Communication services are essential to the majority of hospitality guests. Many business executives and travelers demand efficient facilities that can keep them in touch with home base. It is imperative for sophisticated hotel billing software to account for telephone charges, Internet usage, equipment fees, surcharges and taxes in real time.
Virtually every major hotel has some form of call tracking or call accounting software. The declining cost of telephone calls has seen a decline in revenue. Gone are the days when hotels could command huge margins for simply picking up the telephone. At one time, it was not uncommon for hotels to mark up telephone calls 80 to 100 percent. Sometimes your telephone charges could account for a larger cost than the room rate.
In the past, a decent hotel call accounting system would generally been left in the back room logging long distance call records from a PBX serial port. The system would apply exorbitant rates and post them to the property management system. Tariff updates from the manufacturer were usually ignored (since the updates usually contained lower billing plans).
Hotel telecom revenues are now declining at a steady rate of 3 to 6 per cent per year. Hotel general managers and comptrollers are forced to become more creative to meet bottom line objectives for communication. The traditional call accounting system cash cow now needs to be fined tuned to adapt to new technologies and market competition. The answer lies in the creative use of new call accounting modules or more appropriately a communication management system (CMS).
The proper utilization of a hotel call accounting system can still derive huge benefits. Guests that get busy signals will find alternate ways to make telephone calls. It is of utmost importance for properties to track the number of busy signals, overflow or blocked calls. This can be accomplished through the use of traffic reports that identify grade of service and peak calling hours. These reports often recommend the proper number of trunks or lines for the property to run smoothly.
Long distance calling has been declining for years. However local and toll free calls have been fairly steady. The use of billing thresholds can help increase revenue. Certainly a guest that talks for thirty minutes on a local call could be charged a small amount for facility usage. Some hotels have turned to adjusting room rates a fixed amount to compensate for lost telecom revenue.
The rise of internet usage has forced many hotels to provide free internet access. This has compounded the problem for the telecom department. Many guests and business travelers have found other convenient means of communication (IP services, instant messaging, email, cellular phones) that are not part of the infrastructure of the hotel property. The advent of flat rate VoIP providers has given the business traveler the ability to bypass toll charges. A modern communication management system should be capable of adding internet usage charges into guest folios.
Proactive hotel properties use call accounting reports to determine calling patterns that show where guests are calling. These statistics help the hotel target marketing and negotiate better tariff plans. Night auditors have always been asked to reconcile daily transactions. However most failed to reconcile the transactions against the actual telephone bill. Examining telephone company records versus the call accounting records helps to ensure that all calls are being recorded, billed and appropriately surcharged.
Many hotel call accounting systems are missing critical information. Often extensions are not identified correctly as guest rooms, conference rooms, VIP or administrative. This can result in inaccurate billing and lost revenue. Properties should ensure that their call accounting system is loaded and configured properly on a monthly basis. Most banner properties have a preset tariff table that is deployed among all properties. System administrators should ensure that all properties follow the same guidelines.
As more communication facilities are offered by the property, the communication management system will be required to account for hotel cell phones, calls made with authorization codes, internet service, hand held devices and other guest amenities.