The eRFP: Growing Pains, Remedies, and Preparing for the Future
By Michael Pisterzi Marketing Manager, Spear One | September 03, 2017
The modern bridge that connects hoteliers and meeting planners becomes more overburdened and scrutinized by the day. Through trial and error, mountains of feedback from users, and various platform improvements the electronic request for proposal has become the undeniable standard in sourcing for the meeting planning industry. However, as most of us know, the process is still far from perfect.
While some of the blame may still rest on the technology itself, it is now overtly apparent that as the eRFP platforms become more sophisticated and adaptable, we must shift our focus towards fellow users being able to use the tool effectively. We are facing a new era in the timeline of eRFP standardization where meeting planners and hoteliers are the primary determinants of the efficacy of a proposal, and it is time that both sides of the process take on more responsibility.
Understanding the Pain Points
There is no industry that exemplifies the virtue of empathy like the hospitality industry. So, to improve upon the shortcomings of the eRFP process, one must recognize the source of grief for their counterparts on the other side of the proposal.
Meeting planners depend on the accuracy and speed of information from vendors to properly relay project milestones and progress to their clients. This is no different than a hotel asking for the exact requirements in the eRFP to properly assess the availability and the possibility of accommodating their event. The eRFP process does not have inherent governance over the amount of information that is offered (although Cvent does allow for a short-form eRFP for early buying stage inquiries.) It falls to the users to provide not only the necessary information but relevant and sufficient details as well. Whether it's a meeting planner underestimating the amount of space required or an hotelier not quoting their best room rate upfront, it's always going to end up in a missed opportunity and time wasted. Kelli Orpen with the Marriott National Sales team states, "On the back end, we try and dig information up if it is provided and it can take longer for our internal counterparts to price when we have to do the homework." This issue is exacerbated with the addition of automation.
Automation has been widely regarded as a blessing and a curse in the digital age. More proposals surely will require more responses, and hotel practices that focus on leads instead of completed bookings add to the overload of information. These waves of thinly detailed eRFPs drown out the quality proposals that are later in the buying stage; increasing response times for meeting planners and overburdening the inboxes of hoteliers to the point where they're sifting through the spam to find a proposal worth bidding on. If planners are waiting a week for their response from a specific hotel, there's no telling how many others will rush in to fill that gap, especially in a world where their clients are demanding shorter lead times and fast turnaround on objectives.