As a tour and activity operator, utilizing an online booking solution is mission-critical to running your business smoothly. With more than 57% of travelers booking online, you could be missing out on easy revenue and customer growth. However, picking an online booking software that not only works for your business, but also partners with you to help your business grow, is not always as easy as it sounds.
To help you in your decision, we’ve created this simple online booking software checklist:
When evaluating which online booking software to use, first examine the company and the team behind it:
1. How stable is the company?
Ensuring the company has the strength and capital to be your long-term partner is critical in your decision. Find out who has invested in the company and how much capital has been raised. See if their investors are key influencers in the industry, backed with years of expertise and relationships that can help your business. Ask whether they are profitable, and if they have the cash to invest in growing their team and product.
TIP: If the investors have made an ongoing investment in the company to support its continued growth, that’s a strong signal the company has what it takes to be a long-term partner for you.
2. How experienced is the management team and board?
Evaluate the backgrounds of the leadership team and board of directors. Make sure they have the experience needed to help your business succeed.
TIP: Look at the LinkedIn profiles of the company’s leadership team. When the founders have invested years into the company, it’s an indication they’re in it for the long haul. Plus, if members of the leadership team have strong career paths at successful companies, these are the types of people who can likely help your business grow and succeed.
3. Is the company investing in continually improving its product and services?
Ask about their level of investment in product development, along with examples of important products the company has released recently. When companies continually add product updates and features, this is a strong signal: Not only are they investing in their product, they’re listening and responding to their customers’ needs.
4. Who is on their team? Is the company growing?
Ask how many employees they have in product and engineering. Also, inquire about the ratio of salespeople to product and engineers. When a company's employee base is product- and engineer-focused, it validates that they are investing in the product.
5. What do their employees say about working there?
Take a look at the company’s culture: Many companies share a behind-the-scenes view on their social media channels, such as Instagram.
Now that you have evaluated the company’s stability and experience, it’s time to dig into the product itself:
6. Is the online booking software easy to use?
If a product is difficult or non-intuitive for your employees and customers to navigate, it will never work for your business. That’s why ease of use is top on many businesses’ priority list when selecting a new online booking solution.
TIP: Think about how your business runs its day-to-day operations. Look for a system that has a centralized, easy-to-use calendar to keep your business organized. Also, keep in mind how easy it is to onboard new staff.
7. Is the product customizable to fit the needs of your business?
Tours and activities come in all forms. Look for a system that can be customized according to your business’ needs. For example, if you are a bicycle rental company, can the system handle multiple bike rental times and equipment add-ons, such as helmets?
8. How will the booking functionality help increase your sales?
Today’s customers book their activities in a variety of ways. For example, some like to pre-book far in advance, while others might book via their mobile phone while traveling. If your system won’t let them book how, when, and where they want to, you are at risk of losing the sale.
TIP: Look for software that allows bookings online via your website, your social media channels, and even through a mobile app.
9. How strong is the company’s mobile offering?
Look for a system that has both iOS and Android mobile apps that let you and your staff manage all bookings, reservations and communications via smartphone. Most companies only offer a mobile-responsive or mobile-friendly design, which aren’t optimized for running your business on the go.
10. Does the company allow you to take mobile payments through an EMV-compatible chip card reader?
If you want to take secure payments via mobile, an EMV-compatible chip card reader is a must. As of October 2015, businesses can now be held liable for fraudulent charges if they swipe an EMV chip card. However, if you use an EMV-compatible chip card reader, the liability is placed on the bank, not your business. Learn more about why your business should accept EMV chip cards here.
By choosing an online booking solution that has a mobile app and works with an EMV-compatible chip card reader, you can operate your businesses in real-time, from anywhere, with walk-up customers, and be able to take secure credit card payments.
11. Does the online booking solution offer customer support and account management?
Just because an online booking system is, well, online, doesn’t mean it has to be online only.
TIP: Look for a solution that has a dedicated customer support and account management team to partner with your business in order to help you succeed.
12. Does the business provide additional support with marketing and selling your tours and activities?
Look for an online booking solution that can be your marketing partner. For example, ZOZI has an OTA marketplace, zozi.com to help increase your bookings. To date, six million people have used ZOZI to discover and book things to do around the globe, purchasing nearly a billion dollars in activities.
13. How does the software handle customer and staff communication?
Communication is key, but it can take hours to do. By picking a system that automates most communication, you can spend less time in the office and more time doing what you love.
TIP: Look for a system that sends emails to your customers both pre- and post-activity. This allows you to identify any additional information needed, confirm the customer’s purchase and ask them for reviews.
Don’t forget about guide communication. Look for an online booking software that can help you manage your staff by texting and/or emailing them as needed.
14. What price is right for your business?
Everyone cares about cost, and striking the right balance of affordability and quality is important. You’ll want a system that fits your budget and provides the right functionality—both now, and as your business expands.
15. What are the total costs?
Read the details and do the math on the fees, including all-in credit card fees and monthly fees. Evaluate savings from lower credit card fees, and compare vs. other fees that may be included. Many companies will say they are “free”, but in fact, they pass on the higher fees to your customers instead. Others may have limitations on the number of bookings per month that you can process. Gain a clear understanding of these pricing policies.
16. How should you compare the credit card fees?
Examine the credit card fees in detail. Many banks will charge 2.5-3.5% per transaction. Even if you use Square, they will charge 2.75%. Alternatively, using an online booking software that acts as your processor can drastically reduce credit card fees by as low as 1.99%.