It could be the silent threat killing repeat event business, according to the 2019 Cvent Planner Sourcing Report — venue staff professionalism.
According to the global edition of the annual Cvent-commissioned report, one of planners' biggest considerations for returning to a venue is the professionalism of the staff. In fact, more than half of 2,650 qualified planners surveyed (59%) said a lack of professionalism among hotel staff would prevent them from returning. “Concern over professionalism ranks higher than more obvious items like venue size (44%), cost (43%), or available dates (42%)," the survey found.
In 2018, only 45% of planners surveyed cited professionalism as a factor in returning to a venue. “Planners have no time to waste with venues that deliver partially complete RFP responses, inadequate communication, or bad service," the 2019 survey noted.
Anticipating Planners' Needs Goes a Long Way
Rude or inexperienced staff can do more than ruin an event — they can also ruin a hotel's chance at future business. “It drives me crazy when we walk into a hotel, and they don't understand industry terms or the flow of a program," MeetingAdvice founder and managing partner Steve Goodman told Cvent.
Goodman's company plans 200 to 300 events a year, so he knows firsthand how important experienced and professional staff is to a venue and an event. He says he looks for “a level of professionalism from the minute you pull up to the hotel and you meet the doorman, to the front desk, all the way through housekeeping. The level of professionalism that is shown by the staff typically resonates on what type of event you might have at that property."
Meetings and events specialist Leanna Mosquera looks for staff who are not only professional but can anticipate needs and fulfill them quickly. “If the staff is just outstanding and we don't ever have to ask for things — they just anticipate our needs — we are automatically willing to go back to that property," said Mosquera, who runs 20 or so educational events each year for human tissue company AxoGen.
Attitude and Detailed RFP Responses Are Key
A lack of professionalism can also extend to the venue selection process — in particular, RFP responses. More than a third of respondents in Cvent's 2019 survey (35%) cite a bad experience with the venue selection process as one of the reasons they won't give a venue repeat business. In particular, 32% of planners said they wanted better attention to detail in RFP responses, while 14% said they should be more thorough.
Being upfront is also important. Hotels should be “totally transparent — telling us the good, the bad, and the ugly before we go to contract," Goodman says. “So many hotels take your business for granted, and the attitude that salesperson or catering manager has when you meet them is probably the same attitude that they're going to have once you're on-property."
Corporate event manager Michele Gebrayel agrees about the need for transparency, particularly when it comes to being flexible with dates and availability. “If we could have a little transparency, that would be more helpful, because if (a venue is) my first choice, I will hold out for them," says Gebrayal, who oversees both big events for up to 120 people and smaller roundtables for up to 20 people for DuCharme, McMillen & Associates, an Atlanta-based tax consulting firm.
'Talk to Me Like a Person'
Communication is another part of professionalism that causes issues for planners. In fact, 44% of planners cite communication problems as the reason for choosing not to submit an RFP to a venue. "Planners simply do not have the time to waste on inefficiency or miscommunication," the Cvent report noted.
Hotel venue managers should also pay attention to the details both in the RFP responses and during one-on-one conversations, Gebrayel says. “If someone keeps calling me Gabby, when it's Michele, I think they may have an issue with details."
Again, it's best for hoteliers and venue managers to be transparent with potential planner clients, rather than simply turning down an RFP. “The best thing we can do is be flexible. Tell me when you can do it. Tell me what dates you could do. Tell me to increase my room block by 50 rooms," says Laura Vogel, a corporate meeting planner and event consultant based in Austin. “Talk to me like a person."