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13 December 2018 / by Gareth Hill

 

The Essential Guide to Picking the Best Room Booking System 

Whether for internal use or as an additional revenue stream for the business, your room booking system can have a major impact on the operational side of the organisation. Get it wrong and it can create problems and inefficiencies. Burdensome levels of admin that deviates time away from more productive tasks, or even the disruptive scenario of missed bookings or double-booked rooms.

Get it right, however, and your room booking system can play a key role in running a smooth, productive and profitable operation.

In this article, we’ll examine the types of businesses and organisations that would benefit from an online room booking system and the functionality that help these businesses reap the long-term rewards of operational efficiency, productivity and profit.  

Meeting room booking system blog image

Does My Organisation Need a Room Booking System?

A room booking system is needed for any organisation that has meeting rooms, facilities (football pitch?) or other space that is used either internally by members of staff, or for use and hire to the general public as a means of generating revenue.

If this is the case in your organisation, then, yes – you need a booking system.

Traditional Booking Systems (Pens, Paper and People)

Of course, if you ARE one of those organisations that book out rooms or other space, either internally or to the public, then you will already HAVE a booking system.

In one form or another.

Meeting room booking system blog image

Now, the traditional way to manage room bookings would be a more manual kind of system: possibly an admin person fielding phone calls and email enquiries, taking the booking and uploading the details into a spreadsheet or course register (or, invariably, both).

All of which, is perfectly fine.

Apart from the fact that it can be extremely labour intensive to the person responsible for managing the bookings.

Furthermore, it can prove to be a pretty cumbersome process for the customer. So used are we all in mobile and digital services that expectations have never been so high when it comes to getting things done at speed, and on the move.

From a commercial, transactional perspective, waiting for a response to an email enquiry, for example, leaves time for the customer to either change their mind or find an alternative room elsewhere.

On an internal system, enquiries and phone calls can be time consuming, when time is precious in the workplace. And it can lead to delays in organisation that can be frustrating and, more importantly, impactful on productivity.

A Choice of Online Solutions

Accepting that an online booking system will benefit your room bookings is one thing.

Deciding on the right system for you is quite something else.

You only need to do a quick search on your favourite search engine to see that there’s a myriad of options when it comes to online booking software and room booking systems.

These will range from ‘off-the-shelf’ plugin style booking systems offering a kind of ‘what-you-see-is-what-you-get’ range of functions, to fully-bespoke developers who will build a system from scratch to the specifications that you provide.

As an organisation, you need to decide what functionality you need from your system, and the outcomes you need it to deliver.

off the shelf booking system

A great user experience encourages people to actually use the booking system

Whether as an internal room booking solution or as a commercial tool for revenue generation, how it works plays a crucial role in how successful the system is going to be within the organisation.

The booking journey needs to make it as simple a process as possible for users to be able to book their room, meeting space or other facility.

The moment that you start making users jump through unnecessary hoops is the moment you may start to lose them.

When you introduce a new booking system into the company, you need to get ‘buy-in’. If the system is complicated, cumbersome or long-winded, then your customers or colleagues are less likely to use the system; meaning they revert to the old way of calling or email.

Or, worse, not making bookings at all.

Somewhat defeating the point of introducing the system in the first place.

The good news is that the digitally-dominated world in which we live has created an environment in which people will readily adopt a booking system that offers a fast, user-friendly and intuitive experience.

At thinkBooker, for instance, we have worked with clients who have seen an adoption rate in excess of 90% once their user-friendly booking system went live.

mobile responsive booking system

Yes, this means it needs to work on mobile

Most businesses recognise the importance of websites that work properly on a mobile device (please say your organisation falls into that category).

However, does this mobile responsiveness stretch to your booking system?

Whatever system you deploy for your room and facilities bookings, it needs to work on a mobile or tablet device as well as it would on desktop.

Increasingly, mobile is the primary access point to online services. If your booking system requires users to pinch their screen, squint their eyes, or any other impractical annoyance when accessing via a mobile, then you are potentially losing customers, or frustrating your colleagues.

