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Booking errors and double bookings
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Nemo



Joined: 14 Aug 2008
Posts: 7005
Location: Norfolk

PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2016 9:31 pm    Post subject: Booking errors and double bookings Reply with quote

It's happened to some of us, and may be likely to happen to more of us in the future, as the big listing sites force us to run their own booking management systems alongside our own. Running our own systems, where we want all bookings in one central place, forces us to transfer details across from one booking system to another, increasing the likelihood of errors creeping in.

Ok I'll go first with my admission of guilt. Wink I have double booked on one occasion. Fortunately I was alerted to the fact in PIMS within a few hours, but after the deposit had been received. I emailed the guests with profuse apologies and refunded the deposit.

The lesson learned was that PIMS had in big red writing at the top of the booking that the dates were already booked! Somehow I managed to not see this, on the evening when I processed the booking. I now always give a quick check at the top of the booking that there is no red warning message.

So who's next? Have you made a mistake and if so how have you ensured you would avoid it happening again? Have you never made a mistake because your system is fairly bomb proof in which case tell us your secrets! Smile
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kevsboredagain



Joined: 20 Jan 2007
Posts: 3209
Location: France

PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2016 7:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

OK I’ll take the bait. This year alone I’ve had two close calls but managed to catch my own error through cross checking.

Everyone will have their own system and there is no right and wrong way of handling bookings. You create a system that works for you and eliminates errors through procedure and cross checking.

I see several ways of making a booking error or our worst nightmare a double booking:

1. Failing to add the booking to your system
2. Adding the wrong dates to your system
3. An error in calendar syncing
4. A failure of your system or loss of data

The way listing sites now want to handle every aspect of a booking is increasing the chances of us making an error and a double booking.

Everyone no doubt has their own favorite way of organising bookings. This might be PIMs, a spreadsheet or even a paper calendar/diary. Use whatever it best for you but be aware that whatever you use, it won’t be 100% safe from errors. Just because you’ve not made a mistake in 5 years does not mean you won’t make one tomorrow. The longer you work in this business, the more likely you are to make a mistake.

These are some of the things I do to prevent the above list of errors. I don’t expect anyone to adopt the same procedures but perhaps it might trigger a thought as to where you might slip up and possible ways to protect against mistakes.

1. Email handling: Use an email account dedicated to each property and never mix these with private emails. Every booking I take will always come as an Email in some form, so I file these bookings in an email folder like “bookings 2016”. I use IMAP so my email structure is the same on every device and I can file the booking immediately, even if I just have my phone. On every device I can quickly see my current booking emails. I also file enquiries separately, according to source, using rules in my email software. I guess PIMs will be doing this kind of thing for you.

Reason: Gives a backup visual indication of all bookings which can be cross referenced against your master system. If you forget to add a booking, you will probably spot it here.

2. Booking forms: I use my own booking form for all bookings, even if they come from the likes of Airbnb and even if I complete the form myself.

Reason: Gives me a consistent record of every booking and the completed form is automatically emailed to my cleaners. If I double booked and didn’t notice then perhaps my cleaners might flag it up.

3. I enter all bookings into Google calendar, summary webpage and my website calendar (sadly the latter is not syncable)

Reason: Entering the booking again somewhere else makes me double check the details and creates a backup. Google will sync calendars (like PIMS) as well as email me reminders and the summary web page is seen by my cleaners. That means someone else sees and checks my list of bookings.

4. Calendar syncing could possibly fail and recently OD stopped syncing with Google without warning. I’ve also had a sync failure due to a double calendar entry. Therefore I log into my adverts now and then to check that the calendar looks OK. A quick visual check is all that is required and many sites are now forcing you to click a button saying “up to date” in any case. To make logging in quick and painless, I use a password manager which also works on my phone.

Reason: Protects again sync problems, wrong date entries and failures to add a booking

5. When I’m about to take a booking I will check my website calendar but also my list of booking emails just to be sure the dates are free.

Reason: The master booking reference could have an error so use the opportunity to make a cross reference.

6. Make sure you have backup of your master system and could even continue without it.

Reason: If you lose your master booking reference it should not leave you stuck or unable to replace it.

7. If you have maintenance scheduled and don’t use a software system which handles this type of thing, then add it as a booking too.

Reason: Consistency prevents error. Try to avoid special cases that deviate from your system or you’ll forget them.


I would be very interested how others protect against errors as I do feel that my procedures are a little over the top.
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Ben McNevis



Joined: 15 May 2006
Posts: 819
Location: Scotland (for) The Brave

PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2016 9:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, Nemo, for taking the initiative to start this thread. It would be great if everyone who has ever had a double booking crisis would spell out how it happened.

