Silence is not always golden

In order to establish in which way and at what level inquiries are responded to in the event area and ultimately how much turnover is generated, the IFH Institute for Hospitality Management team for the area mystery shopping made a comprehensive set of attractive test MICE inquiries at the end of 2010 at 165 hotels in the 3-star to 5-star categories worldwide.

The result, an overwhelming number of the hotels neither addressed the actual needs and requirements of the enquiry and in many cases did not even respond! Whether Amsterdam, Hong Kong or New York, with regard to personal communication with the customer, silence prevailed to a large degree.

The most important results at a glance:

  • 30% of the 167 hotels that were sent inquires did not respond at all.
  • Of the 117 hotels (70%) that responded to the inquiry, 85% did not speak nor attempt to personally contact the customers by phone to query or follow up on the response.
  • Only 26 hotels (15%) provided a tailor-made offer oriented to the needs of the customer.
  • 75% of all offers were merely “non-binding proposals” (i.e. prices and general proposals) although the details of the inquiry had been specifically worded.
  • Only five hotels of a total of 167 were able to make a convincing offer and encourage the booking.

 Perhaps the most alarming shortcoming was that only 8% of the 167 hotels surveyed called the “customer” to discuss the request. Of the remaining hotels 30 percent did not respond at all or sent a standard offer without referencing or sufficiently clarifying any other details.

It is quite astonishing how disinterested or perhaps understaffed the employees in the event area seem to be. How else can these results be explained? 

34% of all the written offers were simple, standardized F&B lists, 14% sent lists of technical equipment that were not helpful at all. And only just under half of the hotels sent an offer taking the two evening meals into consideration.  Frequently, the offers contained a number of diverse and disordered attachments such as unsorted photos and digitally standardized banquet brochures. 

In summary, there were not enough responses and the majority of those who did respond did so in a very unconvincing manner.

 In the end, only five of the 167 hotels worldwide were able to make a convincing offer and encourage the customer to book the event. These submitted offers were complete, had an accurate description of the services offered, included concrete prices as well as an attractive layout.

The results of the MICE analysis are sobering to say the least. Above all, the personal communication with the customer was insufficient and the significance of the personal contact not recognized. But how, if not through personal contact, does a hotel find out what the customer really wants?

Furthermore, international standards for preparing offers for event inquiries seem to be lacking. Classic sales rules, such as timely response, checking requirements prompt follow up, etc. were not followed.  These are all the rules you can learn thanks to staff training and seminars. With the results being so consistently short of the mark, it also shows that those hotels that do establish and follow good MICE handing procedures are likely to benefit exponentially from the hopeful continued upswing in MICE business.

Contributed by IFH Institute for Hospitality Management, Frankfurt, Germany. The company provides training programs for employee qualification and development, quality assurance via mystery shopping, mystery calls and the appropriate benchmarking, as well as sales management services and management strategy consultancy.