IACC Accreditation Adds Up to Value and Customer Satisfaction

By Dianne Pepe Director of Group Sales, Millennium Broadway Hotel, New York | October 21, 2012

Do we make too much of accreditation? Based on TV advertising and grocery store labels, it seems like everything is "certified" something. What does a "certified pre-owned" automobile mean anyway? That it's guaranteed to be used? Seems like that would be pretty obvious from checking the mileage.

But if almost everything we buy or use comes with some kind of accreditation or claim to be special, how do you separate the valuable from the frivolous? (Did you know there's a website for useless and meaningless certifications; you can become a certified small talk conversationalist or ham sandwich maker.)

The serious answer to what makes an accreditation valuable, at least in our business, is customer satisfaction; to be more specific, an ability to surprise and reward customers by exceeding their expectations. At the Millennium Broadway Hotel New York, an accreditation we value highly is the International Association of Conference Centers, or IACC.

Since 1981, IACC has encouraged hotels and conference centers to meet a strict and demanding set of quality standards for facilities and service in order to earn the association's accreditation. What we find at the Millennium Broadway Hotel New York – and I'm sure it's true for the other approximately 300 IACC members around the world – is that this certification, symbolizing the standards that we are required to meet, helps drive business, including new and diversified business, and promotes customer trust and loyalty. It does so because the product that IACC membership demands is understood by meeting planners and the end user, meeting attendees, as delivering outstanding value. More on that in a minute.

There is no doubt that IACC standards are challenging and for many hotels may require significant changes, even reconstruction. You must have dedicated, single-use conference space that is set apart from accommodations and leisure areas like restaurants and bars. A hotel must generate a minimum of 60 percent of revenue from meetings and conferences. There must be at least one conference room of 1,000 square feet minimum and at least three other rooms with no moveable walls. In the case of multi-day conferences, conference rooms must be dedicated entirely to the group using them so that nothing has to be moved in or out between sessions.

Conference rooms must be equipped with ergonomically-designed chairs, tables with hard, non-glare writing surfaces and privacy screens, for the comfort and ease of female attendees, tackable walls and good sound-proofing. The meeting spaces must have in-room lighting control, including the ability to shut out external light if desired, individual climate controls, advanced telecommunications, modern AV capabilities, and high-speed internet access. Guest rooms must be "business-friendly," with desks, telephone lines, simultaneous internet connectivity and appropriate seating and lighting. (If you are interested, the IACC website can provide all the detailed specifications for qualifying facilities.

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Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.