I'll start. It's happened twice. The first was a long time ago but it was almost the same scenario as the recent one: I lost data and attempted to re-build from the trail of emails and paper copies of my booking forms.

The first time it was a computer that died and my scheduled backup to the cloud was about 2 weeks out of date because I had been switching the computer off at night, forgetting that the backup was scheduled for night time.

The second time it was a corrupted file on an otherwise healthy computer. The backup was only a few days old and a second backup that should have been much more frequent had failed for a few weeks and I hadn't noticed. It was January so, in that few days, there was an awful lot going on. Again, manually re-building the data was error-prone.

My best protection is a paper copy of the booking form which used to work well as I file them in date order per property. There's a big logo on the form to indicate the property so there's little danger of filing the paper in the wrong property file. It doesn't work well any more because many guests now scan and email the form and I haven't been bothering to print them out. I know I should. Or I should find another mechanism that's foolproof.

Finally, an addition to Kev's list:
5. Recording a booking against the wrong property
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kevsboredagain



Joined: 20 Jan 2007
Posts: 3209
Location: France

PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2016 10:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ben McNevis wrote:
Finally, an addition to Kev's list:
5. Recording a booking against the wrong property


That's a good one too and I've made that error updating my calendar. Caught myself by having separate email accounts for each property.

It must be difficult though when you rent out a block of properties all from the same website, so separate email accounts makes little sense.
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Vera



Joined: 01 Aug 2007
Posts: 387
Location: Vera,Almeria, Spain

PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2016 10:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I haven't booked people into the wrong unit but I did charge people for the cheaper one for a 4 week stay earlier this year, of course the guests didn't mention their good deal.

I find a good old fashioned wall planner invaluable and it is my 1st tool to check, if I'm at home.

Like everyone it is always at the back of my mind and I've woken with a start a few times convinced I've done it.
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French Cricket



Joined: 10 Apr 2008
Posts: 3053
Location: French Pyrénées

PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2016 12:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I use multiple belts and braces: Google calendar, cloud based availability calendar, booking spreadsheet on Google docs, plus good old fashioned paper year planner and paper diary.

The only methods that I really trust, to be honest, are the paper ones and I sometimes wonder why I both with the cloud stuff! They've got me out of trouble before when a couple of years ago I had - simultaneously - a hard drive terminal crash and weird issues with my Google account.

So far - touching every piece of wood I can find - I've avoided a double booking, but I'm only too aware that human error could creep in to all of those at once.

But ... I don't (and won't) do any kind of book now, anywhere. Every single booking comes to me directly, via email. It's a very different ballgame I think if you do.
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Joanna



Joined: 23 Aug 2007
Posts: 847
Location: Chester, North West England & Sidmouth, East Devon

PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2016 12:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm a worrier and double booking is one of my worst nightmares so I probably go over the top to make sure it doesn't happen. PIMS is my master calendar and I always check it before offering dates to anyone, regardless of what the various listing site calendars are showing.

I also put every new booking on a wall planner with different colours for each property so I'd notice straight away if there was already a booking on there and then go back to PIMS to check.

In case our broadband goes down I also print off the booking details from PIMS and keep the paper copies in a binder for each house in date order along with the signed booking forms. Sometimes I can find out if dates are already booked faster in the paper file than the time it takes my laptop to boot up. (But I always double check in PIMS).

I have a separate email address for all cottage enquiries and drag and drop the emails into folders on my hard drive and rename them with the arrival date and guest name. My hard drive's backed up weekly to a USB drive and also mirrored on Dropbox so I can access the files from my iPad when we're away.

Mixing up the houses is a risk, especially as the pages in PIMS are all visually identical and I'm a visual person. I have PIMS set to include the house name and town in every email so, hopefully, if I did get it wrong the guest would spot it. They're in different parts of the country so it would be obvious.

At the moment I'm having to be very careful with guests I've got booked for September. One booking for each house, both arriving on the same date and both with the same surname! Everything that I send them through PIMS will go to the right guest but if they call or text me I could easily mix them up.

We've only had 2 bookings through HL/TA's commission system and I can see potential for forgetting to enter them into PIMS because they can happen very quickly. One minute it's an enquiry and the next minute it's a booking. I'm resisting the temptation to use their systems for communicating with guests once they've booked as I think that could make me more likely to forget to add the booking in to PIMS.
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French Cricket



Joined: 10 Apr 2008
Posts: 3053
Location: French Pyrénées

PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2016 1:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Joanna wrote:

At the moment I'm having to be very careful with guests I've got booked for September. One booking for each house, both arriving on the same date and both with the same surname! Everything that I send them through PIMS will go to the right guest but if they call or text me I could easily mix them up.


