I use multiple marketing methods. VRBO, Craigslist, My own website, word of mouth, newspaper ads etc. Inquiries come in a multitude of forms. My responses go out in a multitude of ways - from verbal to email, to a vrbo response, etc. Because Bookerville is used more as as an internal reservation, invoicing, tracking and calendar support software for m - and doesn't actually generate me leads, the only time someone gets into the database is when they have actually "booked" an actual reservation. Problem is that for every booking, I get 10 inquiries / leads.
Currently these are all being squandered as sources for future marketing. I have thousands of these full and partial contact leads that I would like to put in a marketing / tracking database. Even if it is just something as simple as seding a quarterly or semiannual email to. Maybe printing a mailing list for some marketing postcards.
Is there a way to enter / merge my existing files (possibly as a CSV or something) into the Bookerville system, and then use Bookerville in more of a customer database function?
John Amato, November 2, 2014:
Yes - pretty much on all counts. You can export all your guest/contact data from Bookerville by running the Export Guest List (Dashboard ==> Reports tab), and into a standard CSV file, which you can then use to import into just about anything else: Excel, Mail Merge, MS Access, or other CRM systems like MailChimp, Constant Contact, etc.
David if you have a list of customers you'd like to send me, hopefully in some kind of computer-readable format (CSV? XML?), then please do and I will see if we can get them imported for you. Usually we can do this...
John Amato, November 2, 2014:
David we are also gearing up to offer BookingPal as a consolidated channel manager. I know you are not a fan of that approach (which is why it is, and will forever remain, optional), but check here if you want to re-explore that: Booking Pal.
We also perform various "soft" integrations with Homeaway, VRBO, FlipKey, AirBnB, Holiday Lettings, and other listing sites, through calendar sync'ing (iCal export feeds), and of course our very, very popular Inquiry Auto-Responder.
It's worth noting that we are also in talks with HomeAway/VRBO to do formal integration, including calendar sync'ing, and things like rates, photos, property features/descriptions, etc. Initial discovery call went very well, so keep your fingers crossed...
RentJekyll, December 26, 2014:
My problem with Booking Pal, and the entire direction you (and VRBO, Flipkey etc) are taking is that you all have basically publically declared yourself to be my competition.
I am a Property Manager. It is MY job to get leads, handle reservations, customer interactions, customer complaints, customer inquiries, payments, bookins etc. There is a limited and finite amount of money available within the procees to be alotted to the area of things that are the realm of Property Manager responsibilities.
As a property manager I have potentially "X" number of customers (aka revenue streams / aka cash milking cows, aka rental properties). If I am a responsible and realistic property manager, that actually does a good job, then the maximum number of customers/properties I will ever be able to handle is a relatively small number. This is because there is a certain human interaction requirement with the guests, and maintenance issues, etc. Accordingly there are also geographical considerations - especially whn you look at things like maintenance issues / personal guest interactions. For this "X" number of properties to support me (and any staff) there is a bootom line dollar amount needed to come from each reservation. Because each reservation requires a certain amount of work.
What BOOKERVILLE, VRBO, FLIPKEY, PAYPAL (or BOOKINGPAL) or ANY OTHER internet site/software is - is a TOOL for ME to use as the Property Manager. My position (the property manager) is THE MOST important part of the equation - and if the position of property manager in the vacation industry goes away - then the whole experience suffers. The entire human population simply has yet another industry that has been automated, and jobs are lost, and human experience suffers and we have just something else to deal with an automated website with. Property Managers become nothing but low paid Walmart workers. Just local "customer service grunts" that take the headaches, the negative parts of the job...problems a guest runs into (a maintenance issue, questions about the restaurants and local activities, complaints about the neighbors etc) that are disposable. Eventually someone in India is handling those calls - but even more likely in a year or two it will just be some artificial intelligence interaction process.
