There is a complex web of relationships within the group sales segment – the meeting planner and the hotel, the hotel and the attendees, the attendees and the planner, the planner and the corporate, the corporate and the attendees.
Each stakeholder has its own general and specific demands from the relationships. Increasingly, it is technology that can square the circles, to make sure that everyone in the conversation is being heard and attended to.
Most hotel IT providers have a strong interest in group sales, and tnooz sat down over Skype with Robin Deyo, co-founder and enterprise business officer of Cendyn, to talk about the difference tech is making to this part of the hotel landscape.
“We’ve been in tune with the group sales market for some time,” she began, explaining that some of the first products Cendyn brought to market when it launched some twenty years ago were e-proposal, e-menu and e-brochure products to help hotels sell to groups. And today, it is the planners – the people who decide whether to host their conference and spend their budget at Hotel A or Hotel B, who are one of its main areas of focus.
“[Cendyn] currently has the largest impact with the meeting planners themselves. They are reaching out to our hotel customers for rates, dates, space availability, and then our tools enable hotels to reply back and really tell their story.”
“Telling the story” is achieved by creating a platform for hotels to host rich content, which can be not only integrated into responses but also “personalized” so that the response is relevant to specific needs of the planner.
“So as well as the rates and dates, we allow hotels to let planners see videos, 360-degree photography, banquet menus, function room schematics, testimonials, local attractions…all the elements that go together to make a really great group experience.”
But the telling of the story through rich content only part of the picture. Speed is of the essence and Cendyn has worked to make sure that responses can be generated and deliver super-quick because “70% of first responders get the business.”
The combination of rich content, personalization and a quick response is a winning formula, but there is still more that can be done to enhance the profitability of each engagement. “You want to upsell,” she said, explaining how its suite of tools can allow hotels to offer the planner extra services or upgrades, “almost like Amazon – people who bought this also liked this.”
Telling stories through rich content, driving ancillary revenues and thinking like Amazon are not phrases traditionally associated with group sales but are indicative of a shift not only within the hotel sector but also the corporate world. Cendyn is aware that the workforce is changing and that Millennials – the largest generation in the US workforce – are bringing their consumer tech expectations with them.
“A Millennial planner, who doesn’t want to call the hotel, can sit at home at 11 o’clock at night and start building the menus for their event…Our tools allow the hotel to really showcase their property and entice the meeting planner to spend more with them.”
Here’s the video interview in full: