October 14, 2015 – Vicki Pero - Insights

Have You Built These Controls Into Your Online Reservation Program?

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Online reservation revenue contributes a small percentage of transient revenue at most facilities at 5% or less.   At the same time, these programs are growing in popularity with customers and have offered operators a way to sell otherwise unused inventories, creating a win-win situation. If one or more online reservation providers sell spaces at your facilities, make sure you build these controls into the program.

Prevent Reuse

Many facilities have implemented online reservation programs without a mechanism such as a scanner to confirm that each reservation that is redeemed is valid. This creates an interesting paradox in that these cutting edge programs require cigar box level controls on the lot. When you set up your program, implement an agnostic scanner solution that allows these transactions to be processed from multiple providers with an interface to their systems that ensures each transaction is valid. If this isn’t an option, implement a tracking log that captures the confirmation code, so cashiers can review it each time a transaction is presented to verify it hasn’t already been used.

Provide Training

Online reservation transactions are presented at facilities on a smart phone screen or printed voucher. If you’ve ever seen one of these, you know there is a lot of information to take in, and particularly when viewed on a phone, a short time to gather what is needed. Train employees on what each type of redemption looks like, and highlight the information they need to review to confirm each transaction is valid. A few things the Marlyn Group suggests this training should cover include:

  • Confirmation code format – is it alpha numeric, how many characters does it include, and how can they spot a fraudulent one?
  • And the provider is? – This is especially important if you have multiple providers. Point out where this information is located and which companies are valid at a given location.
  • Scanner / Log usage – Whether you use a scanner or a manual tracking log, provide guidance on how to process these transactions.
  • Don’t forget about the shift report – Does your company view these as validations or transient transactions? Is the revenue associated with them reported at the time of sale or when they are redeemed? Answering these questions will dictate how cashiers should report them on their daily shift paperwork. Sort out these details and train employees regarding your expectations.

Don’t Forget to Audit

There are a few variables to be mindful of when auditing these types of transactions. A customer could make a reservation, print their voucher and then cancel. If a scanner is not in use, these transactions appear legitimate when presented at the lot. Complete audits of redeemed reservations to identify these discrepancies and over time determine if you have a savvy customer or employee and avoid this becoming a chronic issue. This will also help to detect if the same reservation is redeemed more than once.

The Marlyn Group provides training, policy and procedure and audit support to companies who are implementing online reservation programs within their parking operations. Contact us today to learn more.