Four 'R' s of Front Office Information Management
Let’s begin with an overview of how the PMS (property Management System) provides information to Front Office Managers for designing & planning and decision making. Front office managers must supervise the daily work of front desk staff to attain optimal guest satisfaction levels and to maximize from revenues and profits. To do so, FOMs must identify and respond to their guests’ special requests, needs, problems, issues and concerns. They must also facilitate the efforts of front office personnel as they train, schedule, empower, coach, counsel and resolve staff related problems. In addition to fulfilling their responsibilities to hotel guests and employees, FOMs to monitor and control day-to-day revenues and expenses and to withstand that proper procedures and required controls are in place.
The hotel business, in its earliest days, was relatively uncomplicated. FOMs could do an effective job if they simply understood these four basics:
- Desires of their guest
- Rooms and services available for sale
- Prices to be charged for rooms and services
- Accounting and data management methods required for proper record keeping
Effective management of today’s technologically advanced front office still requires the proper collection and maintenance of data to address these four front office fundamentals. Today’s FOM’s, however, use a sophisticated property management system (PMS) to assist them in managing massive amounts of data. Despite rapidly developing enhancements for virtually every PMS available , each system must still address the FOM’s fundamental needs for information related reservation management.
FOMs make many decisions every day that affect their hotel’s success. Much of their decision making is affected by the way they manage the PMS. The following examples illustrate each of the four Rs in action.
First ‘R’- RESERVATION MANAGEMENT
The Famous Cart Festival (Rath Yatra) is a significant event for all hoteliers in the Puri, Odisha, area in India, . The devotee and tourists attending the festival are huge, and each available guestroom in every hotel is extremely valuable for its revenue generating potential. A sellout the day before the Festival is routine, because most guests want to be in town before, during, and after the festival. These guests represent more attractive business for a hotel than their one-night-only counterparts.
What actions can be taken to ensure that a hotel in the Puri area consistently sells to longer-stay and, therefore, preferred potential guests during the Puri Rath Yatra festival?
Assume that FOM could estimate the number of, and then identify, guests who want to rent a room for at least three nights while in town for the Festival. The FOM could then accept reservations only from these guests and refuse reservations for others wanting to rent a room for only from these guests and refuse reservations for others wanting to rent a room for only one night. The situation is complicated by the fact that reservations are not taken solely by the hotel’s employees. Franchised hotels have tollfree phone numbers that prospective guests can use to make a booking or reservation. In addition, there are thousands of internet sites at which a potential guest could make a reservation at a hotel. All of these reservation sources must be coordinated. A quality PMS will do that, in part by allowing FOMs to establish and enforce a Minimum Length of Stay (MLOS) for any day they desire.
The FOM may place a three, four, or even longer Minimum length of stay (MLOS) on rooms during the period immediately before and after the Festival. However, if the Front Office Manager overestimates the demand for room reservations with the planned MLOS, the hotel may deny too many reservations with the planned MLOS, the hotel may deny too many reservation attempts for stays shorter than the MLOS. This could result in blank rooms that could have been sold if the Minimum Length of Stay requirement had been reduced. An effective PMS provides information about reservation-booking patterns that allows on FOM to adjust MLOS requirements easily and quickly and to send that information to all possible reservation-booking sites.
Second ‘R’—ROOMS MANAGEMENT
Assume that a hotel sells all 100 of its rooms on a Tuesday night because of a large conference being held at the hotel on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. On Wednesday, however, most conference guests check out at noon during their last meeting break, As a result, nearly 100 rooms occupied on Wednesday morning become vacant (and ready to be cleaned) at noon on Wednesday. Not surprisingly, many Wednesday night guests arriving at 3:00 P.M. ( the hotel’s posted check in time) learn that their rooms are not ready for them, even though all of the hotel’s available housekeepers are busy cleaning the rooms vacated at noon.
- How can front desk agents remain updated about the readiness of clean and sparkling guestroom so that no guest is checked into a room that has not been properly cleaned and impressed?
- How can agents know as soon as fresh and clean accommodations area available so that they can assign them to the growing crowd in hotels lobby?
A hotel’s front office staff interacts with every department in the hotel. Therefore, its PMS must interface with many other data and information-generating systems.
An effective PMS serves as an important communication device. In this case, a computer terminal in the executive housekeeper’s office may allow him or her to input data about cleaned and inspected rooms urgently needed by the front office staff. Sophisticated PMS systems have telephone interfaces that permit housekeepers or room inspectors to enter room status changes (e.g., from needs cleaning to has been cleaned) directly into PMS by use of the guestroom telephone.
Third ‘R’- REVENUE MANAGEMENT
Three months from now there will be a national renewable energy conference that will significantly increase local demand for hotel rooms. One hotel anticipates that the demand for rooms with king size beds will be much greater than for rooms with two queen size beds. As a result, the hotel is likely to sell all of its rooms with two beds.
- What decisions should be made about the relative prices guests should be charged for these two different types of rooms?
If RevPar is to be maximized, the desires for guests for a specific room type must be considered. The higher the demand for a specific room type during a specific time period, the greater potential the hotel has to increase RevPar for that room type during that time period.
Data held in a hotel’s PMS re critical to the decision making activities required to maximize RevPar. The PMS helps forecast demand for the hotel’s rooms, allows FOM’s to rapidly adjust room rates, and performs sophisticated mathematical calculations that results in RevPar maximization strategies.
Fourth ‘R’ – RECORDS AND ACCOUNTS MANAGEMENT
Ms. Daisy, Ms. Jane, and Ms. Daley shared a room on Friday and Saturday night while attending a show in town. Their room cost $155 per night, plus locally applicable sales and occupancy taxes. While staying in the room they watched a movie that cost $12.99. During check-out, they announce that they would each like to pay by credit card, and Ms. Daley has offered her debit card to pay for her share of the charges.
- How can these charges be computed and recorded quickly and accurately so that other guests in line to check out are not delayed?
It is possible to manually compute and record the payments of the women described in this example. However, a PMS that can easily and quickly allow the front desk agent to establish, receive, and record proper payment from each guest will be of great value. Note that although only one room was sold, a guest history should be automatically created in the PMS for each of the four individuals who stayed at the hotel.
As the four examples have shown, the value of an effective and well managed PMS is enormous. Without it, the ability of the FOM to properly address the advanced technological issues faced daily would be severely limited, and the profitability potential of the hotel would be greatly diminished.