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Improving the booking experience: From transactions to guest-centric interactions

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The transactional ways of hotel systems have been standard for decades. While it has served its purpose well, today’s near-endless hotel choices and sky-high expectations for fast, personalised service delivery make many traditional systems fall short.

Let’s dive into the transactional nature of traditional hotel systems and why it can be downright harmful to your guest experience.

We’ll compare it to the new, guest-centric approach that allows you to stay competitive, delight guests, and empower your staff.

Improving the booking experience: From transactions to guest-centric interactions

What is a transactional hotel PMS?

A transactional PMS focuses primarily on quick, short-term transactional exchanges:

Do we have availability? Check. Room booked? Check. Payment processed? Check.

That’s the traditional way of these systems — and many hotels still rely on them to service guests.

The model thrives on immediacy, treating each guest interaction as a standalone event with no historical context or future potential.

While the transactional model works for immediate tasks, guests become room numbers and booking dates, with little focus on their preferences or history regarding system design.

The perception that the hotel PMS is a system only to sell rooms hinders your ability to sell greater overall experiences.

But the nature of these systems begs the question: Do they handle transactions well?

Yet another shortcoming of the traditional and transaction-based system is that they often can't automate many manual transaction tasks. Like automatically collecting the deposits or cancellation fees due or taking a fresh look at traditional formal transactions like check-in, check-out, or invoicing, to name a few.

That costs your team valuable time spent on transactions, and that is not time spent on guests.

If you're looking to build lasting guest relationships and streamline your operations, you'll find its limitations hard to ignore — especially when compared to a more guest‑centric approach.

What is the guest-centric approach?

A guest-centric approach goes beyond recording transactions. It focuses on building meaningful, long-lasting relationships with your guests.

Imagine a PMS that not only tells you basic numbers about room availability but offers insights about all available products — room amenities, features included in the package, required guarantee policies, and even hints about whom this package is best suited for.

That way, you don’t just adjuster the booking recording but proactively lead the booker to the most relevant product that meets their needs.

Data in a context lets your team offer a personalised touch.

From recommending the most suitable package to suggesting your guest's favourite wine at dinner or spa treatment they enjoyed during their last visit, this detail transforms a guest from a one-time visitor to a loyal guest.

The guest-centric approach brings a refreshing change in perspective, transforming every interaction into a meaningful connection, benefiting guests and hoteliers alike.

Comparing the two ways


The debate between a transactional and guest-centric approach to PMS and hotel systems is timely to today’s guest expectations of smooth and instant digital service.

While the two approaches may seem simple, their implications run deep, affecting everything from your bottom line to guest satisfaction.

Let's compare side-by-side to fully grasp the differences and understand what each approach means for you, your staff, and your guests.

Handling the booking vs Guiding better choices

Transactional: There's little room for proactive selling when bookings are transactions. This approach makes it harder to exceed expectations and maximise revenue opportunities — potentially risking missed bookings or revenue.

Guest-centric: Imagine the difference when your reservation agents get onscreen assistance to compare rooms or packages and entice guests to what they are best prepared to book. Or even to tailor suggestions based on a guest’s past stays or specific interests. The guest doesn’t just hear about a room; they learn about an experience crafted just for them.

Booking rooms vs Booking experiences

Transactional: Because a transactional PMS focuses on rooms, it often can’t bundle services like spa appointments, restaurant reservations, and parking. That can cause friction in booking, guarantee, cancellation, and during-stay handling for hotels offering additional services.

Guest-centric: The guest-centric hotel solution empowers you to efficiently manage multiple room and non-room inventories, streamlining the booking process. It synchronises guarantee and cancellation updates for all components, giving staff and guests comprehensive details for smoother service delivery. It elevates the guest experience with a unified platform to manage their entire stay, integrating all components, from rooms to amenities and activities.

Booking transaction vs Multi-stage interaction

Transactional: Traditional PMS often miss the multi-stage, multi-touchpoint approach, resulting in mistimed upsell attempts and missed revenue opportunities. Guests explore, compare, and consider before they are ready to book the room or an add-on. But traditional systems can’t cater to the entire guest journey, failing to provide timely, valuable information.

Guest-centric: This solution empowers guests to manage their bookings independently — confirming when ready, making special requests, altering dates, adding extras, and personalising stays. Smart communication tools provide seamless guest interaction throughout their journey, with minimal staff intervention — creating new revenue opportunities and boosting guest satisfaction.

Old vs New payment experiences

Transactional: Traditional transactional systems often rely on disconnected payment processing methods. This approach often causes hotels to request credit card details via phone or paper forms, raising guest security concerns and PCI compliance issues. Handling deposits and cancellation fees manually on separate terminals is time‑consuming, complicates reconciliation, and may result in missed collections and revenue.

