NB: This is a guest article by Mario Mucalo of iTravelSoftware.
There are more than 100 travel solutions on the market. Literally! It is not easy to find the one that best suits your needs. It is a process that requires time and dedication.
So, here are eleven important steps that can help you find appropriate one.
1. Prepare the list of the features that you would like to have
It is not that important that a travel solution has all the features you can imagine, it is far more important that it has the features you need.
So, think about your everyday processes, which are the most difficult and time consuming, and make a list:
- Reservation management
- Quoting, Invoicing
- Posting payments to the system
- Communication with the clients stored in the system
- Tracking accounts receivable/payable
- Reporting (try to figure out what reports you really need)
- Online booking (B2C), integration with website and level of customization
- Sub-agent booking (B2B)
- API (or some other type of extensibility)
- Product types (accommodation, rent-a-car, transfers, tours, air-tickets ...)
- Integration with accounting system
- Integration with your local Payment providers
- Integration with 3rd party suppliers
A common thing is that people are looking for a software solution without realizing what it is they need the solution for.
2. The online presentation is OK, but try the demo before buying
Not few customers told us that they had decided to buy the software after seeing the brilliant fancy online presentation. Later, when they purchased the software and tried to solve some common situations they have in real life, the software was not able to do that.
While listening to the presentation, remember that the salesmen on the other side are trained to do the presentation. Ask them questions about your specific needs and let them show you that their solution can really meet them.
The online presentation is good, because you can see whether the person on the other side understands your business model. If not, their solution will not help you.
Ask for a demo version, and try the software yourself. If you are having problems in the demo, ask the sale person to show you how to do that, to help you and to do a presentation of that specific issue for you, do not just dismiss that solution. We often find that the problem is misunderstanding how to use the software.
3. There is no travel solution that covers 100% of your needs
Do not lose your time by trying to find the software that covers 100% of your needs. It does not exist. Although all tour operators and travel agencies have similar business models, they are all specific in some way.
There is no ideal solution that covers all the specifics, so try to concentrate on finding the solution that can cover the key features and problems.
5. Customizable solutions are a plus
There is no ideal solution. If you like a solution, but think there are some features really important for you that is missing, ask the sale person if there is a chance to customize their solution towards your needs.
If possible, describe your needs and cooperate with their team to create a specification before purchase. Do not expect them to do the modifications for free, remember – they are doing that for you.
6. Check the support; you do not want to end up biting your fingernails when something goes wrong
Check the support working hours and response time. A lot of travel agencies are moving to another solution because they are missing someone on the other side answering and helping them in time.
It is OK to pay for the support in advance because you are helping the other side allocate the appropriate number of persons dedicated to help you.
7. Do the training, otherwise you might be improperly using something
Training is one of the most important things when buying the software. If you and your employees do not do the training, you will probably end up throwing that solution away.
We have noticed some prospects think that their IT knowledge is great and that they will figure out how to use the software, especially if the salesman is telling them their solution is user friendly.
But remember, it is not about your IT knowledge. It is about transforming your business process (that are often custom) to the software processes and it is easier to get help from experienced personnel than improvising on your own.
Some software companies have the training included in the price and some of them do not. That is not important. The most important thing is that you get trained by their personnel with suggestions about implementing your business processes into their solution.
8. Check out their references, there must be someone else using the same solution
The best way to check whether what a salesman is telling you is true is to check with some of their existing customers. Ask the sale person to show you their customer lists.
Please try to pick some of the references, do not SPAM the entire list.
9. Pricing is important, but not that important as you might think
Although you think pricing is one of the key factors, in some cases it might not be. You do not wish to change the software every year or two because it is very expensive to do so, so think of the software purchase as a long term investment.
It will be the best to find the solution that is constantly being improved and that is being developed at least as fast as your company.
Remember to concentrate primarily on the value you are getting, and then on the price you need to pay, as described in a blog post by Ivana Hitner or a Tnooz article by Rob Wortham.
10. Plan the time for doing the evaluation
It is important to do the evaluation properly, because if you skip some of the important steps when doing it you might end up losing a lot of money by running into dead end.
Try to think on the evaluation as something as at least as important as your every day job, so take the time to do the evaluation properly.
Create the team for evaluation. More persons can evaluate the software more thoroughly.
11. Moving data from old software
If you are not already working with a software system then you can skip this but that is probably not the case. If you are already working in some kind of travel software system you will probably want to keep the old data (customers, reservations, payments ..) and import them into new software.
Ask the sale person about the import features and how can they help you to move without any problems.
To sum up – finding the software solution for running a travel agency or a tour operator is not an easy task. It is a project that requires a lot of planning, research, resources and communication with various sales teams.
However, if you are careful and thorough in this step, you can find a solution that will make your daily business much more efficient and thus save you a lot of money.
NB: This is a guest article by Mario Mucalo of iTravelSoftware.
NB2:Select software image via Shutterstock.