Selling Your Venue's Uniqueness

By Lynn McCullough Director of Meetings & Association Management, CMA Association Management | October 28, 2008

No matter what your guests are in town for -- whether it is a convention, an educational workshop or an awards event - professionals in the hospitality industry have a chance to make a lasting impression on a large group of people all at once. Regardless of the program or career-related benefits of these events, planners know that attendance is at its highest when professionals have the opportunity to travel to an interesting destination offering a truly unique experience. And, while actual location plays a role, planners value even the little things like one-of-a-kind hotel giveaways or room amenities that will make their attendees' visit memorable. Guests and meeting planners respond well when the venue's staff pays extra attention to detail and goes above and beyond the call of duty to ensure repeat business.

What's Your Pickle?

The idea of going beyond the average level of customer service is nothing new. Members from the Association for Conventions Operations Management (ACOM) shared with us some ways that they have experienced great customer service when facilitating conventions and meetings over the years. Bob Berry, ACOM member and a Customer Service Manager at the Irving Convention and Visitors Bureau in Irving, Texas, credits motivational speaker and restaurateur Bob Farrell with inspiring him to provide service that goes above and beyond the call of duty. Farrell, founder of his own chain of ice cream parlor restaurants, inspired many professionals in the service industry with a quirky motto "What's your pickle?" after receiving a letter from a disappointed customer. After he opened the first Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor in Portland, Oregon in 1963, the restaurant quickly became the place to be for a fun meal. But then a faithful customer one day requested extra pickles with his meal, just as he had for years. A new employee informed him that he would be charged for any extra food. The customer left the restaurant and promptly wrote a letter to Mr. Farrell stating that he would never eat at Farrell's again if that was the way he planned to do business.

Since that day, Farrell credits this customer with giving him the wake-up call of a lifetime. Now he advocates for "Giving 'em the pickle!" meaning employees should go the extra mile to make customers happy or put their own personal stamp on service that sets them apart from the competition.

Hospitable Giveaways

There are many ways that professionals in the hospitality industry can give their customers "the pickle." A great way to add a special touch to make the venue stand out is to provide complimentary food or amenities that incorporate the regional flavor and culture. ACOM's affiliates have shared with us their favorite giveaways and most popular hotel destinations. One example is the chocolate theme featured at the Hotel Hershey in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Each of their 232 guest rooms provides a sweet taste of the area, featuring cocoa scented soap and lotion and Hershey kisses placed throughout the hotel and even on the guests' pillows. The Hershey Spa is also an example of a way to immerse the guests in a local theme, literally. Guests can enjoy a whipped cocoa bath, a chocolate bean polish, or a chocolate fondue wrap.

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The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.