The hospitality industry relies heavily on reservations and is likely the greatest producer of reservation confirmations. The following are some examples of businesses in the hospitality sector:
- Hair/Nail Salons
- Vacation Property Rentals
- Car Rental
For these businesses to handle hundreds or thousands of reservations daily, they rely on business-management software that tracks individual reservations and stores all the information in a continuously updated database.
If a hotel or restaurant wants to take online reservations, it needs to have a Web site equipped with a booking engine. The booking engine is a specialized search engine connected directly to the company's reservation database via the Internet. Using the booking engine, a visitor to the company's Web site can search for open reservations, and the information on the database updates in real time.
Besides a company's own Web site, many third-party Web sites allow users to search through thousands of different hotels, restaurants, spas and resorts to book a reservation.
OpenTable.com, for example, is a free tool that allows users to make reservations at more than 7,000 restaurants around the world. OpenTable also sells its reservation software directly to restaurants to help manage bookings made online or by phone. Like any other booking engine, OpenTable.com is connected directly to the restaurant's reservation database for the most accurate and up-to-date information. After making your reservation, you immediately receive a detailed confirmation e-mail. Within that e-mail, other options may be available -- sending e-mail invitations to your guests, flower delivery to the restaurant or downloadable maps to the restaurant.
Travel Web sites work in much the same way restaurant-reservation sites do. For example, at Expeida.com, you can book airline, hotel and rental car reservations. Once your reservation is made, you'll receive a confirmation e-mail with your trip details and a confirmation number.
Most business-management or reservation-management software includes the ability to send automated confirmations and reminders. E-mail confirmations are the most common, but with 35 percent of U.S. cell phone owners actively using text messaging, more and more reservation applications offer an SMS confirmation option as well.
Through the online registration process required for most reservations, a business can collect important customer data to improve products and services. This information is also incredibly useful for creating marketing campaigns tailored to the preferences of existing customers.
This brings us to the next section, the power of reservation confirmations as marketing tools.