IT USED TO BE int he software business, that people developed an honest piece of functional software and sold it. Then it was monthly/annual access useage fees to squeeze out more profit and gain broader marketshare. Now it is taking a percentage. More and more percentages. And more and more monoploistic industry saturation that eliminates competition. Less competition and higher commissions. And the Property Manager loses his job eventually, because the sheep of humanity become more and more acclimated to quick, cheap, automated, rotten service. People are used to expecting problems and having to accept what they get. After all - what good does it do to argue with Google, or VRBO. Soon it will be Bookerville, except Bookerville won't actually exist, because if I am guessing correctly, you know al this and are probably banking ont he fact you will simply get so big it will be easier for someone like Homeaway/VRBO to just buy you out in order to shut down the competition. And those of us that supported you,a nd built you, will just lose our livelihoods. The industry will lose any semblance of quality or human interaction. And humanity in general will just be one step closer to being enslaved by this technological beast we are creating.
No thanks John. I've informed my owners I am getting out no later than when my current contract with you expires late 2015. Ive advised them all to sell there investment rental properties, or expect much less int he way of profit margins as the industry leverages higher and higher blackmail monopolistic marketing fees. I'm putting the business for sale.
It is clear that all this talk of "Optional" improvements and enhancements is just becomng "code" for wedging a foot in the door until there is enough leverage break down the door of the Property Managers, and come in and plunder our customers. Basically - it is optional, until it is no longer optional. This heavy handed decision to contact OUR customers directly for reviews - without even asking permission or announcing it was being done - is pretty much the final straw with me. I have a small flock. Thousands of other property managers also have their small flocks. The Internet "Tool/Software Providers" could have made a decent living by taking a small annual subscription fee for their services, and still made a great living - huge profits (more than any property manager). But in this world, enough is never enough. Always gotta have more and more and take even the little that others have.
The writing is on the wall. Vacation Rental Property Management is the new Walmart, and since I have no intention of working as hard as I do for walmart wages, I'm getting out.
Niseko Boutiques, December 27, 2014:
Sorry David to hear you are getting out.
I take a completely different view and think these medium that you so dislike are opportunities to source new customers whilst paying significantly less commission to than that of a travel agent, at least where I am anyway.
I am a property manager (15 properties) first and foremost and secondarily book the properties on behalf of the owners as a supplementary income. Both do very well for me and recently I have seen what Bookerville is capable of, that being automated but fully personalised.
The leads created through the auto responders and through the ability to sync multiple external calendars to the bookerville system are increasing weekly and the time required to communicate with the customer reduced. This is how I want my business to operate which in turn helps me to be able to do the things that you mention in your post (maintenance, restaurants, activiites) - all of which add to the value of a customers experience. I have set up the email templates to say everything I want but I also edit every email based upon my dealings with the customers.
Before signing on with Bookerville, my business was constantly busy doing all these things manually that I can now do semi-automated. The time I have saved has meant my business has actually grown and I will have no issue growing it further now that I am using Bookerville.
Maybe my property management business model is different, but without customers I don't have a business at any rate anyway so it is important to secure the customers at properties I manage as opposed to properties others manage.
Yes, some internet based %% booking engines are eating away the $$ that customers spend but the fee charged is primarily charged to the customer and the commission paid to such booking engines much smaller and in the realm of 3-4%. This is something that I am totally happy to pay if it means that they can book directly with me the next time they visit.
This is the way the industry is going too, but so is every industry and although I too love the personalised nature of our industry, the technology to make other business experiences even greater through systems like channel managers for bookings and auto responders for communication is a very positive step for the industry as a whole and one that good property managers will thrive in.
RentJekyll, December 28, 2014:
I would love to hear about booking engines that charge in the realm of 3-4%. I am not aware of anything that actually "produces" leads that charges in that realm. I mean - I can find a bunch of fly by night websites that promise leads.... but lets face it, the field of actual viable lead generators is dwindling rapidly as the monopolization of web marketing continues.
