Unreasonable expectations or missed opportunities?
Our World | On 15, Sep 2011
I feel compelled to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard after my recent experience whilst searching for a venue for an upcoming event. The property in question is part of chain of hotels and I would say fairly well known in our industry.
I had reached the point of setting up a site inspection and had asked the hotel two fairly run of the mill questions – firstly, the name and position of the person who would be hosting the inspection and secondly if they would be able to host a lunch. Due to the time we would be arriving and the limited time we had to carry out the inspection, I felt this would provide the hotel with the maximum time possible with the client to ask the right questions and make a lasting impression. From my experience, if a client gets to site inspection stage there is high probability the event is likely to go ahead if the right property is found.
Part of finding the right property is not only the practicalities i.e. the hotel having the appropriate facilities to meet the specific needs of the brief (which of course should be ascertained prior to an inspection) but also the service levels that sets the hotel apart from the competition. Therefore, in my opinion the site inspection is a perfect opportunity for the hotel to really shine and sell themselves. This opportunity should not be underestimated!
So I was quite taken aback when the hotel informed me lunch would not be accompanied by anyone from the hotel and due to company policy would be charged for (although when pressed, the hotel advised they would comp this back should the group confirm). Despite being advised the two key decision makers would be present on the visit, the hotel insisted we would be met after lunch and shown round by a junior member of the team. They were quite indifferent when I suggested it would be in their interest for the most senior member of staff on duty be available to host the inspection. Maybe I should have more faith and who am I to pre-judge as the junior member of staff may be the best sales person for the job but it didn’t fill me with any confidence only concern for the hotel in potentially throwing away a great piece of business for what is typically a slower time of the year.
It also got me thinking, maybe the hotel are right in requesting lunch is paid for and reimbursed on confirmation of the group, especially with The Bribery Act now in force. Does ‘The Bribery Act’ extend to this kind of sales activity? This aside, whether lunch is offered by the hotel or not (it is not really the money but more the gesture) surely in my mind the hotel are missing a vital opportunity? What kind of signal does that give to myself and more importantly the clients? Or have we as agents and clients come to expect too much? I don’t think so but I’ll let you know after the site inspection…if it goes ahead!
In this situation my advice to any client would be that alarm bells should start ringing. The lack of importance placed on the inspection from the side of the hotel leads me to believe this is not the right property for their event. If setting up the site inspection is a challenge in itself imagine magnifying that when on the live event. This approach is most certainly an exception and the majority of hotels will pull out all the stops to impress and secure the business, which from my experience has the required effect.