When the Peppermill Resort Spa Casino in Reno, Nevada, completed an expansion that increased its focus on convention business, it had a problem. The hotel’s property management system was clunky, inflexible, and woefully outdated. How could it handle an influx of group customers used to doing business online?
Several years ago, the Peppermill underwent a major expansion, adding 600 rooms, a 62,000-square-foot ballroom, and other amenities as part of a push to become a full-blown convention resort. The hotel’s outdated property management system was also in need of an update.
“What we had was archaic and wasn’t very dynamic,” says Pat Flynn, executive director of hotel operations and sales. “It wasn’t developed with reporting in mind or allowing customers to access it, so we struggled trying to fulfill groups’ requests to make reservations online.”
In fact, the Peppermill tried to avoid online group reservations altogether because it ended up creating headaches for both the call center and customers. “It was a challenge to provide that service without a lot of jury-rigging the system,” Flynn says. “And when it came to reporting, everything had to be done through convention services, and you had to cut and paste to get what the client wanted. It wasn’t ideal for the direction we were going.”
Planners, too, wanted a better experience for themselves and their attendees. They increasingly requested dynamic reservation websites that could be customized, but to offer that, the Peppermill had to build each one individually from scratch.
That approach required the sales team to involve a number of different departments in order to design and launch custom sites.
When the hotel decided to expand, Flynn and his team did their research. “We reached out to customers and prospective customers and said, ‘If we were going to build the ideal (hotel) from a convention perspective, what should we build?’ We got a lot of feedback from customers big and small. One of the things that came up frequently was Passkey and the ability to make online reservations.”
Passkey, Cvent’s room-block management technology, allows hoteliers to fill room blocks faster, minimize attrition risk, receive real-time data on pickup rates and other essential metrics, automate time-consuming tasks, and much more.
The system also allows planners to pull reports that save them time, eliminate hassle, and avoid the constant back and forth with hotel staff.
Event planners familiar with Passkey praised the system as “extremely useful and beneficial, especially being able to keep event history in the system from year to year and city to city,” Flynn says. “We listened to our customers, and Passkey was it.”
Switching to an online system wasn’t entirely smooth sailing at first. “We were a little reluctant to change our business model, since we were fairly new to the true convention business.” At first, the Peppermill did not make online booking the default for group business — and didn’t see the dramatic utilization of the new system they anticipated. So the hotel changed its model and required convention bookings to go exclusively through Passkey.
The result? Significant, Flynn says. “After we changed (the process), we saw dramatic increases in utilization and customer satisfaction. Now that we have the tool and we really sell it and make it a core focus, we’ve had probably 60% to 70% of our groups go through Passkey.”
Since implementing Passkey, the Peppermill has seen benefits in many areas. One of the top impacts was staffing. Because group reservations no longer have to go through the call center, it cut the hotel’s costs significantly and allowed the Peppermill to redistribute manpower to other areas, Flynn says. “Our call center provides staffing for all five of our properties, so we’re able to reallocate those employee hours to other properties that we would have had to hire additional resources for.”
Passkey’s easy-to-use design templates save money and time, he says. “We’re not having to wait on other departments to create graphics and landing pages and links. Being able to use a turnkey system like Passkey allows the team to be more efficient.”
Another noticeable impact has been reduced wait times — by about 30% — for customers who do choose to use the call center. “By alleviating the number of calls coming in to our call center, we can provide a better experience for our other customers.”
The real-time reporting and historical information components of Passkey were another major improvement. Planners can run reports at any time or receive automatic email alerts when room block pickup hits a certain threshold. “Our old system wasn’t built for reporting. Now, customers have instant access to client-side data. They don’t have to wait for a convention services manager to cut, paste, and jimmy the info they need,” Flynn says.
For repeat groups — a much valued segment — planners can access past years’ information and data, a big plus that can swing the pendulum in the hotel’s favor for future events.
Flynn says the Peppermill hasn’t yet taken full advantage of all the opportunities Passkey provides, such as the ability to send email offers and updates. “We’re always striving to get more out of Passkey. We can always do better,” he says. “We know the tool we have will allow us to do that.”
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