When you walk into a sandwich shop, you usually have a pretty good idea of what you want to get. You'll have preferences on bread, protein, veggies, condiments, and whether or not you want it toasted. You’ve had sandwiches before; you know what works for you.
The same can't always be said when we go looking for digital solutions for our business. That's especially true when the solution we're looking for covers things as important as online booking and inventory management. Here’s the problem: unlike sandwiches (which you've probably had thousands of in your lifetime), you’ve never tried online booking software before, so you don’t know what to expect.
It's hard to know what you're going to need out of your solution before you've even used it. Luckily, we've done that song and dance before. More importantly, we've even played the music (i.e., we built our own app), and that's taught us a lot about what companies are looking for when they start shopping for a reservation system.
So, in order to make your search a little easier, we've put together the 13 most common, most pressing, and perhaps most important questions that come up when we talk to people about our solution—questions you should definitely be asking of every solution you consider.
The first one is the most straightforward to ask. After all, the people on the other side of that conversation know you have to ask it eventually, otherwise they're never getting paid. The problem is, the answer isn't always straightforward.
First of all, most software providers will charge you different rates for different things; one rate for online bookings, another for offline bookings, and a monthly fee as a cherry on top, for example. Then, there are the pricing tiers, where online booking providers will gate off functionality behind higher price tiers, denying you access to the features you need unless you pay more.
Lastly, there are the providers that don't even bother to put their prices on their website, so you have to waste time calling them just to find out that their pricing structure won't fit your budget. Nice.
Look, we go into deeper detail about this in another blog post, so read that one when you’re done with this one.
We like to keep our answer as straightforward as the initial question. Here at RESMARK, we have three pricing options based on meeting the financial needs of our users:
That's it. No pricing tiers, no restricted functionality, no complex pricing structures. Just simple pricing, and full access for every client.
Remember, like, 150 words ago, when we mentioned that providers sometimes put restrictions on usage, based on the pricing tier you pay for? Well, this is one of those things. A lot of providers like to limit how many users you get. Or how many resellers/partners you can sign up. Or *shudder* both.
As a result, you’ll want to ask what allotment of users you get, so you can know beforehand whether the solution will actually field your whole team.
Now, you could, of course, just have a single user for everyone on your team, or put multiple employees under a single user. While that's an option, we advise against it, because having separate users allows you to track who made changes to reservations, and when they did it. Good systems will track everything, even down to a reservation simply being opened. That way, there's more accountability and transparency.
With RESMARK, you have unlimited users, unlimited resellers and partners, and you can even customize what privileges each user/reseller has, so no one can get up to mischief they shouldn't. It’s all included in the base price.
Obviously, a booking system does you little good if it doesn't move the payment from the guest to your account. How it gets there, though, varies by provider, so you'll definitely want to ask this one. Functionality varies, payment processor varies, and how you get set up varies. What we're saying is that there a lot of variables.
A good follow-up question, at least, for those whom it's a good follow-up for: “Do you work with PayPal or Stripe?”
Not every provider works with every processor. Some openly advertise a policy of BYOPP—Bring Your Own Payment Processor (it's totally a term people use, right?)—but most have one, or a small cadre of processors they work with. And not every provider can process card swipes. So if that's something that's critical, you need to ask.
Here's how our system works. Tour Operators will have to have a merchant services account arranged with their bank that allows them to conduct e-commerce. Our payment gateway (NMI) will connect with that merchant service account so that all transactions are done securely between the cardholder and the merchant (i.e. the tour supplier).
As for card swipes, that's where we lose a few points. We're working on the functionality to process swipes and the like, but we're not done with it yet. So, until then, we're living proof that nobody's perfect.
Let's face it—refunds happen. As much as we'd all like to hoard all the money given to us, sometimes you gotta give some back. The question is, does the reservation software make that easier or harder? A good number of them have simply built the functionality into the platform, but we stop short of saying everybody because as soon as we do, some provider will pop up that doesn't.
This is as simple as clicking "refund" on the booking in RESMARK. The funds will be returned to the credit card that was used for the transaction. With a refund process this easy, it leaves plenty of time to curse pandemics under your breath afterward.
This is apparently a big enough problem that some of our competitors have started advertising this functionality right on their websites. We're not sure who's not enabling discounts for their clients' guests, but we recommend asking just to be sure.
Yes. Were you expecting a more wordy explanation? Ok, you asked for it.
RESMARK provides capability for nearly every kind of discount. Among the discounts you can offer your guests are:
In other words, you have the flexibility to set discounts for nearly every kind of scenario, and you can set them manually or make them automatic. Plus, adding discounts is really easy to do. Not that we're bragging or anything.
As much as those of us in the U.S. hate to admit it, the world doesn't actually revolve around us. There are, in fact, other countries beyond it, with economies of their own. Who knew? Anyway, the unfortunate part is that sometimes digital solutions (not just online booking software) treat all figures and values as U.S. dollars (and only U.S. dollars), and can't accept currencies from other countries.
The reason for this is obvious: exchange rates fluctuate all the time, and none of us providers are bankers, so it's not necessarily a "quick fix" to build an API that calls an appropriate database so that the software always has accurate exchange rate information, so it understands what's equivalent to what, and how much money your guests are actually paying.
Whoops, you caught us. We were talking about ourselves there. RESMARK does not currently have the capability to distinguish between currencies, and as a result, assumes all figures entered into the system are US dollars and processes transactions as such. But hey, we never said we were right for everyone.
Here's an important one. For a lot of us in the industry, the experiences we offer come with some level of risk. Or rather, risk on the part of the guest, and liability on the part of the tour supplier. While we obviously do our best to mitigate the former, it’s also critical to manage the latter (at least, if you want to stay in business).
Now, paper waivers are just fine, but digital waiver signing can make your system contactless and paperless, and drastically reduces the amount of storage required to keep all of those waivers on file.
Thing is, not all event reservation software offers integrated waivers. And of those that do, several categorize it as a higher-tiered functionality. Getting it separately can sometimes be costly, and the lack of integration is a drag, so be sure you ask so you can get a system that includes it.
While we do sell WaiverSign (our online digital waiver system) separately, we don't do the reverse. If you're paying for RESMARK, you get WaiverSign, and it’s fully integrated. You can set reservations to require waivers, and can send automated messages to customers letting them know that they (and members in their party) will need to sign them.
Considering the tours and experiences we offer are pretty high-adventure, we've understood the need for waivers since the very beginning. That's why, when we built RESMARK, we made sure to include the functionality. We use it on a daily basis, and we figured a lot of our clients could benefit from it, too.
This is where a lot of providers get a slap on the wrist (including us; see below). While some software suites started as offline apps you downloaded on to the devices you wanted to use (much like, say, Quickbooks), that’s not really how any of them work now. As functionality expanded, though, and as the need for regular updates increased, things had to change.
The web-based application format that's used today facilitates some key elements that offline apps lacked. Functionality such as enabling your resellers to sell from your live inventory. At this point, providers are expecting that either everyone is already connected to the internet all the time, or that you’ll want the functionality badly enough to find a way to connect.
Unfortunately, you'll need to have access to the internet in order to use Resmark. There's a lot of features that require it, such as being able to process transactions, having unlimited users, and digital waiver signing. Plus, it allows us to continue rolling out new features regularly, without having to force you to buy a new version of the app.
To be fair, we do make it pretty easy. You can even run RESMARK on a mobile device, so even if you don't have a computer that's connected to the internet, you can simply use your smartphone. It’s not a perfect answer to the problem, but we do our best to make the app as accessible as possible.
Ok, this one is kind of an umbrella question that won't get you any real answer unless you dial down into specifics. If you just ask something along the lines of "How good is your customer support?" you're just going to get empty, positive responses. If, however, you ask questions like…
…You’ll get a better sense of how they’ll take care of you. Then, once you’ve asked these questions, look them up on review sites, and find reviews that specifically mention their support. This will give you a more honest representation of the quality of their service, and how agreeable their team members are when you call in.
Here are our answers so you can see these questions in practice.
Our business hours are 9 am to 6 pm MST, and you can expect full support during those hours. For emergencies and urgent messages, we have team members available from 6 pm to 2 am, and from 6 am through the workday. We also offer weekend support for urgent issues.
As a final note, all of our support team is US-based. We do not outsource this important part of our team.
