Tom Knight, Business Development Manager
The extended stay hotels have come a long way in recent years and are rapidly gaining recognition as a specialized hospitality industry segment. Today, the segment boasts of the most significant profit margins, leading-edge revenue, and long-term guest relationships. As the demand for these hotels increases, hotel operators and developers are innovating and expanding their product offerings and locations to meet their flourishing customer base's needs. However, several small to mid-size hotels still rely on manual methods for front desk, inventory management, and other operations, which hampers their efficiency and customer experience to a large extent. Additionally, some hotels miss a cue by implementing traditional property management systems, which fail to suffice the extended stay hotels' unique operational demands. Contrary to typical hotels, the extended-stay hotels do not have the guests' expected departure dates, making inventory management a headache for the respective hotels. Another headache is the compliance requirements related to operations, taxes, or other local government regulations.
A Suwanee, GA-based company, Gearco has uniquely positioned itself to cater to the extended stay hotels’ unique requirements with cloud-based property management systems that bring automation to the table and improve operations efficiencies. “We are a company driven by forwardly providing solutions that engage our customers to improve their business,” states Tom Knight, Business Development Manager at Gearco. The company’s systems provide end-to-end support for extended stay hotels, starting from guests' onboarding, seamless stay to a hassle-free checkout and compliance-related issues. Its platform helps manage the unexpected departure dates and synchronizes that inventory with all online travel agencies (OTAs) like Expedia, hotels.com, and others to prevent the hotels from overbooking. “For the last 20 years, we have been working to improve extended-stay hotels' operational efficiency and mitigate any challenges they face,” says Knight.
Once a guest checks-in at the hotel, the ID capture feature of the Gearco platform captures the driver's license information, checks its legitimacy, and auto-populates the system with the information. Thereupon, the platform performs a Do Not Rent (DNR) lookup that allows the hotels to query their sister properties regarding any behavioral issues with the guest. From there on, the Cloud CC platform of Gearco tokenizes credit card information for PCI compliance. "Our platform allows almost zero footprint of PCI for the property," informs Knight. Moreover, the Gearco platform also supports the prepaid business model of the extended-stay segment, as the accounting is more cash-based than accrual-based. Finally, the platform bundles all the information—rules and regulations, credit card information, ID capture information—in an electronic document, and gives it to the customer for their electronic signature. The signed contract is then sent to the client via text message or email.
Also, if any customer makes a reservation using OTAs, all the information flows directly into the Gearco platform. Knight says, “Our platform eliminates the manual processes, making them automated and almost paperless.”
Another factor unique to the extended-stay segment of hotels is increased revenue with efficient tax management. The tax model works in a way that it gets decreased over time, so the platform uses automated rate adaptation that increases the rate as the taxes decrease, thus generating increased revenue for the clients. “An average length of stay for many of our properties is close to three years and most of them have increased their revenue by as much as 30 percent using the Gearco platform,” states Knight.
For the onboarding of new properties on the platform, Gearco follows a very streamlined process. The company has a dedicated team that collects all the information to build the property from top to bottom, including testing the rates, users, and security models. After that, the company provides on-site and remote training for seamless onboarding of the hotel onto the Gearco platform. "We build out the entire property along with all the training at very economical rates for a seamless onboarding of our clients," says Knight. Further, the platform has the ability to clone and replicate the rules and the processes of a property to all the other properties if a client has multiple properties. Knight shares a customer success story of a client that has 11 properties. The property owners had to be overly reliant on manual processes. They were struggling to find an appropriate property management system that could cater to the extended-stay business model. After a successful demo and obtaining a go-ahead from the client, Gearco implemented its platform on all 11 properties within two days. On day three, all the training was imparted, and the platform was up and running; within a year, the client observed 20 percent more revenue using the Gearco platform.
Dedicated Solutions for Extended Stay Hotels
Gearco's Relationship Management (GRM) platform tracks progress and success by connecting all relevant activities, including research and development, product roadmap, system change requests, customer advocacy feedback, sales activities, and many others. This ensures that all team members involved with any process are connected, informed, responsible, and measured for success. More importantly, the company takes feedback from its clients and makes changes in its platform as well as develops additional solutions accordingly to help them sail through any hurdles in their path. “While many of Gearco’s offerings were developed after receiving feedback from our customers, we have also created a great many technologically-advanced and disruptive solutions that never exist before,” explains Knight.
Staying Ahead of Competition
One of the most distinguishing factors for Gearco is a dedicated customer advocacy team that continually contacts the customer to eliminate any issues that the client experiences. Additionally, if the business model of property changes, the development team of Gearco makes the required changes and adjusts the platform to accommodate those modifications at no cost to the client.
Gearco boasts of an organizational culture similar to Google, where innovation is prioritized, creativity is valued, and communication lines between every level of the company exist and are always open. "Although we have a chain of command, everyone at Gearco is comfortable reaching out to one another with ideas, problems, or suggestions, which allows us in solving problems and engineering solutions that exceed expectations,” adds Knight.
Future Shines Bright
While the COVID 19 Pandemic has adversely affected businesses across industries, the extended-stay industry is gaining more customer traction. Hence, to facilitate a seamless customer stay at the property, Gearco is investing heavily in adding more features and deploying additional solutions to improve front desk and property services. “This year, we’ll deploy more than 7 major solutions to improve loss prevention and customer fraud, while also releasing over 50 other platform enhancements as part of our continuous product delivery,” informs Knight. Also, Due to an extensive 90 plus day length of stays, extended stays are more Operationally (SOP) focused than Sales (S&OP); hence Gearco is investing heavily in closing the SOP policy gap by deploying automated solutions to improve how the front desk services customers as well as the property itself. Gearco is also launching the Company Brand Review (CBR) feature in which the company is going a have periodic sessions with the customers for a comprehensive service health check of properties by reviewing more than 75 KPIs.