Indeed, even if you have compared all the PMS on the market, there are still many grey areas that could turn your choice into a nightmare. In this article, we will try to give you some hints to avoid bad surprises.
Points to remember
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While extensive functionality is often offered by PMSs, some of it may be barely functional or still under development. It is a common practice to sell features during sales meetings when these services are not yet finalized. BtoB sales processes are long and some sales people do not hesitate to rely on these delays to sell features that are still in the development phase, without having any idea of their release date.
This trend of "vaporware" is a plague for companies that are not careful or that tend to trust their suppliers too much. In vacation rentals, it is essential that the core functionality you need is immediately available when you make a purchase. So, assume that if it is not clear that the feature is available now, it simply does not exist.
However, you must be careful to differentiate between essential and dispensable features. Many property managers tend to feel the need to opt for a miraculous all-in-one software that allows them to do absolutely everything. However, many of the features offered by PMS are clearly dispensable depending on the maturity of your business. You don't need extremely advanced forecasting tools or market analysis tools if you manage an apartment that is rented out for two months of the year. On the other hand, a channel manager that connects natively via API to all your booking channels will be essential to your business. Don't miss out on opportunities because dispensable functionalities are not yet offered.
Many tools advertise fixed prices before distilling a whole bunch of extra charges based on your usage.
- Channel managers: Some PMS charge a commission on bookings to maintain the API connection to OTAs such as Airbnb or Booking.com
- CMS / Website builder: You may be charged by the PMS for hosting your direct booking website that you have created via their CMS
- Migration fees: If you are making a transition from one PMS to another, you will certainly be asked to pay for the migration of your data. Be careful because these fees can quickly represent a budget that exceeds your capacities depending on the complexity of the operation. On the other hand, these are the most easily negotiable fees.
- Training costs: Depending on the complexity of the tool you have chosen and your teams' appetite for online software, it will probably be necessary to opt for training services from your new provider.
Often these fees can be 2 to 3 times the rate advertised by the provider. These fees are negotiable and should be kept to a minimum to get the most out of your budget.
Native features or integrations?
If PMS boasts of offering an extremely wide range of functionality covering all aspects of your business, don't be mistaken! While the basic functionality of PMS is often provided internally, the majority of niche functionality is most often provided by external partners.
Thus, there are two options. Either the integration partner takes a retro-commission from the PMS, which means that its price is included in the price displayed by the PMS. Or you have to subscribe to these services in addition to your PMS, which generates new costs that you certainly did not foresee initially.
However, opting for third-party services ensures that you are using specialized tools designed for a single purpose: to meet a specific need. Moreover, it allows you to build a modular tool and pay only for the features you need!
How to avoid these traps?
Choosing a new PMS can be a daunting task for most owners and managers. However, it is probably one of the best opportunities to radically transform your business and make it grow by optimizing your processes.
First of all, understand the main functionalities of a PMS and how each of them will be used in your business. This will allow you to make an inventory of the services that are essential to your business. This way, you can choose a PMS that natively offers these features to limit your costs.
Conversely, you can opt for a less rich PMS that offers integrations with specialized services that you already use or that are better targeted for your use.
Restrict your demonstrations
Start by identifying the few solutions that best fit your needs, the size of your business, and your short- and medium-term ambitions. With a good amount of upfront research, you should be able to quickly rule out a majority of options without having to initiate a multitude of demonstration processes.
Demos are essential to validate your choice but are time consuming. Limit them as much as possible so that you don't get lost in your choice.
Talk to other property managers
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to base your thinking solely on your discussions with the PMS sales team. Your thinking will necessarily be biased by the arguments selected by these representatives and will not offer you a global vision of their tool.
In addition, you will not have the field vision or the day-to-day experience offered by these tools. You should ask for customer references to complete your knowledge base before making your choice.
Ask them how long they have been using the software. Are there any red flags that need to be addressed? How quickly does the software vendor resolve issues? These are all questions that will protect you from unpleasant surprises when deploying your new PMS.