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Free Tools to Make a Hotelier's Job Easier

Dec 30, 2021

Hotels with smaller staffs and limited budgets sometimes need help when it comes to finding inexpensive resources to support their business operations. Hoteliers need user-friendly tools that are flexible and customizable to meet the needs of their properties and to help them  become more organized and maximize productivity. Today there are several free options available to help with creating business form templates, facilitating staff communication and collaboration opportunities and maximizing marketing efforts.

While it is very important for all hotels to invest in technologies to help manage their properties, guest service, reservations, back office, and many other facets of running a hotel business operation, there are additional tools available to help hotel teams communicate with guests and with each other internally to keep the business running smoothly. Many even allow teams to collaborate and share information when needed, without adding time-consuming manual tasks and paperwork.

Below are some resources for use in hotel properties. They are just a small representation of what is available for both free and paid services to support your hotel property. We are not endorsing any one of these services, but do encourage you to research those that may be of interest for your team and your property. As always, make sure to vet any options to make sure they are right for your business and are approved by your security or management team.

Stop, Collaborate and Listen

One of the most inefficient uses of time is trying to track down other team members or departments for information needed to fill a request or book a room or event. By utilizing options that facilitate the sharing of information and organization of processes, hotel teams can access information without having to wait for a response from someone else – as long as each team member keeps their information updated. Staff members can benefit from organizational tools that help them clean up their email boxes, securely store passwords and integrate multiple email and storage accounts for easy access.

Unroll.me is a free service that can help clean your inbox in a matter of minutes by pulling all subscriptions and allowing you to unsubscribe from any or all unwanted emails at once. It also allows you to combine those regular emails that you do want to keep in one digest called, "The Rollup.”

Dashlane is a resource that manages your passwords and personal data and stores them in an encrypted online vault. By using a master password to access the service, it is able to provide password information for you when you need it. Additionally, it sends security alerts when another party tries to access any of your password-protected accounts.

Microsoft Remote Desktop allows users to access files on one computer from another computer or smartphone. Access like this comes in handy when the user is traveling, working remotely or from home or is in an area of the property away from their desk.

There are several file-storage tools available today as well. Hoteliers and managers can access documents from anywhere.  These services allow team members to store large files and grant access to other team members so they can access the same files.

With file-hosting services like Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive, users can store files in the cloud, as well as share and synchronize files. Users of these services send the recipient(s) a link to the folder or files with no need for attachments or physical storage like thumb drives. With OneDrive, users and their teams can collaborate in real time using other apps within the Microsoft Office family. Those who use Google Drive have the ability to collaborate and edit the same files as well. Both of these services allow users to scan documents using their phone – items like receipts or business cards – and then store them for later use. With either service they can access, edit and share files in real time without taking up space on their computers.

Zapier moves information automatically between different applications and allows users to connect many of the services they use every day. They can integrate all email boxes, Dropbox accounts and Slack activity (a communication and messaging platform that also allows file sharing and chat options) into a single area for easy access. For example, Zapier can copy an attachment from Gmail, send it to Dropbox and then alert the user in Slack. Services like Zapier automate tasks, saving time and boosting staff productivity.

A few other companies that provide free options for task and team project management include Asana, Trello, Basecamp, and Podio. These are all easy-to-use resources for your team to stay productive, be more efficient and accurate and, most importantly, save time to focus more on the guest.

And Then There's the Guest

While many of the tools we have mentioned focus on staff organization and collaboration, we mustn't forget the guest. There are other free resources available that, when combined with the right systems on property, can help with guest service, booking and loyalty. Some of these tools can optimize your website and some can enhance your marketing efforts, both of which can result in increased bookings and improved satisfaction when used correctly with the technology the hotels have in place.

When we think of a "heat map," many of us think of a weather map far ahead into next year, but when we look at Hotjar, these maps take on a whole new meaning. Hotjar is an example of a free service that uses heat signatures and data visualization on your property's website to show what pages people are visiting and where they are spending the most time. It does this by showing variations in color and visual cues about usage in specific areas of the website. It helps hoteliers and their marketing teams learn when images, text or other content has been effective in catching the interest of potential guests.

Another tool hotels can use to keep visitors on their website is Picreel. When potential guests are about to leave your site, it generates pop-ups and special offers in the hopes of booking conversions.

Additionally, there are several options for monitoring social media pages as well as optimizing marketing efforts. For those who do not have access to creative services, options like Pixlr allow hotel teams to edit photos, add filters and create unique designs on a phone or desktop for free. Pixlr provides several templates for video channel banners, social media posts and other marketing materials when a hotel doesn't have access to a large marketing team, agency or graphic designer.

Additionally, not all properties have access to online forms, and not all systems provide them. One site that hosts a wide variety of forms available for free download is Jotform. The site provides hotel forms in various styles that can be customized with logos, property or room photos and other elements. Available forms include reservation forms; booking forms; hotel, conference or event registration forms; payment forms; customer service forms, including surveys; and several other business form options. Hotels with limited budgets, or those that prefer not to pay the fees associated with booking sites, may want to try  using their own booking forms like those mentioned above. By using these templates to create their own booking pages, hotels can accept booking requests directly. They can select a template, customize it to the style of their property and embed it on their website. The forms can then be linked to multiple apps or property systems to help integrate their workflow and can even be connected to the payment gateway of their choice to collect fees.

There are hundreds of options for monitoring and optimizing social media pages, so research those that serve the channels that your property uses most and find the best ones for you. One example is LikeAlyzer. Especially useful for  hotels just getting started on Facebook, this tool provides a detailed analysis and makes suggestions for how your hotel can get more likes on its page and posts. It evaluates your page performance, makes recommendations for updates and provides a comparison against other hotel pages. Various other free tools have the ability to analyze followers, patterns and traffic and improve customer engagement by suggesting the best times for tweets or posts.

What Does "Free" Actually Mean?

While the options mentioned are “free,” some have paid upgrades for more variation and flexibility in the services provided, and others may have limits on storage size, number of users or the length of the agreement.

This piece is just a snapshot of some of the free options available to help your hotel team with productivity and guest engagement when faced with limited resources. With staffing shortages and supply chain challenges, hotels need to get the best bang for their budget and put tools in place that optimize what and who they have on hand. By selecting the right tools for your property – free or otherwise – and combining them with the hotel systems you have in place, you are on the right track.

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