Skylark Land & Homes LTD
No-win no-fee planning for residential plots
If you’re running a business that takes bookings, such as a B&B, glamping site or on-farm recreation (horse riding), your customers will now expect to be able to book, and often pay, online. Businesses that rely on taking bookings solely by phone (or email) will lose business to those that can make it easy for a potential client to confirm availability, book the accommodation or activity they want, pay for it and receive an email confirmation.
Choosing the right booking system for your business is vital. This is a decision you want to get right because moving from one booking system to another mid-season is very painful.
From experience, the costs of these systems are falling as competition increases. In fact, the monthly, or more often annual, subscription costs are likely to be under £150/year for a five-bed B&B or five pitch glamping/camping site. The more significant cost is your time; choosing the right system for you, setting it up, testing it and tweaking it as your business evolves.
Many providers of systems to this market have also spotted that their clients lack a basic website, so are including this feature as part of the basic package. That might be attractive, but of course, might mean that you are even more ‘tied-in’ to their subscription if you choose to change suppliers.
Choosing a provider
There is a huge variety of providers, but don’t be overwhelmed. Many provide similar features. It pays to do your research though. Ask them to identify three or four of their customers who are similar to your business in both scale and type. Call them and see how they like the system and what, in practice, are the pros and cons.
Systems broadly break down into two types. The most common are for ‘overnight’ accommodation owners, such as B&B’s. However, these aren’t suitable for on-farm activities such as horse-riding or paint-balling so, if you are running this type of venture, choose an ‘appointments’ type system that can handle time-of-day based slot booking. We haven’t yet seen a system that handles both types on one platform.
Some suppliers help you to integrate or connect with other platforms such as Airbnb, Pitchup etc. If this is important to you now, or in the future, ensure they have the right ‘connectors’ in place and what their charges are for connecting you.
Test, test and test again. Take advantage of the free trial periods offered by most suppliers. Set your system up following their tutorials or advice and then ask the supplier to review your setup. Get as many friends and relations as you can to create ‘test’ bookings before you go ‘live’. Then make sure you ‘wipe’ all these bookings off.
One of the major advantages of online bookings is that it helps you build a detailed customer list. Ensure the supplier allows you to download and re-use the data on your customers and that both you, and they, comply with the new GDPR rules.
When it comes to choosing the right system for you and your business, here is a useful checklist to ensure you are getting what you need out of the system:
See also: A guide to useful business apps
There are many suppliers and new ones seem to pop up every month but to get started these ones are more geared towards smaller tourism-based enterprises, take a look at:
And for an appointments-base system
If you are running an enterprise with many (10+) options for clients to choose from the list of suppliers increases.