Always be ready to grab group business
 
Always be ready to grab group business
03 AUGUST 2015 6:05 AM
What’s the secret to capturing group business? Always know that company’s coming.
So much goes into selecting the right hotel property for meetings: sourcing, identifying, negotiating, contracting, planning, confirming and then executing. 
 
A large part of the decision making comes during the site visit, when group event managers and stakeholders come to the hotel and meet with the sales director/sales manager, the food and beverage manager and the convention service manager. 
 
You can’t fake a good hotel. A beautiful property is just that. When conducting a supervised walk-through everyone and everything is at its best.
 
However, hospitality also is an illusion that I truly believe in. To a degree, hospitality can be likened to putting on a show but with added excellent service and chocolates on your pillow. 
 
I have gotten into the habit of doing the secret site visit over the last few years. 
 
Either I am re-visiting a property I already know to catch up on what has changed or I have a few minutes to see a hotel I don’t know. I don’t want to bother the sales people for a formal walk-through when I don’t have a lot of time or especially when I am not bringing them a potential lead. Most any detail I might want to know about I can probably find later on the hotel’s website. 
 
Being anonymous in a hotel lends itself to a peek at “backstage.”
 
I have found the secret site visit to often be informative because I don’t have to concern myself with meeting details, and I get to look at everything. I can observe the magic of catching people unaware: guests and hotel staff in the act of being themselves, a true measure of their excellence. 
 
How hoteliers can have success
The hotel’s success to the secret site visit is as simple as ABC: Always Be Conscientious.
 
Last week a group planner and operations manager, in the midst of a sweeping city tour of several hotels that were expecting them, decided to pop in on an unscheduled hotel and do a secret site visit. The hotel staff, without even knowing it, was caught in the act of being themselves. It made a great impression and is now on the preferred list. 
 
  • The point: Always be ready.
  • ABC: Always be conscious of the fact that potential new business might be roaming your hotel at any time.
 
When I had business at a hotel in Orlando, Florida, I always was impressed and comfortable walking in the door. When I have business at that same hotel, which was rebranded, that feeling still remains because the decision to hire the best of the staff helped secure the hotel’s success by providing the continuity of excellent service. 
 
  • The point: The hotel floor people make the first impressions.
  • ABC: Even when the lobby is slow, it is important to maintain the professional facade. Guests or secret site visitors feels a little less welcome when they feel they are interupting a conversation about last night’s sports scores.
 
If your hotel is one of those grand dame hotels with Old World lobby and arcade balcony overlooking it, be aware when sitting comfortably with a bird’s-eye view of the lobby how much dust can really pile up on the decorative lintels and mezzanine roof and chandeliers. 
 
  • The point: Nooks and crannies count, too.
  • ABC: Sometimes a guest, a roadie production manager or a secret site visitor goes where you would never imagine. Everywhere leaves an impression, whether it be “backstage” or the bird’s-eye view. Treat everything as if it would be part of your tour for anyone to see!
 
On a secret site visit I am free to roam the foyers and the meeting rooms, with respect, of course, to the meetings going on. I also take myself to various guestroom floors to get a feel for access and navigation. Unified design concepts that complement each other through color palette, texture or pattern allows people to identify with their new environment easily and feel a little less lost when finding their way. It is good to have a sense of bearing when in a hotel; it adds to the comfort level and flow.
 
  • The point: People instinctively look for a way to feel at home in a new place.
  • ABC: Visual continuity throughout the hotel is important. 
 
It is during the between times of the meetings, after hours when things are “at rest,” one can really observe the backstage of hospitality. This is when I can really see the care, if it is there. How does the staff interact with each other? Do I hear crashing trays from the kitchen? Is there patience when cleaning up a messy break station? Can I walk through the kitchen and get a cup of coffee? I feel vulnerability for the group when the hotel doesn’t at least place security signs or stanchions blocking their unlocked meeting rooms when no one is there.
 
  • The point: Care for the in-house group even when it’s not there.
  • ABC: Protection and understanding for the in-house group is key, whether making sure the meeting rooms are cleaned and locked when done, or adding a “hot” breakfast selection to the continental breakfast BEO at no charge; all makes for the considerate difference.
 
Excellent service grows better with age, long after the meeting is done. The impression of the hotel and property gets bigger and bigger. The common denominator of all impressions is this: Did the hotel understand my group’s needs? Was the meeting as important to them as it was to us? 
 
The answer is usually distilled into two or three succinct memories. 
  • “Do you remember how that CSM got on the Fed Ex truck herself to find our shipment?” 
  • “The AV tech stayed up and reformatted the slides until everyone one of them was right.” 
  • “The food was amazing. I will never get over that raw seafood bar.”
 
Impressive? Yes, indeed. 
 
Hospitality people at their very best.
 
What’s their secret? Always know that company’s coming.
 
Andria Goldin specializes in meeting marketing and hotel relationships. She provides collaborative, trusting partnerships with the corporate client in full meeting services and shared meeting knowledge training modules. Her specialty niche is marketing and managing a hotel renovation. Her Hotel Renovision™ programs are custom designed for the particular brand or boutique hotel. You can reach her at www.meetingknowledge.com or andria@meetingknowledge.com.
 
The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hotel News Now or its parent company, STR and its affiliated companies. Columnists published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns. 
 

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