Accounting/Billing Automation and Collections

Accounting/Billing Automation and Collections

At this very moment, pasty, hollow-eyed hermits around the country are emerging like cicadas, ready to slather on some SPF 50 and breathe the sweet air of freedom. 

The hospitality industry has never been through anything quite like this. We’ve dealt with explosive demand and high occupancy before, but never after an entire year of uncertainty, extreme cleaning measures, and everything else that went along with the pandemic. All we know for sure is that a tidal wave of guests is headed our way.

In this environment, doing more with less takes on a new meaning. Guests don’t care about your staffing shortages, frustrated owners, and cash-flow challenges. But how do you deliver a superior guest experience when you’re spread so thin?

By minding the details, especially as it relates to accounting and billing.

The More-With-Less Fallacy

Pick any business anywhere, and people will tell you they’re doing more with less. Less budget, fewer personnel, less direction, etc. Technology has made it possible for small teams to be insanely productive, and in many ways, that’s a good thing.

But in every workflow, there’s a breaking point. As our attention is divided, and divided again, little things start to slip through the cracks. Suddenly, “doing more with less” becomes doing less with less.

For decades, we’ve heard that time management is the key to productivity. But a recent article in the New York Times suggested that attention management is where it’s at, defining it as, “the art of focusing on getting things done for the right reasons, in the right places and at the right moments.”

Obviously, if your attention is already divided, then making sure the small things get done for the right reasons and at the right time becomes nearly impossible. Sure, you could hire someone to take care of time-sensitive background tasks, but there may be a better way.

Automations to the Rescue

In 2021 and beyond, the key to making sure routine tasks are done accurately and on time is through automation.

Basically, automations use triggers to set one or more actions into motion, sometimes called “if this, then that.” Both OTAs and direct bookings hook into your PMS, so virtually anything that happens in your PMS could be a trigger that instantly generates an email, a work order, a calendar item, and so forth. Taken together, these individual steps form an automated workflow.

Many common triggers are related to email marketing, such as a sequence of emails that go out once a user completes a form. But more sophisticated workflows that depend on data from your PMS can be tricky, and often require yet another third-party tool like Zapier or ITTT to work.

The idea is to slowly unroll a virtual red carpet for your guest from the moment they book.

Let’s take a look at a typical guest journey and how automated workflows can help you stay on top of business-critical activities.

Pre Arrival

After a guest books, a number of things already happen automatically, such as an e-mail confirmation or “things to do” emails from the OTAs. But there are other opportunities for you to add value and service, such as:

  • Assign specific charges or fees based on reservation type or unit
  • Alert accounting if travel insurance was added or removed
  • Surveys or special requests
  • Security deposit/balance reminders
  • Pre-arrival checklist
  • Guest portal invitations
  • Unit-tailored work orders (e.g. hot tub or grill cleaning)
  • Early check-in upsell opportunities

Though it’s never a good idea to inundate your guests with messages, it’s always better to err on the side of overcommunication. Anything that makes your guest feel welcome, informed, and special is going to score you brownie points before they even arrive, setting the stage for a rave-worthy experience.

Check In/Post Arrival

Once your guest is on-premise, email communications become less useful and immediate. This is why the best post-arrival workflows use texting and other mobile-friendly methods to communicate in real time — all while your focus is elsewhere. Examples of post-arrival automations:

  • “How is everything?” messages with easy response options (which can trigger other automations) and contact info
  • Links to area services, activities, menus, etc.
  • Occupancy notification to housekeeping
  • Updating rates and calendars for early departures or extensions 

The key here is to be welcoming, straightforward, and timely. Once they get settled, they don’t want to hear from you for a while — but they may need to reach you, so make it easy for them.

Post Departure

If you set expectations properly, delivered great value, and communicated well, your guests will be riding a wave of positivity out the door. This is a great time to reach back out and put the final brush-stroke on your guest-service masterpiece:

  • Thank you text or email, perhaps with a final receipt
  • Post-departure survey
  • An invitation to post a review to your best-converting platform
  • Notifications to housekeeping that the property is ready for cleaning

The Bottom Line

In general, the more automated your accounting and billing system, the better your chances of capturing maximum revenue. Typically, automated workflows won’t be adding or subtracting fees on their own without a living, breathing person involved, so it’s more about timely communication between you, your guests, and your back office.

But timely communication is hard when you’re already wondering how you’ll get through the coming busy season — likely one of the busiest in recent memory. It’s hard to overstate the impact that software and automations can have on your efficiency and sanity.

Maybe the workflows you could automate don’t seem that time-consuming, but little time savings can really add up, especially if you have dozens or hundreds of properties. Dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s for every guest, every time would be a monumental task for even the most organized person. 

Automations like the 1.2 million combinations available through Track help ensure the right boxes are being checked even while you sleep, helping you focus on all the things you wish you had more time for.