Is overbooking a sign of marketing success, process failure or just bad luck?
There’s a real stigma attached to over/double booking. Why?
In these days of litigious customers and a compensation “culture”, it’s no wonder that small businesses err on the side of caution. These valid concerns appeal to our most human of instincts: fear. Yet when you de-construct the problem, it’s not as bad as looks!
Most businesses need to maximise their chances of getting bookings and the most effective place for this is online. The more places you can be found and booked, the more bookings you are likely to attract. But by increasing your exposure online you may also increase the risk of double booking.
Many businesses have held back from maximising their online advertising for fear of double or overbooking. There must be thousands of lost bookings every night because businesses don’t feel confident offering their full availability.
So if you sell across a variety of places online (i.e. channels like Booking.com, Bed & Breakfast websites etc.) then you need to ensure various systems are kept in sync. It’s time consuming and can be a stressful process.
One option is to show only a selection of rooms on each channel, so they are distinct and when they run out they can’t overbook. It’s not very efficient and you need to know what channels will sell what rooms best and when.
Another solution is to have your booking system linked to your various sales websites (or channels), so that your one diary keeps all the other channels up-to-date. This means any phone bookings you add to your diary update all the channels and any website bookings automatically appear in your diary. This technology is usually called “channel management”.
When you consider the benefits of extra exposure, additional bookings and time saved updating various sites – not to mention the end of all that worrying – channel management can represent great value. Ideally you want a channel manager that works with the key channels, is flexible and isn’t too expensive. There are some clever “pay-as-you-go” options available where you pay according to the number of bookings you receive.
This technology can free up a lot of time and allow you to disappear for the odd week (or longer) without having to take the mobile phone and diary with you!
Even if you don’t go for any of the above options, I would stress that the fear of an overbooking should not stop you selling your rooms.
After all, the definition of overbooking is the deliberate practice of hotels to take more bookings than they can accommodate in order to avoid empty rooms, on the basis that there will be no-shows and cancellations.
This is hardly a claim that could reasonably be levelled at a B&B or guest house. Most customers, if contacted quickly, will understand that with modern technology it’s a rare possibility and not a result of negligence or greed on your part.
That’s a different story if you are a large hotel that regularly overbooks and then “bumps” or “moves” a customer on arrival and just blames someone else! Been there and got the scars to show it!