We can be reached by email, in-app chat, our on-site contact forms, and by phone. With phone calls, typically we receive them by voicemail, and we respond to them same-day in the order they were received.
This depends on the urgency of the issue. For emergencies, we typically respond in less than 15 minutes, regardless of the contact method. For less time-sensitive problems, wait time depends on how many issues are in the queue, but we typically reach each client within an hour or two. And since you’re not waiting on the phone, you can continue working while you wait.
Nothing. Full support is included in the price of RESMARK.
On the same note, you can call in as many times as you like. We don’t limit your sessions, your hours with support, or anything else. If you need help, we’ll provide it.
Obviously, you don't want to be rebuilding your whole website just so you can add a "book now" button. That said, not every booking software is built to integrate easily. Add to that how you may have built your site from scratch or used one of the many platforms like Wix or Squarespace to do it, and integration can be downright complicated.
Most providers will have some form of integration; the question is just "how do I do it?" and the answer to that will vary. So ask them upfront.
We've worked really hard to make integration very simple for our app, and the results are the following two options.
Second, there's the RESMARK Shopping Page hyperlink. Just add the link to your Shopping Page on your website, and guests will be routed to your RESMARK page where they can do their shopping. For example, here's what Moab Adventure Center’s page looks like.
This is a question about analytics (and not just Google Analytics). Growing a business is hard if you can’t tell what's working and what's not. And while you can certainly track things by hand, having analytics built right into the system you’re using is the objectively better option.
Not all online booking platforms have reporting and analytics functionality, though. And some that do only have the capability to produce a few simple reports. More advanced features such as in-depth, nuanced reports and integration with Google Analytics are not standard. So before you commit to a platform, be sure to ask how deep their analytics well goes.
RESMARK has very robust analytics tools and full Google Analytics integration. We knew we wanted to be able to see where our bookings were coming from, so we baked the functionality right into the system. So whether you want to see your customer data organized by transaction date, order creation date, or product start date, we’ve got you covered.
This is a legitimate concern, especially in the wake of COVID-19, which has hit travel- and experience-related really hard. You don't want to start using a digital booking system, spend all the time and money getting things up and running, only to have the provider go under. It's essentially the business equivalent of losing your video game save file.
Answers are going to vary, but what you're looking for are signs of stability. Ask follow-up questions like "How long have you been in business?" and "Are you a startup?" Smaller providers without a parent company or alternative sources of revenue aren't necessarily deal-breakers, but they are red flags.
Ideally, you're looking for companies that have been around a while, that have multiple revenue sources, and/or that are decently sized businesses.
RESMARK Systems was started to meet the needs of two companies: Western River Expeditions, and Moab Adventure Center. Those two businesses depend on our online booking software to allow them to continue operating. Additionally, we sell WaiverSign as a standalone digital signature solution (and business is booming during the pandemic; more on this below). So our eggs aren’t all in a single basket.
Did we mention that our parent company Western River Expeditions has been around for 60 years? So, yeah, while we're not immune to hardship, we've got some solid foundation beneath us.
Speaking of pandemics, you may be concerned about that, either because you're personally worried about the spread of the virus, or because you want to accommodate guests who are. That’s fair. All other factors aside, no one really likes getting sick, and cutting down on the risk of spreading a highly contagious disease is always a good idea.
Part of that reduction of risk can be done by going "contactless" or "paperless" in your transactions. But how might a business achieve such a thing?
Ok, so maybe we're not the only provider who might say this, but our whole system is designed to be free of contact. Guests can make reservations online, check in via mobile (like, you know, the one they brought with them), sign waivers online or via mobile, and even provide reviews and testimonials, all without paper or physical contact.
While this obviously won't remove all the risk related to Coronavirus (you'll still need waivers to handle some of that), it will certainly keep you, your staff, and your guests safer, and that’s got to be worth something.
Whew! You made it to the bottom. Good work! But if we've done our part right, that effort should earn you the information you need to pick a tour booking solution that actually meets your team's needs. These 13 questions should serve as a solid guide, a yardstick you can measure providers against.
So go ahead, put your newfound knowledge to good use. And when you finally realize you liked us best, we'll be here to talk.