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First Hotels Focuses on Guest Experience for PMS Pick

BETHESDA, MD—Finding the right property management system (PMS) is critical for a hospitality company. For First Hotels, its decision to partner with a new PMS provider was all about creating a great guest experience.

First Hotels, which has a portfolio of European hotels, recently turned to StayNTouch to roll out the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) PMS company’s Rover PMS and Zest products to hotels in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland, making it the new brand standard for the company.

“A great guest experience is the most important criteria for First Hotels when deciding on a new PMS,” explained Marius Zachariasen, VP of marketing and innovations, First Hotels. “From booking, to check-in, staying and checkout, everything should be a seamless experience.

“It is also important for First Hotels that our PMS minimizes manual processes and automatically transfers data to other connecting systems such as CRM, payments, S&C,” he continued. “A third and important criteria for PMS is a cloud-based infrastructure. We want to limit on-premises installations and rather base solutions on cloud infrastructure. It gives us more control and quicker setup of new hotels.”

Jos Schaap, StayNTouch’s CEO, noted that this is a common refrain from most hoteliers. “A hotel’s staff is among the most valuable asset, and older PMS’ are incredibly cumbersome to use and tough to learn—ultimately leading to high upfront soft costs (time) and hard costs (training),” he said. “In today’s market, hoteliers are looking for a user-friendly, intuitive, cloud-based system that requires minimal setup and training. Everything is included in the subscription fee, including software updates and upgrades. Using a SaaS service makes administration easier; provides automatic updates and management; ensures compatibility; enhances collaboration and provides access to users from any device capable of accessing the internet.

In other words, it has to be smart. “The new PMS must be able to enhance the guest engagement model, not just act as a glorified cash register,” he said. “They must deliver more and be profit centers, not cost centers. The PMS is the beating heart of a hotel’s operations, and it must benefit almost every department within the hotel, but, most importantly, it must be flexible enough to give guests the control to choose how they want to interact with your hotel.”

First Hotels first came to StayNTouch through a consultant referral in November 2016. At the time, it was reviewing more than 40 PMS solutions to select its future platform. Schaap noted that the final selection proves included a three-month pilot at one of First’s hotels against another PMS in a different property. “StayNTouch outperformed the opponent PMS from both a feature and customer service point largely,” he said. “As such, First Hotels selected StayNTouch for all their hotels. Now, in the middle of the rollout, the relation is very fluent, and we are rolling the hotels out at about three a week.”

Zachariasen added, “StayNTouch came across as a good combination of experience and curiosity—experienced enough to proof a solid base of reference hotels, which gives us confidence in their capability to deliver, and curious enough to serve our guests modern and innovative experiences. It is also important to us that they provide a reasonable and transparent pricing structure with no hidden costs or fees.”

Zachariasen added that the implementation is going well. “StayNTouch has a full two-way integration with TravelClick, and we are really looking forward to taking full advantage of this new and integrated system setup on our hotels,” he said. “We do believe it will radically reduce manual processes and time spent related to booking and check in. StayNTouch understood our previous platform and was able to deliver a similar workflow process that wasn’t intrusive. We didn’t want to be a small fish in a big pond like we were with our previous provider. We wanted to be able to work alongside a partner rather than a vendor and feel as if our input was going to be heard.”

The Rover PMS fits on every device, and it optimizes hotel operations from the front desk, to groups, to housekeeping, to revenue management. Zest enables guest pre-engagement and guest services via mobile web; enables guest-enabled mobile check-in and checkout via smartphone and desktop; offers a private-labeled, PMS-integrated mobile check-in and checkout; and offers bill review, preference collection, upsell opportunities, remote key fulfillment and the ability to promote and monetize late checkout. Zest Station lets guests skip the line and self check-in, retrieve their key and check out.

“With a PMS in the palm of your hand, hotel staff are free to move about the property and approach guests,” Schaap said. “There are many operational benefits to implementing a mobile PMS—from staff being able to access up-to-date room statuses instantly or reporting statistics, our clients enjoy seeing how their property can change with the addition of our products.

“Another one of our product’s strengths is its user-friendly design,” he continued. “It was our desire to create products that would be intuitive and easy to learn. For this reason, we are comfortable offering remote services to our properties, but we are also capable of providing on-site, person-to-person support when necessary. The benefit of this setup results in a lower total cost for the property. Our products allow hotels to take a new shape that suit the needs of a variety of guests’ likes and preferences.”

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