In regards to the benefits of Bookerville - that I signed up for - there is no question whatsoever that the interactive calendar, reservations database etc are of great value. Saves a lot fo time etc. What John has created is marvelous. No one is arguing that.
But all of my original concerns stand. And I am sort of sorry I am getting out also. But I know a lot of realtors that are sorry they have been permanently displaced, factory workers, etc. Doesn't change he fact that times are a changing. What I am most sorry about is that I really was hoping that Bookerville was positioning itself to be something that sort of reversed the trend and put power back into the hands of the industry it supported, without creating a vehicle to eventually aid in the ongoing destruction of that industry. I don't necessarily blame John for following hte herd and developing something that will eventually be positioned for a buy-out.
And while I respect your view point, I'd still have to see this source of 3 - 4% booking resources actually producing leads before I believed it. I am aware of what is out there, and I am aware of where my leads come from, and I don't believe such low cost marketing resources exist anymore (that actually produce) - except maybe Craiglist, which still has some marketing value. But I welcome you sharing this resource with all of us - which I would if I knew of any - because I would happily support any new venture that would lessen the monopolistic impacts of Homeaway/Flipkey etc - and I think supporting something like what you speak of is something everyone should do - and the more support - the more competition, and the greater savings to the property manager community.
As a matter of fact, and even better, if you are aware of a marketing vehicle that actually produces leads at a 3 - 4% fee - then you should let John know about it and he should incorporate those companies. Because surely that would be better than the 8 - 18% fee I am under the understanding that BookerPal charges.
RentJekyll, December 28, 2014:
PS... I stand corrected because it seems Flipkey does do the 3% thing. I must admit I haven't revisited some of these sites lately as they produced nothing the 1st time around - although it has been a while. What this is really all about is that I am angry about my customers being contacted directly, and I am angry that the entire industry is being moved into an automated process in which owners are increasingly going directly with automated services. I am angry that the entire world is being automated,and I am angry that most people can't see how this all ends very badly. I really have nothing more to say. I just want to sell this business and get out. And for the record - I run a very very high occupancy rate, work hard to achieve it, and my owners take home on average 20 - 30% more profit each year than those of my competitors. So this isn't a bitter rant due to unsuccess. Its just frustration at the death of jobs and industry and customer service and personal interaction. Honestly I would rather pay a data entry secretary and have her earn a living that automate another process. Somedays I really can't understand what people don't get about this trend. I liked Bookerville because it was well done, robust and powerful and flexible - but stayed OUT of MY business. And honeslty my biggest beef is Homeaway/Vrbo. It is a behemoth that is absolutely out of control - sort of the Google of Vacation Rentals. Anyway, sorry for the rant but I am done.
* and last word.... I really don't care about what anyone thinks - the TREND is that Property Managers are being phased out, and whittled down. I am not saying it is 100% there yet - I'm just saying it is coming, and the only hope this industry has is if someone has the courage to create a set of tools that allows us to compete anainst the mega-monoploies that are being spawned onthe Internet. NOW I am done. Sorry John, I won't dredge this up anymore, although I still don't want my customers contacted for reviews.
John Amato, January 6, 2015:
David - why didn't you contact me about the Guest Review emails? You're obviously pretty worked up about it (among other things), but I don't recall any email or phone call about it?
John Amato, January 6, 2015:
There are a host of other things you have mentioned here, and I frankly don't have time to address all of them comprehensively.
I think a big part of what you're seeing is that software companies have found cheaper, more effective ways of obtaining sales leads than was ever possible before the internet. Google has turned this into a science, and without any significant competition on the horizon, they stand poised to reap the benefits for some years to come.
I will say David that the listing site space is becoming more competitive, and I believe that eventually this will cause commission rates to drop. It will find an equilibrium between what end consumers (guests) are willing to pay, and what owners and property managers can live with.
That said, I remain puzzled at your disdain for listing sites. Are they cutting into your ability to obtain bookings?