The Secret to Attracting Meeting Business to Your Hotel

By Greg Pesik President and CEO, Passkey International | October 28, 2008

The group events business is booming. In fact for hotels such as Fairmont, IHG and Hyatt, group events-everything from corporate events and trade shows to family weddings and reunions-are huge business. To be exact, they represent a $30 billion market that comprises up to 60% of their revenue. As I have stated in previous articles, technology today plays a big role in attracting meeting planners, securing their business and retaining them as long-term customers. In these articles I have looked at the specific types of technologies that hotels should be looking at-everything from collaborative online group management technologies, to Blackberry mobile phones and automated room list solutions. Now it's time to take a step back. What promise and possibilities do these technologies really allow the hotel to offer meeting planner looking to find a home for their next event?

The Positive Booking Experience

The amount of work that goes into executing a successful event cannot be underestimated. The list of "to do's" is extensive. You have the venue and event date selection. Then planners must work on indentifying the list of attendees, which includes key speakers, panelists and exhibitors. On top of this they are faced with other key event action items such as the agenda, the catering, the seating arrangements, the hotel reservations and much, MUCH more. In other words the planner's plate is full, so much so that as they strive tirelessly to keep all the balls in the air, they are desperately looking for relief. One area where many of their prayers are being answered revolves around the hotel booking experience.

Potentially one of the most time consuming and stressful aspects of any event is the hotel booking experience. Before technology entered into the picture, planners were forced to be very hands-on when it came to booking hotel rooms and making sure attendees were able to make their hotel reservations with relative ease. After all, a failure to make the process as seamless as possible would result in frustrated planners and attendees, and potentially lead to poor event turnout. The problem was that the more time planners spent monitoring the hotel booking processes, the less time they had to focus on the content of the event, and all the other "to-do's."

Today, meeting planners are able to offer guests a seamless and highly personalized online hotel booking experience that allows them to make all key arrangements (i.e. register for the event, reserve a hotel room, etc...) in a matter of minutes and without having to drag the planner into the process. Rather, with these technologies, planners now can easily keep track of the event hotel bookings and be assured that their attendees are making their hotel reservations within the contracted block, and make necessary adjustments with incredible ease.

Better yet, the arrangements can all be made online, with just a few simple clicks of the mouse. Once the attendees are in the system these solutions then alert the planner regarding the action of the attendees (i.e. person A has registered for the event and booked rooms at hotel X), giving them a real-time snap shot of what is going on at any given time. You heard me correctly, the system automatically alerts you. Planners do not have to go on a wild goose chase to get the answers they are looking for. Now planners are able to track who has signed up for an event, and how their block is materializing (i.e. are they running short of rooms, are there going to be any unused rooms that can be cut free to avoid any unnecessary costs, etc...) and more, all without having to commit valuable time to doing so.

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.