Let me start off by thanking you all for the smiles and a few good laughs. I particularly like the one comment about my viking heritage and judging by my love for beards and tattoos, you might be onto something!
On a more serious note, I actually do not see this as coming out and facing you but rather as a great way for us to collect feedback and suggestions from you and ultimately answer some of your questions.
While we initially had only said we would answer 10 questions (see my original unedited post), we have reviewed all the questions and tried to select at least one from each of you. We also tried to include those that the team has seen consistently here in the forum. In some cases, you asked similar questions so I have done my best to condense these.
Now allow me to jump in and provide you with feedback! I hope you find my answers as helpful as I found your questions.
Do you have plans to improve guest payments and cancellations?We do indeed and we are analyzing what next steps would be for us. One action item we have on our plates is to better understand how enabling payment methods and choice of timing impacts cancellation rates and ultimately helps our partners gain more stayed guests. In the current products, we actually see that online payments decreases cancellation rate up to 4 times that of normal so the signals are there. Next step is to further test how we utilize our payments products to decrease cancellations for our partners while still adding value to our customers.
How does one become eligible for the Payments by Booking.com programme?
Good question and glad it’s raised here so we can explain this in more detail. Payments and our approach to payments as a product is highly localized, we assess how to roll out our payment products country by country. This means that some countries are not yet on the list and therefore this could be a reason for not being eligible at the moment.
We are currently looking to offer different functionalities within the products in accordance with the payment settings of our partners as these settings helps us identify how our partners deal with guest payments in general and thus helps us understand what product our partners can work with and benefit from.
Why do partners need to wait 3 months before they can opt into payment systems again?Totally agree, it should be made easier and intuitive for you to be able to choose to take part or not take part. We are looking to improve how partners can opt in or out of our payments products as we speak!
What is Booking.com doing to protect guest data?GDPR and general protection of the data we have at hand is of utmost importance for Booking.com and we want to encourage partners to take the same level of precaution when it comes to handling personal and/or sensitive data. We encourage all partners to protect themselves, their business and customers in the best way possible. If that requires working with a 3rd party that has experience in dealing with data protection, that’s fine
Is there a way to decrease the processing costs for the Virtual Cards?
I discuss this a lot internally and it’s one of the issues where I am really trying to make change. While virtual credit cards are a great B2B payment method, we do see some cases where the fees can be challenging for our partners. Hopefully we will be able to decrease the fees associated as we explore our options and understand the functionality associated with the different virtual card types.
Why does Booking.com give guests 24 hours to update their credit cards once they have been marked invalid?
Interesting question and thanks for asking me. From a payment perspective, we want to provide customers with this grace period as we recognize that sometimes a fully valid and working credit card simply does not work for our partner. Maybe it’s a foreign credit card or just that a guest made a simple error when typing in the numbers or the expiry date.
While I fully understand that dealing with invalid credit cards can be a operational burden and hassle, I also see and hear about a lot of strange cases where the payment experience just has a hick up and our 24 hour window is there to accommodate these cases.
What is booking.com doing to educate guests on the role that Booking.com plays in the payment process compared to the property? Especially in the case of pre-authorization?In terms of our role in educating guests, great question. We are fairly new with our dedicated payment products but one of our big beliefs is that we can support the payment experience between customer and partner as we see what's going on for both sides. Another aspect here is that we understand that dealing with a payment is an emotional experience and we want to get it right for both customers and partners. Please know we are working on this and hope to be rolling out improvements in the near future.
What is Booking.com doing to support partners who don't have the facilities to use virtual credit cards and don't want to rely on bank transfers? What about the system Agoda uses i.e. physical partner card?
I understand the business risk it poses to you when working with us and our virtual credit card solution, especially in cases where you would like to process a payment with the cardholder present. Unfortunately, the different local rules and regulations that apply to different countries, to business in various sizes, and to certain industries, makes this a challenge. While we try our utmost to understand every single regulation before running with certain product solutions, there is always a risk that there are certain regulations specific to bank agreements, terminal providers etc. that we cannot anticipate. I see that one of the big acknowledgements for our teams here in payments, is the fact that payments and the underlying payment operations become very localized very fast. While virtual credit cards and bank transfers are by far the most common and most requested payout solutions by our partners, in our scale, we also see that other solutions are being asked for. Let me be totally frank here and explain that there are developments we would like to do for virtual credit cards and bank transfers first in order to make these better. Following these, we do have plans to look into more localized payout methods. Happy to hear your positive experiences with our sister company Agoda and I can inform you that we do look towards them in order to understand how we can improve our processes and the methods we offer. We do this as we also acknowledge the fact that while payments is relatively new for us here in Booking.com, it is not new at all for our colleagues in Agoda and we do believe we have a lot to learn.
When a guest stay spans over one month to the next, this can become challenging for invoicing. Is there a plan to change the payment terms for these cases?Yes we are looking into improving our payout methods in 2 important ways: Increase frequency of payout - we want to payout multiple times within a month and we are working on making this available as we speak. Understand the reconciliation aspect for our partners; this is highly linked to payout and its frequency. Alongside working on better payout frequency, one of our teams is also looking to solve what commission invoices look like and how they connect. Hopefully you will be spot the difference as our teams make progress. Thank you for the feedback and examples, very valuable to us.
My reservations number is lower since I have payments by booking. Would it be worthwhile to consider any other possibilities?
Thank you for raising this concern. In some cases you might experience some customers wanting to choose a place to stay with a 6PM free cancellation as we often see that customers would want to keep it as risk free as possible, which of course I understand is a concern for partners trying to reduce risk and hassle!
I would advise you to look at the final impact to your bottom line as a result of being on payments: does it look better? Has your cancellations reduced to such a degree that it makes up for less bookings? I would also encourage you to review any other actions you have done recently: did you remove photos, did you change your price strategy, did the competitors change anything that might have impacted your situation? Lots of factors to consider!
Our partner help center might have some tips and tricks for you, here's just one example of some items to consider. Content, rates and other items are always important so here's another tip for you.
How is Booking.com working to reduce the number of no shows? And how can we reduce costs incurred as a result of no shows? We have a lot of teams looking to help partners with the pains and challenges that arises when working with Booking.com. These teams look to improve processes that you as a partner have to go through when working with Booking.com . Handling no shows being one example, reporting invalid credit cards being another. We are committed to making processes better.
In terms of tips and tricks on how to reduce costs, well maybe by understanding our process as described here, and then linking it to how you run your daily business. This might help you optimize your operations and thus reduce any cost. Not sure which system you use, but if you are not using our Pulse app, then this might something for you to try as you are then much more mobile and agile in dealing with no shows. Read more about it here.
Can you please expand a bit on why we can only view credit card details 2 weeks prior to check in? Why was this put in place?
I am truly happy to answer this one as fraud and threats is an increasing issue as the whole world moves their businesses online. Important topic and will continue to be of importance! I can also understand the impact it can have in regards to daily payment operations. Online security for customers and partners is very important to us. To protect customer’s data, the transmission of the credit card details has been modified to minimize the developing threat landscape. Within my 9 years here at Booking.com, I have seen how cyber crime has evolved into sophisticated organizations, targeting major e-commerce platforms everyday. It has truly become a cat and mouse game. We develop measures to counter and prevent and so does the criminal organizations.
What's the best way to get in touch with credit control?One way is to write us a message via our messaging system. Go to the tab ‘inbox’ in our extranet and choose Booking.com messages or check the Pulse app under the More tab. These will give you the option to then contact us via a message . Remember to select Finance as your topic. For immediate answers to frequently asked questions to our credit control teams, you can also review our help section.