Smart Meetings January 2012 : Page 44
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Too Much Technology<br /> <br /> Over the past couple of years, meeting planners have been required to do more with less. Online tools have become their right hand when it comes to finding a venue to host an event, especially for those hosting multiple a year. Planners can go online to a hotel search engine and quickly find a location that meets the requirements of their program, whether it’s a board meeting or a 500-person gala, with just the click of a mouse.<br /> <br /> But with new advances come new frustrations and inefficiencies in the industry. While technology continues to expand and develop, we’re at a crossroads in differentiating between the importance of advanced technology and the role of people alongside it. Planners can go online to submit an RFP, but once it’s submitted, where does it go? How long does it take to hear back? And if or when planners do hear back, do their events work as smoothly without that added personal touch?<br /> <br /> The answer is often vague, which is why companies have started working as the middleman between planners and hoteliers to bridge the communication gap.<br /> <br /> The Problem<br /> <br /> At the Krisam Group Executive Summit in San Diego in September (which included planners and Krisam Member hotels), people gathered to talk about how suppliers respond to leads, and one individual’s response really surprised attending planners: “Do I know you or don’t I know you?”<br /> <br /> It’s just as easy now for planners to send leads to a list of 25 or 30 hotels instead of just six or eight, which is time-consuming for suppliers, especially when a lot of the leads aren’t even qualified business. They are bombarded with so many planners from various online platforms that if they don’t know you, they probably won’t take the time to respond. “When there’s a big stack of leads, it becomes a requirement to make a qualification system and start prioritizing. It’s almost like ‘lead spam’ because planners are sending out [leads] to 50 different hotels,” says John Rovie, director of sales at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo.<br /> <br /> Luckily, the industry is bouncing back, with more meetings business booked, but that also means more leads are coming through online platforms to hotels, making it a nightmare for the sales staff. In fact, Rovie is “relatively confident that customers don’t realize that this process is efficient for them, but not efficient for hotels.”<br /> <br /> Charlie Wellman, director of sales at Charleston Place in South Carolina, seconds this observation: “Everything we’ve learned over the years in terms of salesmanship is getting tossed aside in an online forum, where selling now is just filling in the blanks on a website,” he says. “If meeting planners can go to my website and book their meetings, I’m out of a job and they won’t have as good of a meeting.”<br /> <br /> While both Rovie and Wellman agree that these online tools are helpful in initiating business, especially in today’s fast-paced world, they still want the option of creating lasting business relationships through one-on-one interactions. “I think these are great tools, but as with any tool, we need to have communication about how they’re working and figure out the best way to use them to help everyone.”<br /> <br /> The Solution<br /> <br /> According to Jim Schultenover, president of both Krisam Group and Global Events Partners, “technology is not the sole answer. It’s about blending technology with a human aspect. You’re not going to get the best responses from the most suitable properties, let alone get the best value possible [with online platforms].”<br /> <br /> More companies are starting to combine the two, offering a personal connection between the supplier and the planner. Headquartered in Washington, DC, Krisam Group is one such example, offering meeting planners complimentary services when organizing their next event. Planners can search the company’s website, and a Krisam salesperson will follow up to connect them with a supplier that will fit their needs. Krisam has 250 hotel members in 90 locations around the world with whom it has been building relationships with for the past three decades. “We work as an extension of our member hotels’ sales team; we can provide the knowledge component, leverage and best-value component and problem-solving component,” Schultenover says. “You can’t do that based on an automated platform.”<br /> <br /> The company offers not only quality hotel connections, but through its sister company, Global Events Partners, and its partner, Innovative Event Production, planners are offered a one-stop-shop opportunity to be connected with destination management and production services all over the world. In fact, Krisam has DMCs in every destination where it has a relationship with a hotel. And staff members do their due diligence, which means if you’re in Spain, you’re guaranteed the same quality service as in France.<br /> <br /> “Because meeting professionals are time- and resource-starved in many cases, we can truly help them streamline their sourcing, selection and decision- making on what they’re going to do and where, which saves them time and money,” Schultenover says.<br /> <br /> The staff at Krisam isn’t made up of meeting planners, though. Krisam has been in the hospitality business for more than 30 years now, and the average person on staff has 15 years of experience in the industry. “We’re into the long-term relationship with the hotel and customer,” Schultenover says. “We’re in the people business.”<br /> <br /> Charleston Place’s Wellman agrees that Krisam knows how to create lasting relationships. “If a big meeting is going to be truly successful, Krisam knows what we can provide. [The company] knows its customer; it knows our hotel; and it does a good job of matchmaking.”<br /> <br /> Mixing technology with old-fashioned relationship building isn’t a new concept, but actually continuing to fix the tools and communicating what needs to be fixed is the key. “We’re optimistic about the future; we’re all heading in the right direction of trying to do more with less, and I think we’ll get there,” The Broadmoor’s Rovie says.
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