How do you currently manage taking bookings for your tours? Many tour operators still use the tried and tested telephone booking process, perhaps incorporating email.
On the “front end”—the customer-facing end—a staff member needs to be on hand to answer the phone, take bookings, answer questions, reply to emails and phone messages, return calls, and process payments.
On the “back end”—in the office—bookings need to be manually logged and the customer details manually stored. You might need to email waivers to the customer for them to sign and return. There might also be other paperwork that needs to go back and forth via email, as well as customer support tasks.
At some point in the process, customer management and/or accounting software might come into play, or some tour operators still stick with good old pen and paper.
If any or all of this sounds familiar, it’s time to consider the benefits of an online reservation system. “But manual bookings have worked for decades,” some say. “If it’s not broken, why fix it?”
It’s true that manual bookings will enable you to sell and manage tour bookings. It’s not, however, the best or easiest way to sell and manage tour bookings if you want to be as successful as possible.
Here are a few of the advantages and disadvantages of online booking systems:
Online booking advantages
Let’s start with the checkmarks in the “pros” column. There are a lot more of those than “cons,” which is why so many tour operators are choosing online booking systems over the old manual booking ways.
1. Book tours 24/7
With an online booking system, you’re open for business 24 hours a day. Customers have the choice of booking when and where they want, without worrying about catching you during office hours when they might also be working. And you don’t need to worry about missing phone calls and losing customers to competitors who provide that more convenient 24/7 booking service. It’s an important part of many tour operators’ customer service these days.
2. Book more tours, faster
Online booking systems let you book more tours in less time. From a customer perspective, there’s no waiting on the end of the phone until a booking agent becomes available. From a business perspective, the tour booking process happens in the background while you attend to other tasks, such as planning new tours, improving your marketing, and spending more time with the customers who need that personal touch. And you don’t risk losing business to competitors because a potential customer can’t get through on the phone when they want to.
3. Automate key tasks
Online reservation software lets you and your staff work smarter, not harder. The right online booking system can let you automate or better manage a host of tasks and integrate with other processes, including:
- Reservations: Enable people to book tours quickly and easily
- Payments: Make it faster and easier to accept different types of payment
- Waiver signing: Automate this key tour operator process
- Customer relationship management: Collect valuable information about your customers
- Selling and redeeming gift cards: Add a new source of revenue
- Report generation: Better understand your business
- Provide insurance: Integrate with a service like TourShield
4. Provide a better experience for customers
As a tour operator, you’re in the experience business. That experience, for the potential customer, starts the moment they enter your website. Using an online booking system lets you provide a seamless reservations experience throughout the customer journey—from exploring your tours to booking and purchasing to checking in. There’s nothing worse than being on hold when you’re trying to book a tour you’re excited about. An online booking system tells customers you care about them and their needs from the very start.
5. Reduce costs and increase revenue
Depending on the size of your tour operator business, online booking software can save you staff costs by removing the need to have sales agents waiting on the end of the phone to take reservations. At the same time, you can make your staff more productive by enabling them to focus on tasks beyond just the day-to-day running of the business. This in turn can help you become more profitable, on top of the extra revenue potential of selling more tours through booking software.
6. Get paid faster
A major benefit of an online booking system is that you can make it easy for customers to pre-pay for activities and tours. Not only that, but because online booking systems remove delays such as backed up phone-lines, you can sell multiple tours at the same time.
7. Upsell more easily
Modern online booking systems make it easy to upsell to customers by offering add-ons or upgrades at the booking stage. Doing this online is much less intrusive for customers who might be put off by someone on the end of the phone trying to sell them something else at the time of booking.
8. Gain valuable business insights
Online booking systems can capture important information about your business, and make it easy for you to generate reports. The best booking systems provide easy access to essential reports, plus the ability to set-up customized reports and display data the way you want.
Online booking disadvantages
Like anything, using an online booking system has advantages and disadvantages. These are the two most common potential disadvantages of online booking systems expressed by businesses still thinking about making the switch to online booking.
1. Internet access is essential
It goes without saying that you can’t book online if you don’t have an Internet connection or reliable Internet access. If you sell tours in more remote areas, this could be one of the disadvantages of an online booking system. However, you can always provide a phone number as a back-up option for customers who don’t have reliable Internet.
2. How do you choose the right booking system?
Another potential disadvantage of an online booking system is choosing the wrong one. From a business perspective, the best online booking software can do much more than just take payments online. It can grow your business. It’s important to know your own business and needs when choosing the right online booking system. Most offer various features, but don’t assume features that sound the same are the same. Make a list of what you need done and find the system that best suits your needs.
These could include:
- Waiver management
- Customized reporting
- Mobile check-in
- A mobile app
The Rezgo booking system provides everything you need to automate key tasks, create efficiencies, and drive more bookings and revenue. Try a demo today to see the benefits of an online reservation system for yourself.
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