The booking system should not just offer a passably decent mobile experience, it should offer a seamless flow from search and select to booking and confirmation.

How much time will your room booking system save you?

For many, probably most adopters of online booking systems, a key factor in the decision is the extent to which it will help improve efficiency and productivity in the workplace.

Managing room bookings can be a labour-intensive, admin-laden process.

  • Handling email enquiries
  • Handling phone calls
  • Checking availability
  • Booking in delegates
  • Sending out confirmation emails
  • Liaising with caterers and facilities managers
  • Logging the room layout
  • Updating the room diary
  • Creating reports
  • Taking payments or managing invoicing
  • Sending booking reminders

This is all the kind of administrative work that eats into time that can, and really should be used more productively.

And, it’s the kind of administrative work that a well-developed booking system should be handling so that all that time can be freed up to allow for more productive use of an employees’ time, such as handling customer queries, marketing activity or business development.

Are you sending your customers to a third-party, poorly branded platform?

For many businesses, the ability to rent out rooms, meeting space or facilities offers a potentially lucrative revenue stream.

Which means that the booking journey to the point of sale has to foster the trust of your clients.

Brand consistency is crucial in establishing this trust and relationship between your business and your customer.

Too many booking systems pay scant regard to the brand identity of our business, sending your clients to a platform that offers little more than a small copy of your logo in the top left-hand corner.

online room booking system

How much your business values its brand will vary, of course, but make no mistake, it matters to your customers and a booking journey that is immersed in the full brand identity of your business, from logo to colour palette, content and font, provides a platform that not only encourages more bookings, but feeds into your long-term customer relations.

Speaking of customer relations…

How do you engage with your clients to ensure that they remain loyal to you, and continue to book rooms at your venues?

And, how does your booking system help this process?

At thinkBooker, for example, this question plays a key part in the way we deliver appropriate booking solutions for our clients.

Built into the system as a matter of course is our thinkCRM customer relationship database; meaning that all clients and all contacts are recorded and captured, securely and with full GDPR compliance, within the system.

Of course, it’s entirely likely that you already have a range of CRM and marketing tools in the business to help with your client engagement.

Which is why your room booking system should have the capacity to integrate with other 3rd party tools that are already within the technological infrastructure of the company.

Putting the customer first

Whether internal and external, those who use the system to make bookings, will want, to varying degrees, to feel appreciated.

If the system forgets all about them every time they make a booking, then it can become an impersonal process on a purely emotional level; and another time-consuming barrier on a more practical level.

The combination of which can disincline people to use the system.

Using a feature such as a ‘My Bookings / My Account’ section means that a returning customer can simply login, using details captured as part of their first booking on the system, to simply make new bookings using all the personal information securely logged within the database. It also provides them the facility to go into their account area and take a view of all past and upcoming bookings they have made.

Commercially focused and operationally efficient

Introducing a room booking system should not be treated as a nice to have ‘Brucie Bonus’ type of facility within the business. Something you consider useful but ultimately can do without.

If you are of that mindset then it is likely that you have been looking at the wrong kind of system for your company.

Whatever online booking system you are looking to deploy, the consideration should revolve around how it is going to commercially and operationally transform your business.

A meeting room booking system should be delivering the tools to help your business deploy its resources as efficiently and productively as possible, feeding into business development activity and profitability.

Removing the burden of manual admin tasks frees up time to focus on customer experience, or reduce internal long-term costs that boosts the bottom line.

Improving the overall user experience by providing a mobile responsive, simple and fast booking journey that makes it easy for clients to book a room at your venue, while maintaining personalised customer engagement through automated emails, increases the chance that they will book with you rather than your rivals, and continue to return to you in the future.

At thinkBooker we specialise in delivering tailored room booking systems and solutions that meet the exact requirements of your organisation and help you meet your key objectives for profitability, productivity and customer loyalty. Find out how we can help you by enquiring here.

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