This is a short article to describe what our channel manager is able to do.
In a simple summary, iBex can automatically update your availability on connected channels when a booking is received from any source, be that manually input via the phone, from your website or from another channel. Any channel bookings are automatically downloaded and assigned to a room, you will receive an email rather than a fax as notification. Rates for the long or short term are managed in iBex, meaning you only have one central point to do this, rather than logging in to each channel extranet and make changes individually.
Let's make things simple and start by explaining what it can't do:
- Cannot create new rooms or rates in a sales channel that are not there (with the exception of Laterooms).
- Cannot update room descriptions / room or property images / rate inclusions from iBex into any sales channel
- Cannot update payment policies, cancellation policies, child or pet policies from iBex into any sales channel
- Cannot accept amendments or cancellations to bookings which pre-date our interface to that channel being set live
These all have to be maintained at the individual channel's extranet level.
So, what can we do in Channel Manager?
To make iBex work with sales channels, we effectively map rates and inventory from one room type in iBex to a room type in the channel. For this reason you need to have the same room types at channel level as you have in iBex. It's extremely helpful if the room type names in your sales channels are the same as those in iBex when we come to do the set up.
Once connected to a channel, we can push the price of a given room type, and the number of available rooms of that type on any given day.
We can send different rates to each channel you are using. For example, if using the GDS you might find it impossible to sell at the same discounted rates you would offer on the your own website so we are able to handle this. The rate value we send can be configured in a number of ways:
- The same as your own website. Change your own rates and the channel rate follows suit.
- A percentage (usually higher) of your own web rates. If you send a 10% rate hike to a specific channel, reducing your own site from £100 to £90, would result in a change from £110 to £99 at channel level.
Please advise us if you need to have a different rate structure configured for any of your channels.
The way minimum stays are handled is not uniform between channels. Both booking.com and Venere are happy to accept iBex first available minimum stays without an issue. At the other extreme is Wot If, where if you want to sell a double room with a 1 night and 2 night min stay, you'd have to create a room for each min stay at channel level, and share availability of the rooms in iBex between them. This can make things like requiring a 2 night minimum stay on the weekend a challenge to implement and sometimes compromise has to be reached.
Remember that sales channels hold availability at Room Type level, they don't know which physical rooms are free. If you are using Virtual Rooms within iBex PMS for your website, you may need us to configure special sales channel room types which reflect the true count of physical rooms to prevent those rooms being mapped more than once at channel level.
Also, bear in mind that if Room 1 is free on Monday, and Room 2 is free on Tuesday and both are double rooms, the sales channels will be able to accept a 2 night stay for a double room, Monday & Tuesday. (This would be the case regardless of whether the update is done manually or automatically so it's not a feature of the interface). iBex will display a booking like this as an "unassigned" booking in red in the Retrieve List view. You should see if you can shuffle other guests to accommodate the stay in a single room, or contact the guest and advise them their stay will be in more than one room. You can then assign the booking to the free room(s).
Updates to availability / rates
Any changes to availability are pushed automatically to the channels, so a new booking from wherever it comes will trigger an update. Any changes in rates (made in the Availabiltiy / Bookings / Rates view of the calendar) should also trigger an update of rates.
If you change something fundamental like reconfigure your room assignments so you have different counts of rooms, or introduce new minimum stay requirements or make some fairly big changes to rates invloving multiple datea ranges and multiple rooms, we recommend doing a "resync on save" at every channel to ensure a fresh snapshot of rates and inventory is sent to the channel.
It is usually no longer possible to change availability or rates in a channel extranet once you are connected with the channel manager.
Where you previously received channel bookings via FAX, they will now be automatically collected by iBex and in most cases you will receive an email notification. Please be aware that any 3rd party PMS providers are responsible for collecting the bookings from iBex (just as they are also responsible for updating iBex with availability which we then post on to the channels.)
Cancellations and Amends
Once the connection is live, we can download reservations into your PMS assuming you are using iBex PMS, Online Plus or Channel Manager with an integration to our partners. Any amendments or cancellations made since the interface went live are also sent - but amendments are normally sent as an iBex enquiry, where you will receive an email and should then update the original iBex booking record.
Cancellations pre-dating your interface to a channel going live generate an error message containing the booking reference (which you can look up in the channel extranet.). We have no iBex booking reference to match up against these so can't cancel them automatically. From time to time, you will also see some error messages for an unknown booking, where the guest has contacted the hotel directly to cancel, and then you might cancel this with the channel so as not to be charged comnmission. This can sometimes (as is the case with booking.com) generate a message to cancel a booking, which is already cancelled in iBex.
Each channel connection has it's own article in this section and you are advised to read about the ones you connect with.
Credit Card Data
If you are using iBex in conjunction with a 3rd Party PMS, like Callista, Angelfish, Clarity Commerce or Caterbook then be aware that we will not pass credit card data into your PMS due to PCI compliance requirements. You can open the iBex booking record and view the card details from there. Some of the channels (eg Hotel.info) will likewise not pass some of the card data to iBex (eg the CV2 number.) This has to be retrieved from their extranet.
When you are notified that we have completed an integration, please check that your rates and availability are showing as you would expect for several random days in the future. Any unmapped rooms (ie those in the channel but not in iBex) will need to be switched off by notifying your account manager - we cannot update rates, availability or download reservations for these rooms. Users of 3rd party PMS systems (Callista, Caterbook, Angelfish, Clarity Commerce) must regularly check that their PMS is maintining synchronisation with iBex as this is completely out of our control.