Guest-centric: Modern solutions provide a seamless, secure payment experience. Guests can securely input their payment details digitally, removing security concerns. You can reuse the captured payment methods for all payments during the journey. Automation streamlines deposit and cancellation fee processing, promptly detecting fraudulent or insufficient funds cards — enhancing guest experience, reducing manual work, and simplifying reconciliation.

Traditional check-in and outs vs Releasing time for human interaction

Transactional: Traditional PMS systems often lack modern features that enable pre‑handling of check-in and check-out formalities, like registration cards, payment methods, damage guarantees, and final payments. That hurts your ability to spend time on the warm welcomes and farewells that improve relations with guests.

Guest-centric: Implementing online check-in and check-out empowers guests to handle formalities in advance, enhancing the human touch at arrival and departure. Payment automation efficiently manages payments, damage deposits, and related tasks, liberating staff for top service and meaningful human interactions. This dual approach elevates guest experiences and streamlines hotel operations.

💡 Did you know? Clock’s hotel platform is designed on the guest-centric approach, ensuring that each feature and functionality serves your broader goal of improving guest and staff experiences while helping you stay competitive.

Questions for hotel technology vendors


Choosing the right technology vendor can make all the difference in how you meet your guests' expectations. A system that handles transactions efficiently and elevates every guest interaction into a meaningful relationship is essential to stay future-proof.

Use these questions to ensure that your current or future hotel vendor has adopted the guest-centric approach:

Improving the booking process

  • How can your system help our reservation agents guide the bookers to better choices? Will it allow us to support reservation agents with important sales hints to assist them in promoting the available offers?
  • How does your system personalise the guest experience? What features are available to tailor experiences based on individual guest preferences and past stays?
  • How does your system allow us to ensure we don't miss delivering anything from the hyper-personalised experience we offer to our guests? How do we track what needs to be delivered, when, and by whom?

Enhancing guest interaction

  • How will your system allow us to interact with our guests throughout their journey, not just at the moment of booking? Will it allow bookers to personalise and independently take control of their stays?
  • Can your system adapt to changes in the guest’s booking? How smooth is the process if a guest wants to add a SPA treatment or a dinner after the initial booking?

Selling beyond rooms

  • Will your system allow guests to add add-ons or extra services? Can they be added with their main booking or later during the guest journey?
  • Can your system track inventories of additional services? Can it also retrieve additional inventories from third-party systems and book such resources with the main booking or even without room booking?
  • Will your system keep a single status for all components of such complex bookings? Will staff and guests be able to see the entire itinerary in one place?

Improving payment and deposit handling

  • How does your system enhance safety and guest confidence in guarantee and payment processes? Can bookers enjoy a safe and compliant way to provide payment details?
  • Can your solution tokenise and reuse cards? Will such stored card tokens allow us to collect all further payments or authorisations even if the guest is not present or not engaged?
  • Can your solution efficiently manage guarantee deposits and cancellation fees? Will it allow us to automate the process, requiring minimal intervention from our staff and bookers and ensuring timely billing?

Freeing time for meaningful human interactions

  • What manual tasks can your system automate? How will this help free up my team's time for more meaningful guest interactions?
  • How will your system help arrange the check-in/out formalities in advance? Can your system allow you to process registration cards, payments, and damage deposits in advance so your staff can have time for meaningful human interaction at the time of personal contact?
  • How user-friendly is the system for my staff? Will my front desk and reservations team need extensive training, or is the platform intuitive?

Future-proofing your hotel

  • What updates and features do you have planned for the future? How will these features help us continue to meet and exceed guest expectations?
  • How does your system help us stay competitive in the current market? Does it have the flexibility and depth to adapt as guest expectations and industry standards evolve?


Guests today don't just want a room; they want a tailored experience from the moment they start booking.

Each day you hold off on transitioning to a more comprehensive, guest-centric hotel system, you're leaving valuable opportunities on the table.

Hoteliers using traditional and transactional hotel systems may soon find that their competitors are already ahead, updating their systems to meet today's demands.

It's a missed beat that can leave hoteliers scrambling to catch up.

It’s not about reacting to industry trends but setting the stage for your hotel's future. You're meeting the modern traveller's needs and setting a new standard for exceptional hospitality.

Make your hotel an environment where your team can concentrate on what counts: designing standout experiences that turn guests into loyal advocates.

Pelle Sundin

Senior Content Writer

Pelle's mission is to make hotel technology insights practical and easy to understand. In his free time, he travels the world to hunt for waves, drinks coffee and makes music.

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