Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How can a hotel deliver great service to a meeting planner?

This is a common question I get from hotel sales managers, CSMs, GMs, and others – both before I book a group and while that group in in-house. In fact, the question comes up so often during pre-cons that I actually have a script I use just for those meetings. So, what is my usual response? Here it is, in a much shorter – and slightly altered form…

The key to delivering great service to a professional meeting planner is to deliver great service to the event participants.

Why is that?

The tendency for many hotel staff is to treat the meeting planner (and any designated VIPs) very well, which makes some sense for a couple of reasons. First, the meeting planner is often a single individual, which makes it easy to single them out for great service. Even when you add in the planner’s staff and event VIPs, you’re still talking about a relatively small group for hotel staff to identify. Second, the planner and VIPs are seen as being the decision-makers for where events go in the future so, as the thinking goes, treat them well and they will return. Both of those reasons are sound enough by themselves but I feel that they leave out the most important component – the attendees. An event’s attendees are, in my view, a main reason the event exists; if they don’t come, there is no event.

Remember, too, not all VIPs are labeled as such. You never know who is attending the meeting. Someone who is attending one event may be a decision-maker for another event that is sponsored by his own agency or company (I have had people like this at some of my functions). Provide great service to that person – especially when they are just a “regular” attendee – and you just gave yourself a leg up to get their business down the road, too.

If a hotel can win over the meeting participants with their service, the chances of getting that group to return to the property in the future go up considerably. I have actually had properties take such good care of my folks that I’ve practically been ordered to use that hotel again, even though my own experience with them was less than stellar.

On the flip side, a planner who takes unhappy participants back to the same venue risks losing attendees – which can have a huge impact on the event’s bottom line, especially if people pay a fee to attend. If they do take that group back to the same property, the planner had better seriously address the issues that made it unpleasant for the attendees – and make that known to the group.

I know the hotel will take good care of me (and my VIPs) – that’s easy – but I want them to take good care of my attendees, too. That is as important to me, if not more so, than just looking out for me and my VIPs.

~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises