Response to the article, E-RFP Eruption: Shifting Meeting Sourcing Strategies as Online Leads Swamp Hoteliers.
I have a saying…"When paths ascend; Idleness descends; Momentum surpasses" which means climb your hill one step at a time to eliminate idleness. Step by step, you will build momentum to keep moving forward and upward. If you don't, you roll backward. From where I sit, it does not appear that hotels have been practicing continuous improvement efforts to ascend the path of eRFPs.
As eRFP technology has been around since at least 1997* many hoteliers have practiced conscious incompetence in adopting eRFPs. For example, in a 2007 conversation with a prominent, large chain property in Florida, the Director of National Accounts said, "Debi, if we get two leads and one is through technology and the other is through the traditional method, I will always give first priority to the traditional RFP." And, unfortunately, his response is echoed by hundreds of hoteliers today because they have not wanted to restructure their resources as Gaylord has so efficiently accomplished. Granted, technology may be onerous, but improvements are being made regularly. In comparison, our first computers with floppy drives were hard to operate too; we didn't ignore them, we used them.
In contrast, there is probably more hope for the unconscious incompetent hoteliers who may not be educated on eRFPs. In a recent client interview when I asked about eRFP usage, the meeting planner responded that in some cities like Panama City it worked well but in contrast, the hotels did not recognize the email with the eRFP link in Santiago. Hotels must continue to prioritize eRFPs as more global organizations move toward automation.
If Hyatt believes that eRFPs got out of control almost overnight, then, in my opinion, they haven't been following the strategic meetings management initiatives, the GBTA conferences, the incline in technology usage, or the rising procurement influence. Strategic Meetings Management (SMM) has been formalized since 2004. As practitioners, we emphasize the importance of automation to increase visibility and efficiency, and reduce costs and risks. We knew this was coming for years; eRFP adoption continues to increase with improved functionality.
In addition, for Hyatt to say that with the new self-populating automaton, if the buyer submits 119 questions and the new methods will self-populate probably 70 answers, and then "if the customer is serious, they can follow up" is nonsensical. Following procurement practices, Hyatt would be disqualified as a supplier for not answering all of the questions which may be the reason why they aren't recognizing the response results they expect.
Planners with complex meetings can save an average of 5 hours per meeting by using eRFP technology for comparison purposes. Without automation, planners often print out the responses, lay them on the floor (because the floor has more space than their desk), and rekey all of the data into a cost analysis spreadsheet. I've benchmarked this number and it is real. If an organization has 100 complex meetings a year, an organization can save 500 hours at minimum. Using automation, it takes about 30 seconds. In addition, planners save an average of 5-10% on hotel pricing when they have the historic, previous meeting eRFP rates at their fingertips. Moreover, they save another 20-30 minutes per meeting without having to look through old contracts for historic rates. I encourage clients to add technology usage clauses to their hotel master contracts as a foundational requirement.
Kudos to Gaylord who appears to have taken the lead two years ago and restructured their lead-managing process. While the technology companies continue to improve their functionality, we expect that hoteliers will educate their staff, improve their processes, and take the top down approach to ensure that their Directors of National Accounts, or any other staff member, recognize the importance of technology automation.
*From Scholar's SMM History whitepaper: During 1997 with technology advancements in a race, other companies raced to offer meeting automation to planners. The San Francisco Miyako Hotel offered the first online request-for-proposal system (built by Cardinal Communications).
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Debi Scholar, GLP, CMM, CMP, SSGB, CTE, CTT
• Author, Strategic Meetings Management: The Strategy Quick Reference Guide (2011)
• Co-Author, Strategic Meetings Management Handbook (2011)
• Meetings Management Mover and Shaker as selected by Corporate and Incentive Travel Magazine (2010)
• Top 20 Changemaker who influenced the meetings management industry by Corporate Meetings and Incentives (2008)
• Best Meeting Practitioner as selected by Business Travel News (2007)
*Debi is proud to be a regular contributor to Business Travel Executive Magazine.
*Debi is proud to be one of only seven 2011 Editorial Board members for Hotel Business Review at http://www.hotelexecutive.com/ for Conferences & Meetings.
*Debi created two LinkedIn groups (GBTA SMM and T&E Plus) that now claim over 2,000 worldwide members combined.
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