Hotel Juliani is a boutique property in the heart of St Julian's, Malta. Open since 2004 this 65-room property not only completed a major renovation in 2019, but also overhauled their entire tech stack, going fully cloud with most of their software.
We recently caught up with Georgios Rouvelas, General Manager of Hotel Juliani to find out exactly how the ROOMDEX upsell system is performing, why they love it so much, and what they would say to hoteliers who are currently using other upsell software.
How did you first find out about ROOMDEX?
Apart from being a hotel manager, I'm very much focused on technology and what I can find to help my team work better and spend more time with guests. One of the main reasons we moved to cloud-based systems was to have the flexibility of working with the best possible software that we can find. Our old PMS prevented us from using new services or new software, like revenue management systems, because it wasn't cloud-based. That's why we ended up choosing StayNTouch for the PMS.
Before 2019 we had occupancy of 82-84% throughout the year and at that rate, there's not much more you can do to increase your prices to maximize profits for the owners and the directors. So, it's the little things that count. One of the things we used to practice a lot with reception was to work on room upgrades, upsells, etc.
We had previously used other software in the past for this, but it involved a lot of work and too much time - emailing, going back and forth with the guest, and often the Front Desk team could not make a decision, so they had to ask me. One particular software, a CRM software that claimed they did upselling, allowed the guest to check on upgrade availability. The problem was that the guest would send a request, but availability was not live, so then you had to manually check, then often go back to them and say "Sorry, but actually the upgrade is not available."
Of course, this first impression is not nice - you have a guest that's all excited about upgrading his stay and then you're telling him, "Sorry, we don't have the room." But, even if we had the room availability, we had to go back to the guest with the new rate, the guests had to approve the rate, then we had to go back and change it in the system. The whole process was just too long.
So, when I came across ROOMDEX and heard it had a two-way interface with our PMS, it was a no brainer. When I introduced ROOMDEX upselling to my staff, they could not believe it. They could not believe they were actually seeing guests getting an early check-in, or a late check-out that was directly posted to the system. They were just so excited. The best part of it was when there was a room upgrade. My team did not have to reply to any questions. The guest could actually upgrade his room live, for themselves. The room upgrade happens directly on the PMS, and the room charge posts directly into the system. The staff were like, "Wow, I didn't do anything, and it's all there and done." This is when we knew we made the right decision about ROOMDEX.
Has ROOMDEX made your job, as a manager, any easier?
When you are a small hotel like us, you have to be flexible for your guests. When a guest asks you, face-to-face, for early check-in or late check-out, 90% of the time I would give it for free. We are a small hotel, with a small reception, we have strong engagement and rapport with the guest, so, when a guest comes to me a day before he checks out, and says "George, can I have a late checkout tomorrow", being a nice guy and to give the best possible service, I would say "If I have the room available, certainly -and, you can have it for free." I really don't want to have to say, "No" in those cases.
So, for 10 years we made no money on early check-ins and late checkouts because we were just too nice to the guests. We are not a chain hotel. I hate when I see comments from competitor hotels of mine when they say, "If you charge a guest for one-hour late checkout the guest will punish you. The guest has stayed with you for 10 days and he's asking you for a two hour late checkout. You cannot charge him."
Well, the good news is you can, and the experience is actually better for the guest. With ROOMDEX, the guest gets an email, finds a great deal on something they really want, and then they can purchase it immediately. The guest doesn't have to go through the embarrassing situation of going down to the reception to find me to ask, "Please George, can I have x,y,z?" Instead, the guest can just click if he wants late check-out and receive his confirmation. And instantly, he is no longer thinking of tomorrow and worrying about when he has to leave.
Similarly, for a guest who is arriving early, instead of asking, "What shall I do? Do I send an email?", the guest can receive and confirm their early arrival. And the guest is happier because they know, in advance, if there is availability. Many times, the guest doesn't even know that they can ask for stay extensions. They think it's a fact that you need to be out of room at 12 sharp! I have seen guests waiting with their luggage in the lobby because they have a late flight and I will approach and ask them, "Why didn't you ask us for a late check-out?" More often than not, they would say, "I know that you're busy, I did not want to put you in a difficult situation, I did not want to ask." It is clearly a burden on the guest to have to ask.
For us, we're more than happy doing this now and using ROOMDEX - it has been working great. Not only is it making us extra money, but it's also making us look good - we don't have to say no as availability is done for us.
So, you've been using ROOMDEX for over a year now. How has it been performing?
Since March or so, when Covid wound down, our return or investment in ROOMDEX - the little investment we have - is always in the region of 20x. For months like July, ROI was 25x, August, September was 22x. It's worth every penny. In times that we have less room availability, I thought that ROOMDEX would not perform as much, but it has performed similarly in the weeks or months with lower occupancy when compared to higher occupancy months as we are in now. Since June the hotel has been running at 85% occupancy. You would think that when we are full, we would not have much flexibility to offer early check-ins, late checkout or upgrades, but it has managed to deliver. I'm so happy when I see an upgrade happening because sometimes we need to fill in the gaps - and the system does it.
What would you say to industry colleagues who are currently using other upsell software or who might be considering upsell automation software?
Well, ROOMDEX is on the top of my list! The front desk does not have to spend an extra second upselling. I would recommend ROOMDEX 100% to any of my colleagues that are looking for a room upgrade software.
One of the other providers we previously used focused on upsells of "add-ons" - things like food baskets and chocolates. But this adds an extra service to the team. In the kitchen when they have to do breakfast and then I tell them, "Listen, make me a food basket," it adds extra work and pressure. For me, it is easiest and most profitable to sell early check-ins, late check-out and room upgrades. They are top of my list. You don't have to spend too much, if any, time on them. And that's where ROOMDEX is the best.
No other software so far has managed to do what ROOMDEX is doing for me. I want live availability - I do not want to show guests rooms that I do not have. I want to have live price information. If the rate is not coming from your system, you're not shopping live as I can do now with ROOMDEX.
Having said all that, colleagues of mine are still buying upsell software that doesn't have a 2-way integration and thus focuses on low margin upsells and the receptionist (or the person who has to answer these emails and requests) hates it. In small hotels, we do not have too many departments. My front desk people are doing so many things and we're trying to automate whatever we can for them. When you add more to their plate, they are going to ignore it or miss it and then the guest is going to be upset because nobody answered them. From now on, I'm only going for software that works two-way - the software will do the job for me and convert guests.
About ROOMDEX, INC
ROOMDEX is the technology leader in the hotel upselling software space. Its hotel upsell software automates, monetizes and ultimately simplifies the hotel room upgrade process by putting the power of choice in the hotel guest's hands.
ROOMDEX Upsell Automation uses hotel reservation, guest data and its proprietary True AvailabilityTM and Dynamic Pricing algorithms to deliver personalized digital offers, greatly enhancing the guest experience. The hotel upsell tool relieves hoteliers of the labor time required by other upselling solutions while delivering high margin revenue and a substantial ROI.
ROOMDEX is now the exclusive provider of ABS Upselling. Attribute-based selling re-imagines hotel inventory merchandising, delivering a unique and improved guest satisfaction and increased hotel revenue.
ROOMDEX leverages hotel operational and software experience gained by our team members while in leadership roles at companies such as MICROS (now Oracle Hospitality), Nor1, Duetto, StayNTouch and Shiji to develop our innovations in hotel automation, dynamic pricing, operational availability and attribute-based selling. Since founding in spring of 2020, ROOMDEX has signed hundreds of hotels across North America, Europe and Asia Pacific.