Of Guitars and Hotel Management Software: How to choose the right tools for your hotel

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GRETSCH VS. TELE
I’ve always loved guitars. I remember strumming my dad’s old classical Eko for hours when I was a child, running my parents and neighbors mad. When I turned seven my father bought me a black Korean Stratocaster knockoff and it was love at first sight. Over time some guitars became so iconic that even non-musicians could easily recognize them. If you cannot stay still when the first four chords of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” play on the radio, that’s the dirty magic of a Fender Mustang; Slash is synonymous with Gibson Les Paul; Metallica with ESP Explorers and so on. As I got into my teens I was doing all sort of summer jobs just to make some extra money to buy new and better guitars, but it took me thirty years to find THE one. Not that I was picky, but back in the days you had to buy instruments based on friend’s suggestions or magazine reviews solely. Sure, you could go to a guitar store and annoy every single customer by playing the “Smoke on the Water” intro on twenty different guitars, but it is difficult to make a decision with the store owner scowling at you all the time. On top of that the choice in a store is always limited, so often you had to settle for a pretty decent guitar, but certainly not the one of your dreams. Today, on the other hand, you can go online, search for “Gretsch vs Tele” on your iPhone and you get hours of videos reviewing and comparing every single pro and con of each instrument. Having YouTube back then would have literally saved me thousands of euro and a lot of disappointment.

WOM AND THE PARADOX OF CHOICE
What does this have to do with hotels, you may ask? A lot. Exactly like guitars, in fact, when you have to choose a tool for your property you can only count on friends and colleague’s suggestions (or, even worse, on the words of unscrupulous salesmen). You cannot go online and compare two booking engines, for example. Sure, you can open a thread on LinkedIn or on a Facebook group, but it is time-consuming and these platforms are full of companies trying to sell their own products, so it is hard to maintain objectivity and neutrality. Tourism trade shows and conventions can help you discover new tools as well, but it can be too expensive for smaller properties to travel around Europe, the US or other parts of the world just to get updated on the latest technologies. Moreover, the number of providers increased dramatically over the years, creating what Barry Schwartz calls the “Paradox of choice”. On his famous book, Why More Is Less, the American psychologist stated that “eliminating consumer choices can greatly reduce anxiety for shoppers”. Try googling booking engine and you get over 400,000 results. Channel manager? Over 2 million. And all these companies claim to be the best choice for you. How can you make a decision in this maelstrom of information?

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS THE BEST SOFTWARE
Hotel software is a relatively young technology. The first PMS only appeared in the 80’s, not to mention booking engines, channel managers, revenue management tools, CRS, CRM, etc. This means that there is a dangerous lack of quality standards in the Industry and some of these tools are only a step above beta test versions. There is no space for absolutism in hotel tech. There is no such thing as the best Reputation Management tool as there is no way to measure what “best” means. Ease of use? UX? Third-party software integration? Reporting? What may be the best choice for your competitor is not necessarily the best choice for you. Add the lack of neutral information, standard metrics and verified reviews to the mix and you understand why, more often than not, hotels have to compare apples and oranges.

“BUY LOCAL”: DOES IT STILL PAY OFF?-
With no industry standards and way too many choices out there, making the right decision can be challenging. It is not rare for hoteliers to spend months choosing a company to find themselves regretting it just after a few months. Let’s face it: hotel tech can be quite complex, integration with other tools is usually a long process, retraining your staff is a stressful experience and sometimes you prefer to stick with that old, buggy PMS just because it is provided by a local company that you can easily reach in case of need. But a hotel is not a farm and it does not always pay to buy local, not even on an ethical level. The web reshaped the geography of the World and it is now easier to reach a 24/7 customer service in India or in the Philippines than your IT manager living two blocks from you. Keep it in mind next time your servers crash in the middle of the night. I personally manage several clients that I have never even met if not on Skype and, as long as one delivers what was promised, the quality of work always compensates for the miles that divide you from your provider. Hotels seem to have trust issues towards the global market, but these issues are based on a bias: a Nielsen report, in fact, shows that customers are more likely to trust a product review written by another customer than they are to trust an official product description. Reviews organically build a bond of trust between the hotel and the vendor, making its proximity less relevant.

THE SEARCH GOES VERTICAL: THE RISE OF MARKETPLACES
As a consultant, there are questions that I got asked over and over again: “Can you suggest a good booking engine?”, “Do I need a revenue management tool?”, “Why can’t I export data from my PMS” are just some of them. I spend a good part of my working days looking for the right providers for my customers. Every hotel has, in fact, different needs, so the one-size-fits-all approach is out of the question. But finding the right provider can be challenging for a consultant as well: the tools evolve, change, make U-turns, companies got bought, merged or bankrupt almost overnight these days. This is where the real potential of vertical search is still unexploited. Tooly.tips fills this gap in the market by introducing a neutral marketplace focused exclusively on hospitality. Massimo Caria and Alessandro Fenzl, the two founders, are no newbies in the industry: Massimo has been in the industry for over ten years as Country Manager and Business Developer and Alessandro has been working 25+ years in MICE, S&M and smart hotel tech consultancy. You can really feel their hospitality, software/tech and consultancy backgrounds in tooly.tips: technology created by people who really talked the talk and walked the walk. Tooly.tips is created by hoteliers for hoteliers: you can search for a specific company or a tool category and you are redirected to a page with software overview, verified reviews, alternative choices, screenshots and (when available) videos. By clicking here, for example, you get a list of different booking engines and you can apply multiple filters (by rating, accommodation type, department, etc.). The “compare” feature is the one I like the most: pick two software tools and analyze them one next to the other, like this hotel software comparison. You can save software choices to your personal wish list, get more details about the tools, write a review and get in touch with the vendor without ever leaving the tooly.tips search page. Software products are listed by departments as well: Marketing, IT, Reservations, Revenue, Accounting, MICE, Front Office, Restaurants & Bars & Guest Service, so you don’t have to know all the terminology to find the best solution for your area.

CONCLUSION
Entrepreneurs, owners and GMs should be able to make a decision based on facts, not passively relying on the pitches of commission-based-sales people. This is exactly the way tooly.tips approaches technology: easy, different, fresh, visual and quickly accessible to everyone. It is easy to overcomplicate when it comes to tech, especially for niche markets like ours, that is why the purpose of tooly.tips is to provide a user-friendly search experience saving you from the headache of finding the right tools. I wish I had a marketplace like this when I was a Hotel General Manager. As I wish I had guitar video demos when I was a teen. And, in case you are curious, I eventually found my dream guitar: a black‘72 Fender Telecaster with an alder body and maple neck, a humbucker on the neck and a single-coil pickup on the bridge. But I learned it the hard and expensive way. You don’t have to.

Just search on tooly.tips.