Most property managers in the vacation rental industry invest in some form of property management software (PMS). From booking management, payments and housekeeping, to accounting and more, a PMS streamlines operations, exploits revenue generating opportunities, and enhances customer service.
However, a PMS is a significant financial outlay for property managers, so how can they make the most of their solution?
1. Assess PMS Performance and Productivity
When choosing a PMS, have a clear understanding of how much time the PMS will save you, not just in comparison to manual tools, but also when compared to other systems.
Testing the PMS’s integrated architecture—the way in which one user action triggers a host of automated responses across the platform and your direct booking site—will give you a clearer idea of how much time the system will really save you and how intuitive it is to use.
In some PMS platforms, you can still get stuck doing a lot of the heavy lifting yourself. This happens because the interoperability and integration across the platform have not been thought through well enough.
In most cases, a decent PMS will typically perform three or four other related follow-on actions automatically for each user action. However, systems that employ powerful integrated architecture can often do eight to 10 follow-on actions—in many instances significantly more.
If one system is demonstrably more productive than another, then that’s the most important thing to look for.
2. Exploit KPI Information
As well as streamlining operations for property managers, a robust PMS collates a whole host of important and useful data. When accessing the dashboard, property managers can gain valuable insight into KPIs and other business performance metrics. But that doesn’t mean they’re checking them regularly enough or responding accordingly. Effective use of this data requires a regimented data management regime. If you don’t have one, it may mean you are not being proactive enough and are probably sacrificing valuable revenue.
This kind of financial information can also be vital to the owners themselves who want to be updated on how their properties are performing and to monitor nightly rates and real-time occupancy.
However, according to data analysis carried out on our customer base, only a third of property managers with fewer than 20 properties give owners a login to their owner dashboard, whereas 100 percent of our property managers with 100 properties or more offer owner login options to their owners. What’s most telling is that when offered the functionality, 80 percent of owners actively use it, and most of them do so via their mobile phones when they are on the go.
To get the most out of a PMS, property managers should exploit the data that is available to them and share relevant information with their customers via an owner login dashboard to instil trust in performance and make owners feel empowered and part of the journey. This level of transparency is essential both for establishing owner loyalty with owners and as a recruitment tool for growing your portfolio.
3. Train Hard and Fast
Once a PMS has been purchased, the first 30 days of learning the system is critical. Many users fail to make the most of this window of opportunity, and those who do tend to stop learning once this initial period is up. If they have selected a comprehensive platform, this means that they will only be exploiting 25 to 50 percent of the system’s capabilities, thereby significantly undermining their return on investment.
To avoid this trap, make a concerted effort to learn as much as you can about the PMS in the first 30 days and commit to continued, regular learning. As with all good software, leading PMS providers are continually updating their platforms, so additional training once a year for you and your team is something to consider if you’re going to get the most from it.
4. Choose Wisely
Shopping for a new PMS can seem overwhelming. No two platforms are the same, and the sheer volume of options available can make it hard to know where to begin.
Start by understanding what you want to get from your PMS and try to future-proof it by predicting what you may need as your business grows. For example, if you manage more than 10 properties or you expect to increase your portfolio, you will need a comprehensive system. If you already manage a large number of properties, you will need a system that can support enterprise-level needs from a provider that is continually innovating and not adverse to custom development.
But comprehensive feature-functionality on its own is not enough. Good platforms need to have modern-looking interfaces that are user-friendly. Overly complex systems with poor user experiences are always underutilized, for obvious reasons.
Look for providers that have flexible plans, or even customizable packages so that, as far as possible, you’re only paying for the feature-functionality you want. Otherwise, a comprehensive, rigid system will lead you to overpaying as the majority of features won’t be used.
As with any value-based solution that caters to complex needs, the service component of the PMS provider’s offering is key. Test this thoroughly during the sales process by requesting multiple demos and challenging the sales representative with detailed questions. This will not only help you to understand the technology better, but it will help you to test the provider’s service ethic—if the salespeople don’t invest their time in you, it is a good indication that the support team isn’t going to either.
Create a list of around five providers that can deliver the functionality you need; request multiple demos from each and make sure they demonstrate comprehensive feature functionality, ease-of-use, quality, innovation, customer service, and value for money.
Use these tips as your guide, and not only will you find a good PMS provider, you are almost certain to find the one that is right for you and your business.
5. Collaborate with Your Provider
Speak to your PMS provider! Good ones are always keen to collaborate with clients because they are constantly striving to improve their software, whether it’s a tweak to existing functionality, a small add-on feature, or a fuller solution.
However, when requesting developments, understand that if it’s not an update that will benefit the platform’s users at large then the work will likely need to be funded by you at a fair price. Experienced PMS providers may be protective of their systems and wary of accepting development requests that could jeopardize their platform’s wider user experience regardless of your willingness to pay. Beyond that, most understand that many of their best ideas come from their customers and are happy to receive suggestions.
Dave Payette is the founder and CEO of 365Villas, a vacation rental property management software.