I had a really bizarre month like that in May. Out of four back to back bookings, every single woman was called Jane and three out of four men were called Nigel. We tend to work with first names rather than surnames so it was a bit of a nightmare ...
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EdinburghCityApartments



Joined: 14 May 2013
Posts: 76
Location: Edinburgh

PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2016 2:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've done it before! Most recently in May. Having synced calendars with HA/Airbnb for a number of my properties, I must've missed this one.

Didn't have the guts to tell her I'd overbooked so rushed completion of a purchase so I could relocate her somewhere better and told her there'd been a massive leak from upstairs and property was uninhabitable, rather than tell her I'd been stupid!

Although all proper checks, systems, diaries, channel managers in place, I wouldn't rule out having more in the future. Just hopefully it'll be at a quiet time where relocation is an option!
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tavi



Joined: 14 Sep 2011
Posts: 2578
Location: Algarve

PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2016 2:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

arggghhh

I have literally just sent a balance payment reminder to the wrong Louise.....an old repeat guest but not even booked this year. She's just emailed me to tell me. Feel like such a bafoon.


P>S Can't shake this ghastly feeling I've got a double booking somewhere....and this thread isn't helping. Smile Confused Shocked
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PW in Polemi



Joined: 21 Oct 2012
Posts: 1740
Location: A village in Paphos, Cyprus

PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2016 3:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Joanna wrote:
Mixing up the houses is a risk, especially as the pages in PIMS are all visually identical and I'm a visual person.

Do you print out on paper coloured to match the colours you use on your wallchart?
And is there any way in PIMS to set a different background colour for each property?
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Sunbeam



Joined: 10 Aug 2015
Posts: 74
Location: Spain

PostPosted: Sat Jul 16, 2016 5:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We use Google Docs from a gmail account - and the Google Docs app works very efficiently on our iPhones/iPad to check when we are out and about:

- A spreadsheet in which we record all bookings, in date order (plus payment schedule)
- a folder for each guest with their contract, pre-stay communication and any other info (all created with google docs). each folder named so they appear in date order
- google calendar with holiday dates and reminders set
- a hard copy of each contract, in date order in a file

We use an email account linked to our website domain rather than gmail for email communication

We have a 'bookings checklist' sheet which we tick off for each new booking to make sure all steps are followed (eg. contract printed and in folder, each online calendar up to date, spreadsheet updated etc)

When we get enquiries we check the spreadsheet and cross-check with our website calendar and if at home, the hard-copy file.

Every so often we run through our systems to cross-check for double bookings, ensure payments recorded etc.

We only have one property to manage so though this (very manual system) might seem laborious - it works for us .... no double bookings so far – fingers and toes crossed - but it is our biggest fear.

Hope this is useful to anyone thinking about using Google Docs.

EDITED TO SAY: we also have a whiteboard on which we write upcoming actions: 'send pre-stay email', 'payment due from xx" etc
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Essar



Joined: 12 Jun 2011
Posts: 3244
Location: Bournemouth

PostPosted: Sat Jul 16, 2016 7:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

On receipt of any booking, regardless of source:-

1. Immediately add to FreeToBook - this updates all listing site calendars including instantly on my website & Booking.com (instant booking site so v. important).

2. Add to my own management system and process as usual.

3. Make a cup of tea.

That's it.
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Joanna



Joined: 23 Aug 2007
Posts: 847
Location: Chester, North West England & Sidmouth, East Devon

PostPosted: Sat Jul 16, 2016 9:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

PW - I like the coloured paper idea. PIMS can't change the colours for each property as far as I'm aware - maybe that could be in a future upgrade.

Essar - thanks for that, I thought I was probably overdoing it!

BTW I forgot to say that PIMS updates the calendar on my website automatically.
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Mouse



Joined: 20 Jun 2006
Posts: 7104
Location: Balearics

PostPosted: Sun Jul 17, 2016 7:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:

P>S Can't shake this ghastly feeling I've got a double booking somewhere....and this thread isn't helping. Smile Confused Shocked
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Me too!! Shocked

Thankfully I've never double booked but the closest I got was this year when I gave the free week dates incorrectly to someone wanting to book (gave them sunday instead of saturday) but I had a feeling as I closed messenger and went back and rechecked and phoned her immedietely as she was booking flights (it was a very odd scenario of 2 guests changing dates and one taking the others)
It unnerved me a bit as I've never ever (yet) made a mistake.....so I was convinced that I'd ballsed up somewhere else and not spotted it Crying or Very sad
It's been a hard year with a lot of distractions and I think it's times like that you can slip.

I won't go through my routine but it's fairly simple. I can't double book unless I forget a booking but there's too many checks for that to happen as Mr M is back up and each enquiry has to be closed down or moved to booking status ....however I do worry when online payments and bookings start to upset my routine.

Mouse
p.s. 2 yrs ago I also had 2 guests with exactly the same names and spellings....that was a worry!
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