be achieved by connecting to the myriad choices and strategies offered by today’s guest-focused CRS model, rather than solely relying on the standard channel manager model.

Channel Manager vs. Central Reservation System (CRS): Understanding the Differences

In the world of hotel management and distribution technology, two critical tools play a central role: the Channel Manager and the Central Reservation System (CRS). While both serve to streamline the process of distributing hotel rooms across various channels, they have distinct functionalities and purposes. Let’s delve into the differences between a Channel Manager and a CRS to understand how each contributes to an effective hotel distribution strategy.

  1. Functionality & Scope of Control:
    • Channel Manager: A Channel Manager primarily focuses on managing and updating room rates and availability across multiple external online channels, such as OTAs (Online Travel Agencies), global distribution systems (GDS), as well as the hotel’s own website. It ensures that room inventory is synchronized in real-time, preventing overbookings or double bookings and hotels can efficiently manage their presence on multiple third-party websites.
    • CRS: A Central Reservation System encompasses all the functions of a Channel Manager and more as it serves as the core system for a broad range of functions including managing a hotel’s room inventory, reservations, direct bookings on the hotel’s website and guest data. It often includes features like a booking engine (IBE), reservation management, and guest profiles. The CRS serves as the centralized master hub for all aspects of reservations deploying the hotel’s selling strategy, supporting direct bookings through the hotel’s website and call center, in addition to handling third-party distribution.
  2. Data Management:
    • Channel Manager: Channel Managers handle rate and availability data, ensuring consistency and accuracy across various online platforms. They typically do not manage guest data or handle guest profiles.
    • CRS: A Central Reservation System is responsible for all transactional communications to do with managing guest profiles, preferences, and reservation data. When integrated with a CRM all this valuable guest contact and purchase information can be used for personalized marketing strategies.
  3. Direct vs. Indirect Bookings:
    • Channel Manager: Channel Managers are primarily geared towards managing indirect bookings through third-party channels and OTAs.
    • CRS: A CRS has a higher level of direct connectivity as it encompasses both direct and indirect bookings, managing reservations made through the hotel’s website and external channels, such as GDS systems.

In summary, a Channel Manager and a Central Reservation System serve distinct but complementary roles in a hotel’s distribution strategy. While a Channel Manager excels at managing rates and availability across external channels, a CRS acts as the central hub for managing all aspects of hotel reservations, including both direct and indirect bookings, guest data, and the hotel’s own website bookings. To maximize efficiency and revenue, many hotels use both systems in tandem to achieve a balanced and effective distribution strategy.

The strength of SHR Group’s Central Reservation System (CRS) lies in its ability to efficiently deploy strategic pricing to the various segments of the market, meeting guests where they are and on their preferred booking channel. It streamlines the reservation process and optimizes the hotel’s operations and revenue management strategies, all while enhancing guest experiences and catering to the specific needs of each client. This tailored system ensures that every step of the reservation journey is smooth and efficient, from the moment a guest makes a booking to their departure.

The CRS takes care of all the necessary tasks, from availability checks to sending confirmation emails. Hoteliers can easily manage and organize reservations, view real-time availability, and make updates with just a few clicks, thereby increasing operational efficiency. Moreover, the system boosts global reach through integration with the Global Distribution System (GDS), major Online Travel Agencies (OTAs), and multiple channel managers, leading to increased visibility and more bookings. This automation not only saves time but also reduces the risk of errors, allowing hotel staff to focus on providing exceptional guest service.

However, the strength of SHR Group’s CRS goes beyond operational efficiency. This user-centric reservation management system offers more than basic hotel CRS functionality. It empowers hoteliers to reach every one of their guests and is designed to work with all the other SHR tools such as CRM and RMS to personalize guest preferences, track guest history, and gather valuable insights to deliver truly personalized guest experiences. This level of personalization not only enhances guest satisfaction but also fosters guest loyalty and repeat business, making it a valuable asset for hoteliers looking to excel in the competitive hospitality industry.

Posted in Whitepaper

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How to Approach Your Hotel’s Integration Strategy in the Age of Automation

By Yannis Anastasakis, VP of Solutions & Partners

The hospitality industry is entering a new age of automation allowing operators to refocus their efforts away from costly minutia of repetitive actions, and back on to guests – as long as they can find a way to integrate the necessary systems to do so. Operators have spent recent years attempting to maintain high-quality guest experiences, despite limited available labor and rising consumer expectations, all while keeping pace with the rapid development of new technology. These pressures are leading many hoteliers to rethink their approach to daily operations.

