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by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | December 2, 2015

Marriott Red Coat Direct screen shotReconciling the master bill for events just got a whole lot easier for planners holding events at Marriott's meeting properties. Just weeks ago the Bethesda, Md.-based hotel company added a new component to its popular Meeting Services App, which was launched in 2014. Now, planners using the app during their gatherings can view their master bill on a daily basis, making it much easier to dispute or query charges for banquets, meals and any event charge, while the event is still fresh in their mind.

To understand how planners are using the enhanced app, I spoke with Kelly Cooper, Marriott International's senior director, global operations design and development.

How many of your meeting planner clients are using the Meeting Services App?
In the beginning usership was a bit slow, because it was a new technology. But this year, things have really picked up. I would say that in North America, about 50 percent of our clients are using it.

What made you decide to enhance the billing-process component of the app?
We go to customer forums across the U.S. to get planner feedback on how we can keep improving, and planners, as well as third-party intermediaries, constantly tell us that reconciling their bill is one of their biggest pain points. So we decided to enhance the billing component based on their feedback.

How does the new billing feature work?
The app is available on any web-enabled device. But I think the most exciting piece is you can now go into the app and see your electronic event checks, and enter into a secured back-and-forth live chat with sales and catering — the same people planners have been dealing with during their entire event process — and really resolve any billing issues immediately. Today, planners get a paper order, and if they dispute it, the banquet captain scurries back to the F&B office, rewrites it and brings a new check back for them to OK. Well, the billing app works exactly like that, only electronically.

Is the app available at all Marriott meeting hotels?
The app is really only tailored to our meeting-focused properties, which are our upper, full-service hotels. By the end of this year, all 800 of our U.S. hotels will have the enhanced billing-services feature. In 2016, it will be a global brand standard, and all of our meeting properties will have it.

Does the app have the ability to link Marriott hotels in a citywide convention?
No, but, we are not done yet. We are still looking at how we can further enhance it. Right now we are prioritizing, but there will be more things to come in 2016. Our ultimate goal is to make the meeting planner's job as easy as we can. Even if they take the data we helped them collect through our app to a non-Marriott meeting property, that's OK. We would still have helped build brand loyalty, because the next meeting they book with us, we don't have to ask for their revenue numbers, we already have it.

Click here for a tutorial on Marriott's new billing service.