Keep it Simpler

What are the trade-offs with a free hotel Software?

Wouldn't it be great if there was a simple and free hotel management software to help you run your small hotel?

After all, your operations aren't that complicated, or at least you don't want it to be. Or maybe you are just starting and are wisely trying to save costs. Surely, there should be free systems out there.

There are. But there are also trade-offs. Let's talk about them briefly using a little boat analogy.

The trade-offs

1 - Completely free but no incentive to keep it updated

Think of your hotel software as a boat in a river. You ride this boat to travel to beautiful and hopefully profitable destinations. The boat must always be moving forward, propelled by a good engine, otherwise it would drift aimlessly wherever the current flows.

To keep that engine running smoothly, the makers of the boat need sufficient financial incentives or they simply won't have the resources nor the motivation to provide the necessary support. If that happens, you would be left paddling on your own. Such a situation usually ends up costing you more in time, energy, and lost opportunities.

And just like the boat makers, there must be good enough incentives for the software maker to keep providing updates. So you will never be at risk of being left alone. For hotel software, continuous updates means new features, fixes to issues and ongoing support when you have questions.

Software that is completely free needs to look for that incentive somewhere else. This can be rather obscure instead of a simple, clearly recognisable subscription fee. Sometimes, this obscurity even leads to privacy concerns as the maker is incentivised to sell your information instead. For as they say, "If the product is totally free, then you are the product".

Now, what if you are in no hurry to get to any particular destination? Like the boat analogy, perhaps you just want to enjoy the view. Take it slowly? Then there is less of a need for an engine that is constantly updated, right?

Yes, for a while. Until you realise that you might have drifted into risky territory.

Hotel software is just like a boat that needs good upkeep. Failure to do so risks vulnerabilities, degraded performance and higher fuel costs.

Even if there are no new sparkling features needed, the existing version that you have is under constant threat of security vulnerabilities and incompatibilities with changes to the internet at large. Including the browsers you use to access it. So once again, if your software isn't moving forward, it's actually drifting away.

Therefore, you might find software that is completely free, but it usually comes at the risk of lacking continuous updates and support. And there is a risk that what you save in fees, you end up paying more for in time, energy and opportunity costs.

2 - Free but limited in time (as in free trial only)

Continuing the boat analogy, you might find a vessel that is free to use, but only for a short period. This might be good for a brief holiday, but you can't really get to know the boat. You won't have the chance to grow with it.

In the past, I was part of a team that deployed a Customer Relationship Management system (CRM) to a large client. I realised that they achieved the best results when the systems grew with the company.

The company was able to immerse themselves fully with the system and at a pace that is comfortable for them. This led the company to carefully evaluate the supporting human processes needed to set up the system — and themselves — for success.

Examples of supporting human processes include how each department talks to each other, how they escalate issues, what checks and balances are in place, which roles need to be altered, or new ones created.

A free system that is limited in time creates pressure to rush changes to these processes. I'm not saying we should introduce a long delay, for we should definitely move as fast as is reasonable. But the free trial duration shouldn't be the main reason behind the speed of changes.

Rather, we should plan the roll-out of these systems based on what is best for the company, not based on an arbitrary free trial period.

Furthermore, changes to these human processes aren't immediately obvious. And it could take many months of experimentation before the company arrives at the optimal setup. Don't deprive yourself of that chance to experiment. Worse, trying to rush these new processes can sometimes lead to more chaos and the staff rejecting the new system.

A time-limited free trial is a good start. But do not let it dictate how fast you make changes to the organization that will use it.

3 - Free but needs too much workarounds and lacks support

Or perhaps the system is indeed free with no time limits. However, there could be significant limitations in features such that you don't really derive much value from it. Or you have to resort to confusing workarounds.

"No problem, it's only a few extra steps that the staff need to do." One might say. But this could lead to costly mistakes and missed opportunities. Every minute that staff is wasting on workarounds is time that they are not using towards the improvement of the hotel.

For our small hotel's system, before we built 1Day, we tried a free/low-cost plugin for the popular WordPress platform. After a few months, I realised we were spending so much time on things such as correcting input errors. And it was always a struggle to convince the staff to keep using it. In the end, we decided that it was not worth the effort.

And then there's support. If there is no financial incentive for the software maker, it would be rather difficult for them to sustain high quality personalised support. You might end up having to google your way to resolve issues on your own. Think about how much time that would cost.

And as hoteliers, we expect the kind of customer support that genuinely listens and doesn't just throw templated answers at us. We expect support that truly empathises with our problem and thinks proactively about solving them even before we know it. Customer support that makes us feel at home while using the software day in and day out.

Software that makes staff feel at home, adds one more propellant to making guests feel at home too.

Consider carefully if the free software will require you to have to do too many workarounds. Though some workarounds are okay, make sure it doesn't cost more in time than the value you are getting. And what is the level of support that you get for free? It would be a good idea to send the software provider with a few support inquiries to see how they respond.

How 1Day is different

Perhaps we've over-used the boat analogy, but since we've made it this far, let's stick with it =)

If it were a boat, 1Day is offering free use and no time limits. And instead, charge only once you've reached some mileage. That is, once you've reached a certain level of bookings in a month. This ensures that you get value out of the experience first, and at your own pace.

We don't rush you into trying out all aspects of the software. You can use the system for free for as long as you like within the threshold, and only when you are ready to accept more bookings will the charges start.

We also don't limit the basic features, even on the free tier. Though advanced features won't be available until you upgrade, the basic features should be enough to operate your small hotel with ease.

Needless to say, 1Day does not rely on advertisements and will never sell your information to 3rd parties. Our free tier is supported only by subscriptions to the paid plans.

How can 1Day make this work? The key is in the simplicity. By not trying to be "all in one", 1Day is able to avoid the extra costs caused by complex systems. And by not trying to be "software for all", 1Day is able to bring laser focus on small hotels.

This directly translates to higher efficiency at lower costs. Enabling 1Day to offer a free version while still providing continuous updates and support.

Give 1Day a spin and you might just find what you are looking for. Click here to sign-up for free.

Or is there something else in your mind? Perhaps something you agree or disagree with? Please say hello by clicking on the chat button to the right.

Posted by 
Ian
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Keep it Simpler.