We talked about Meetings & Events sales with Anant Vithlani, the Vice President of Sales in Nordic Choice Hotels. Watch the interview from the above video.
What kind of company is Nordic Choice Hotels?
Nordic Choice Hotels is one of the largest hotel chains in North-Europe with approximately 220 hotels and growing to about 230 hotels during 2022. Nordic Choice is growing and expanding company in the Nordic regions.
Meetings & Events is one of the biggest segments for our company as we have so many larger Meetings and events properties. So M&E literally stands for around 30 % to 35 % of our gross revenue.
How is the sales handled today when it comes to Meetings & Events business?
The typical sales process today is that customers send requests mostly by email. So in that sense they are "digital". We have seen a transformation in the past 10 years that requests coming in has shifted from phones to emails. About 85% to 90% of requests come in via email. Then we have a sales person who looks over the incoming emails. Most of the time it's some kind of additional questions or additional analysis of the needs of the customer. When we know the need of the customer we send a proposal to them and once the proposal is accepted we send a contract back to the customer who signs the contract digitally...hopefully. Some still uses the more traditional way of scanning the document and signing manually the agreement. So it's quite a lot of manual steps for all stakeholders to order a conference today. So the "email" part is basically the only "digital" part of the process.
How did you resolve the issue regarding slow sales process?
I believe that MeetingPackage solution will be a great relief for our sales departments daily work with requests. What we literally see is that 95% of all our requests are for small meetings which could actually be handled digitally. The rest 5% is for the large events which actually stands for the most of the revenue and therefore needs a lot of customer service. For the smaller meetings the customer actually wants a quick reply. Basically is there availability, what is the price and can I book it online or not. And with this manual process we have today it takes too much time to handle for the client. As we all know, clients time today is more and more squeezed.
I truly believe we can get more happy customer and happy sales staff by offering a digital solution to this sales process with MeetingPackage provided White Label solution which is integrated to our PMS. Therefore we have prices online with live availability and we can see that our customers are really enjoying the fact that they can book a meeting with few clicks.
One of the reasons we picked MeetingPackage for our supplier for this solution was that we felt that the MeetingPackage team is a very openminded team and listening our requests and also has a very quick time-to-market. So what we want is literally done already in the next week. MeetingPackage is very smooth to work with, quick, openminded and structured in responding to our requests what we would like to have.
What are your expectations regarding future?
The future is very interesting. It's even more difficult to predict the future due to Pandemic. But I personally believe that meetings is the one segment that will really grow. Because we can see that lot of employees are working from home or remote in general. Therefore, companies would like to reduce the amount of office space they have. So the need to still keep the engagement, build company culture, etc. values drives the need of meetings. And our hotels can be good spaces for the corporations to build those future strategies. I believe that meetings will be one of the key segments for the hotel industry in the up-coming years.
What challenges you faced?
Well one of the challenges we had was that we released this solution directly when the pandemic started. So from the start we were lacking staff to fully implement it within our organisation. But I also see that this is a new way of working for our staff as well as the customers. So it takes a bit of time to steer the customers to realise that they can book M&E services online. So the confidence to use the solution to all stakeholders is the biggest challenge. It is always a hurdle to learn something new. There are lot of business rules to think about. For example what if customers book on Sunday for a Monday meeting so we need to figure out how to provide the Food & Beverage services in time for them, etc. So there are multiple phases in the implementation and due to pandemic the staff turnover makes the learning slower.
Even though not all customers are used to book M&E online I believe that the pandemic has accelerated the shift towards digitalised services. People are used to handle their business online more and more. So the environment it self will definitely boost the need to book meeting facilities online in the future.
Any last words regarding Meetings & Events sales?
I think we're just at the beginning of the digital evolution of the meeting spaces. What MeetingPackage can provide is one tool to all M&E bookings. This means that MeetingPackage is the only solution between the customer and the service provider no matter where the sales happens. One integrated tool will make the offer phase and the communication with the customer much much more frictionless. And those service providers who are able to implement this will be the winners in the future.
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