Great customer service ensures future group bookings

There is no question about it: Wonderful customer service at the property level is what ensures a group booking, as long as it can meet the needs of a prospect.

In today’s world of real-time communications via social media, a favorable comment about a property will no doubt reach millions of people, while an unfavorable comment might reach even more. 

Each guest staying at a property, and especially a meeting or conference attendee, becomes a “walking mouthpiece,” according to an article by Hotel Management editor-in-chief David Eisen in a recent issue. Guest reviews, in a variety of methods, have a tremendous effect on millennials, who are the group booking prospects of the future.

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It is interesting to note that one customer-service aspect meeting planners say they would like to see improved upon at a property has to do with the general manager. 

Meetings & Conventions magazine conducted a survey to "nd out what meeting planners think could be enhanced in terms of group meetings. Of all the items mentioned by group planners, the one item that stood out was that they thought general managers need to be more visible. Suggestions included for the GM to attend the preconference meeting of an event, meet and greet planners when they visit for site inspections, and be around and visible sometime during their meetings.

Customer service really begins well in advance of any group meeting event. It even begins well in advance of any personal contact made with a prospect.

For example, one of the biggest items that meeting planners complain about every year is the slow response they get from sales staffers in response to requests for proposals, according to Meetings Professionals International. Not responding within a day or two to requests for information, whether via a RFP or phone call, represents poor customer service.

The issue really is what do we do to improve our customer service?  There are so many things involved when we talk about this subject. It starts with answering the phone; how we address guests; and how our employees act and demonstrate good customer service.

It really all comes down to employing the right people, providing appropriate job descriptions for all employees and consistent training— not just one-time training, but on a continual basis. In the business of bringing in more group business, a salesperson needs to rely more on the entire staff to perform appropriately, and to provide the service necessary to assure the success of the event for the planner who made the arrangements.

Sales staffers know that booking a group should not be a one-time thing, and that getting them back again is what is critical. It is superior customer service that will do the trick.

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Hotels in the country have reported growth in both revenue and profitability, but the outlook for further improvement in 2019 and beyond is uncertain.

The survey is open to hotel franchise/membership companies, multiunit hotel ownership companies, hotel management companies and hotel developers.

McKibbon Hospitality manages the 200-room Hyatt House Chicago/West Loop-Fulton Market.