A good thing happened this Monday. Cyrena from one of Hotel A's properties called to apologize for poor service and see if there was anything she could do to make it right. (See my previous posting on Cyrena and others for the full back story.)
I was impressed that she made the effort to call, wanted to hear me out, and was attempting to make things better. It didn't put her hotel back into the running for my event, but it may have been just enough for me to consider her property in the future.
Look for tomorrow's installment where I'll update you on my site visits and hotels that apparently think "1 business day" means 10 calendar days.
I'm sure you've heard that old saying, "Better late than never." Today I found an example of the opposite, "Better never than late."
On April 18 I submitted an online request for a quote on meeting space to 12 hotels in Los Angeles and Orange County. The requests went to two hotel chains, referred to here as Hotel A and B because this is an active sales process. Both chains claimed a 1 business day response time on their websites.
Today, 6 business days later, I received a voice mail from someone at one of Hotel A's locations. The salesperson left a brief message where she essentially told me to expect a call tomorrow from someone else. Tomorrow I will be visiting some of her competitors who have already sent me proposals so her phone call was too little, too late.
In this case, it would have been better to never call at all. Blame it on technology, say your dog ate the lead, or perhaps corporate commandos from another company broke into your office in the middle of the night and stole your computer. Come up with something. Anything. Except, of course, "We just got around to calling you today." Now, you won't get the business AND you'll look worse than if you hadn't bothered to call at all.
It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.
- Mark Twain
I'm trying to book meeting space for a public workshop, Getting Started as a Supervisor, and I am having a heck of a time. I've contacted hotels from two completing companies in Los Angeles and Orange County and the results have been unimpressive. For an industry that is supposedly in need of business, their sales people sure have a funny way of showing it!
I'm referring two these to companies as "Hotel A" and "Hotel B" in my blog because this is an active process. By now, I've rounded up proposals from 9 of the 12 hotels I contacted. (That's right, I received no response from 3 hotels, all representing "Hotel A".) Unfortunately, only 3 of the 9 proposals I received addressed all the needs I outlined in my original request. Here's a graphical breakdown:
Some of the responses I did receive have just been plain dumb. Here are some examples:
Cheryl C from Hotel B sent an incomplete proposal. I emailed to ask her for the additional information, including pricing and menus for food. She responded with another email that only answered one of my questions.
Cyrena W. from Hotel A sent an incomplete proposal for the wrong kind of room. Since the proposal came one day later than expected, I decided not to consider Cyrena's property and emailed her to let her know. She responded with another email that still didn't answer any of my questions:
Good Morning Mr. Toister,
Thank you for your e-mail and interest in [Hotel A]. My apologies for responding in a matter not meeting your expectations and for any inconvenience this may have caused you. We very much appreciate your interest in [Hotel A] and would be pleased to welcome your business. If you would like to provide me with some specific details outlining the program you are interested in hosting this September, I would be more than happy to find the appropriate information for you and place a courtesy hold on any meeting space.
Once again, Mr. Toister, thank you for your interest in [Hotel A] and I would welcome the opportunity to exceed your expectations. Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions or requests.
Debbie H. from Hotel A emailed a proposal two days later than expected.The quote was very high, so I emailed her to let her know I had received several more competitive quotes and was not considering her hotel. Here was her response:
If you would like to share with me the rates, I can see if we are able to meet the quote that you are getting elsewhere. Just let me know.
****My response to Debbie:
Does that mean your original quote was not your best offer? In that case, please forward your best quote to me.
Price is not the only consideration, though it is important. I’m also looking at the quality of the facility, the level of service I experience, and how well I think the venue will work for my event. For that reason, I will not share pricing between competitors, but I am happy to consider a lower quote. (Your original quote was significantly higher than others I have in hand.)
Will it get better? Well, it's no surprise that the front runners in the process are the two hotels (1 from Hotel A and 1 from Hotel B) that have reasonably competent sales people. In both cases, the sales person called me within one business day to confirm my needs and then promptly emailed a proposal. They have also been very prompt and courteous in their follow-up communication. Next week, I'll visit these properties and hopefully decide upon one location in Orange County and one in Los Angeles.
Wish me luck... I'll need it.
I'm two days into finding meeting space for my public workshops and I'm already encountering a disturbing trend. In today's economic climate you'd expect hotels showing an extra bit of hustle to try to bring in some extra business. Right? Quite the contrary it seems. Calling clients and submitting proposals doesn't seem to be part of the sales plan for some of the hotels I've contacted.
Both Hotel A and Hotel B (names withheld because it is an active sales process) promise a one business day response time when you submit a request for proposal on their websites. Here are the actual results:
If customer service is defined by the extent you meet the customers expectations, then receiving a proposal within one day equals good service. This means Hotel A delivered poor service (i.e. fell short of expectations) in 6 out of 7 instances.
Hotel B fared a little better, but several of their emails missed key details from my request for proposal. This required me to email back and forth several times and one hotel was eventually excluded from my search because the sales person didn't answer my questions after emailing three times.
Only two salespeople performed at a very good level. One person from Hotel A and one from Hotel B called me to confirm my requirements and then promptly emailed a proposal that directly addressed my needs.
This September, Toister Performance Solutions will be piloting a public supervisory skills workshop called Getting Started as a Supervisor. Hosting a public workshop requires me to find suitable meeting space in my three pilot locations: Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego. Over the next two weeks, I'll provide detailed analysis of the type of service I receive from each venue I contact. I will highlight the winners (and losers) and describe why they won (or lost) my business. No punches will be pulled, but I also won't be playing favorites. Finally, the names of each venue will be omitted since this is an active sales process.
The primary competitors are two major hotel chains with a large presence in all three of my target markets. I am considering a few additional venues in San Diego since that is my home market and I have a few personal contacts here.
I started my search on Saturday, April 18. First, I emailed a couple of my personal contacts to ask if they'd like to bid on the event. Next, I went to the websites for the two hotel chains (let's call them A & B for this post). Each site allowed me to browse through properties in the area and submit a Request For Proposal (RFP) online. However, there were also some big differences in how they approached this.
Their website allowed you to enter some basic information about your event, but you had to complete a separate RFP application for each hotel. That quickly got annoying, especially since I sent the information to 9 hotels.
Their website was similar in function to Hotel A's, but they first asked you for your event information and then suggested hotels that might be a good fit. You could pull up more information about individuals properties and ultimately select which hotels received your RFP. They also had handy calculators, diagrams, and examples that were embedded into the RFP form, so you could make sure you were making the appropriate request even if you didn't have much experience planning this type of event.
Advantage: Hotel B.
Both hotels' websites told me to expect to hear from a salesperson within one business day. I'll let you know tomorrow (Tuesday, April 21) how many properties I hear from and how well they did.