Planners to Hoteliers: Here's What You Could Do Better

The planner/hotelier relationship is critical to effective meetings. However, there's plenty of room for improvement, as results of M&C's May 2015 Research indicate. Survey respondents had much more to say when asked for specifics on what works, what doesn't and how hotels could improve their dealings with meeting planners.

Which hotel personnel are typically the most helpful to you in planning and executing your meeting?

• Once on-site, the banquet manager can be very helpful tweaking plans. They have the lowdown and often know better what fits, what works and doesn't work, timing, etc.
• Lately, I have really appreciated the "event concierge" roles Hyatt and other hotels have instituted. While most CSMs are very helpful/accessible, I know they are very busy. Having a concierge on the floor who can get the extra flip chart or more chairs on a moment's notice is super appreciated. Takes care of all the little needs throughout the day. Makes everything smoother. I also see the role as a great introduction to the industry.
• An outside meeting planner we use. During the meeting, the banquet manager is usually very helpful.
• Group room coordinator/lodging coordinator

Which hotel personnel would you like to be more accessible to you?

• It would nice to see the general manager out of his/her office, walking the hotel and talking to the guests, a stop-by the pre-con or the registration desk to thank us for our business and ask if everything is OK. Some chefs are customer-oriented and can be helpful planning special menus in advance; others aren't into meeting with the client at all, so you have to work through the event manager to get what you need, which takes longer. We don't often see or hear from the salesperson once we're turned over to the events department to work out details and logistics,and when there is a problem with the room block, that salesperson should have a vested interest in making sure we're satisfied. But their job is to sell and find more business -- they can't get bogged down with logistics and service issues.
• Rarely have I found a member of a hotel staff not readily available when I need them.
• Reservations person assigned to my group.
• I would like to work directly with the reservations/revenue manager on our room block. Going through our event/convention services manager causes too much delay because they forward, and then its forwarded back and then to me. At some hotels, our convention services manager, who I've been working with on the planning, says hello and then turns me over to the banquet manager. I don't like this at all. I want to continue working with the convention services manager. There are some hotels who do this, and it is much better.
• One of my biggest pet peeves in 30 years of meeting planning is that when I'm on-site to manage the meeting I've been working on for months/years to bring into the hotel, and my sales contact never even stops by my office/reg desk to say hello and ask how things are going. That's a huge mistake for me and, yes, I take it personally. That salesperson showed a lot of interest early on in booking my business, and they should be just as interested in how it's progressing during the actual event. Always leaves a sour feeling and potentially black mark on my memory of the entire process.
• For the love of all things good -- please, general managers, come to the pre-con!!! Thank you!!

In what areas do problems often arise?

• Our biggest headache is with reservations. When the block opens, the hotel doesn't place inventory in the three days pre and post per the contract, and sometimes only puts one bed type in the block, so the first person who tries to arrive early for a little sightseeing runs into problems. When the hotel does put inventory in the days pre and post, it's a handful of rooms at a time, so within hours or a couple of days, we have to go back to the hotel and ask for more rooms again and again. It makes us look disorganized. Many hotels use Passkey, which is never reliable on the side, so we have to go to the hotel daily and ask for pickup reports. I feel like I'm doing the job of the reservations department keeping track of my block. During the meeting, it's often difficult to find someone on the floor when you need to add more coffee quickly or want an extra easel. I look in all the nooks and crannies to find the person who is supposedly assigned to our group. For a large group, every coffee break should have an attendant so I don't have to go around picking up debris, busing meeting room tables and making sure we haven't run out of milk. Bills are seldom correct the first time. We don't like surprises. Be up front with us about everything.
• Extra charges that are unexpected and not within normal practices of other locations. Seems like everyone is trying to make a buck on anything they have!
• Once in a limited period of time does room temperature problem occur; it's usually fixed quickly.
• Set-up time or room flips can be a challenge.
• Sustainability-oriented requests
• It's becoming more common that front-line hotel staff are not briefed about the groups in-house, contractual requirements and likes/dislikes specifically voiced in the pre-cons, such as "no one is allowed in the meeting space without person X from my group physically present." It's very frustrating when time is of the essence and no one seems to have a clue about things you've already covered with your hotel contacts.
• Wi-Fi and room-attrition clauses
• Specifically, hotel staff delivering and setting up breaks and meals on time has been a problem. Having those sets complete, including menu cards with dietary restrictions listed for each dish, is often a problem. I've also had startling problems with sleeping rooms lists - changes not being made or somehow reverting back to an original reservation.
• Space contracted is not able to deliver what specifications require, even after promises that it will fit!
• I am finding a consistent delay in attention immediately from the point of contract signing to the first couple of months of planning. My CSM is usually busy working on other projects and doesn't really care about my pre-planning and initial needs. I find that I have ridiculous delays in responses, if I receive a response at all, and at multiple properties I have had to contact my sales manager to assist in either "finding" the CSM or helping with my questions.
• Unknown renovations
• A/V
• Wait staff
• Rooms being ready by check-in time