The answer for many of these hotels can be found in automation. Many operators have already embraced technologies capable of automating several functions, such as check-in and check-out, a process that was accelerated in the rush to create a contactless experience.
More recently, others have begun to investigate the potential of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to leverage untapped software and hardware capabilities better manage labor costs and improve operational efficiency.

While the benefits of automation are reasonably clear to hoteliers, the capabilities in question can feel out of reach, especially in markets charged with uncertainty. The next generation of automation in travel is here, and in order for hotels to fully embrace it, they must align themselves with a technology partner who is capable of configuring the desired logic and managing the necessary integrations across a hotel’s technological ecosystem.

Connecting the Dots 

Once upon a time, in the early days of the internet, hoteliers received emails from guests filled with booking information which would then be manually entered into their systems. At the time this activity seemed normal, but today’s operators obviously view it as archaic. Innovations in RPA and other forms of automation will eventually lead operators to feel the same way about our current methods of running hotels. In the most significant ways, we are already there.

In theory, providing guests with high-quality experiences has never been easier than today, thanks to the abundance of information hotels can gain from a variety of sources, not least of which is the guest’s actual booking! However, in practice today’s hotels do not have technology in alignment, and in a way that can accurately and automatically react to a guest’s booking, preferences, and other existing data points. On top of this, these same hotels are often too understaffed to react to these bookings within meaningful time frames.

The practical application of the promise of technology often faces its strongest challenges when ‘connecting the dots’. For example, if a traveler books a stay at a golf resort and has purchased spa or golf packages in the past, what is stopping a hotel from recognizing the guest, and automatically wrapping spa and golf offerings into one package, then automatically delivering it to the guest alongside their confirmation email, or at an opportune time soon thereafter? If a hotel’s Central Reservations System (CRS) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system are capable of sharing information, hotels can consolidate all of these elements into a unified process, resulting in elegant efficiencies for both guests and operators.

We know that combining the capabilities of a hotel’s CRS and CRM, offers hotels a greater capacity to understand guest preferences, market to them, and deliver the stay experience that best fits their wants and needs.

Once integrated, and with the application of a touch of robotic automation, these systems can really push the barriers of what is done today. In our example, they could automatically identify your hotel’s highest-value guests, present new ways to entice them to stay at your hotel, and even present you with an opportunity to completely rethink cancelations through well-timed and ultra-personalized promotions, that speak directly to customers’ needs and specific situations. RPA is allowing hotels to ensure guests are greeted with the correct amenities or services during check-in, respond quickly to room availability inquiries, automatically manage check-in and check-out, handle selling and consumption of vouchers, market directly to guests, set room prices, and so much more; all without hoteliers’ direct input each moment. The greatest barrier to offering these capabilities is finding a technology partner who is capable of taking individual hotel technologies and breaking them out of self-imposed isolation, synthesizing individual functionalities into something that blurs the lines between multiple and single systems – making them work as one.

Asking Tough Questions 

Innovations in automation and operations software have led to a disruption within the hotel industry’s traditional approach to technology. Many of these tools have been naturally separated into departmental silos, given their isolated task-centric and feature-specific nature. Finding ways to bring these walls down will remain a focus for hoteliers in the near future, and should be a priority when speaking with technology partners, all within the framework of a continuing shift away from developing new in-house technology solutions.

While in the past automation seemed like a ‘nice to have’, today we see it as having established itself as a necessity and opportunity for creating competitive advantages and offering genuinely better experiences to guests, sometimes before they have even arrived at the hotel. Acquiring these capabilities is not out of reach! If hoteliers are able to clearly identify their operations and revenue goals, they will find there are many ways to implement automation to help alleviate any inefficiencies. Once these are addressed, they can refocus their efforts on the guest experience, rather than on repetitive tasks that can be managed automatically.

Hoteliers must ask themselves what they could and should do better. After they identify areas for improvement, they should take a close look at their existing and other available technology partners to understand whether or not they provide the necessary quality of integrations to achieve their goals. How do potential technology partners approach the process of integrating new tools and new technologies? What level of support do they provide to hoteliers, and in what form? Additionally, consider the ways they have implemented automation in their properties, and identify how (or if) they continue to refine these capabilities over time.

The end goal for hospitality technology is to make hoteliers’ jobs more manageable and to enable them to refocus on improving the guest experience. Achieving this state today requires a comprehensive technology strategy that includes a focus on sharing information across all hotel departments. Once these digital handshakes are set to take place automatically, operators can be liberated and empowered to do what they do best.

Posted in Industry Trends