By Joanna Fisher, Director of Sales for Kew Green Hotels
Not only does meeting business create incremental revenue for hotels, it also helps connect to, and build on a hotel’s reputation within, the local community. This starts with identifying the key factors to the success of your hotel’s meeting business to ensure you are maximising every opportunity.
Our hotels include world leading hotel brands Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Crowne Plaza, Hampton by Hilton, Ibis Styles and Courtyard by Marriott, so when it comes to the bread and butter of the meeting business, corporate bookings, we’re always aware that we sit in what’s viewed as the more ‘traditional’ meeting room provider space (as opposed to more niche providers such as boutique hotels and cafes). As such, we really push to make our meeting room experience as efficient as possible for the customer and focus on empowering our teams to deliver an outstanding customer journey from start to finish. It’s all about making sure our customers can focus on being a success on the day.
Kew Green Hotels’ Commercial Hub was opened in 2016 to respond to changes in our customers buying behaviour and future-proof our business for expansion. It also enabled us to provide good talent pathways to tackle staff retention and increase employee engagement, as well as improve profitability. We now have a central sales team that can manage the ‘request for proposals’ season, which is largely procurement and electronically lead, and respond to email and phone requests on a local level. Focusing on key areas, such as requests via email and social media channels as well as responding with speed, in this way is already paying dividends for both the business and the customer. This was shown most recently by the fact that Kew Green Hotels was ranked by BDRC mystery guest benchmarking as the highest performing hotel group for Meetings Enquiry Handling in 2016.
Every good customer journey starts with us ensuring they have access to good content via the website and are offered easy options to book. It is for this reason that we recently invested in creating an ‘instant book and pay’ functionality on our website to grow our share of the small meetings market. We are also utilising the latest AI technology and gamification for the sales team in the Commercial Hub, a technology which embraces the latest data to predict the best time and best way to contact sales prospects and therefore increasing our new business conversion. By taking away the hassle for the customer when it comes to transactional meeting space, we ensure our teams are freed up to spend quality time with the more complex enquiries that customers are investing more money in. This extra time is really critical to the success of larger events such as gala dinners, product launches, exhibitions and large conferences.
Our 55 hotels across the UK can be found in key regional locations from Scotland to Brighton and local, trend-led events work really well in terms of maximising our profit, from ‘Frozen’ kids themed parties to tribute nights and Christmas parties. A good example is our introduction of corporate party nights last year that allowed companies to incorporate their year end meetings with a party night for a 24 hour rate. Instead of forking out for an expensive dinner after their meeting, the groups could join one of our party nights at no extra cost. In this way we maximised our meeting room occupancy during the day and boosted bedroom occupancy during off-peak periods such as Fridays and Saturdays in the last few weeks running up to Christmas.
We have already seen an uplift in our rate growth as we are able to focus the team on achieving the company growth goals. The hub has also allowed us to create specialist positions to deal with multi-property inquiries for individual customers – a ‘one stop shop’ that allows us to maximise sales across key regional areas such as Leeds, where we have four properties, and Norwich where we have three.
Although focusing on the customer is crucial, it’s just as important to ensure your employees are happy. We saw our sales team engagement rocket to over 90% ‘highly satisfied’ after the creation of the Commercial Hub. The key to this was embracing social media to communicate to all our teams, including senior management, and encouraging them to engage with us through likes and comments on internal Facebook pages.
For this year we will be continuing our focus on capex investment and upgrading our meeting facilities, aesthetically as well as technically, with an extensive refurbishment program across some of our largest function spaces. We also want to ensure we’re still getting the basics right, by investing in products such as eight hour chairs and good WIFI capabilities as well as wireless technology around data projections and SMART boards.
Joanna Fisher is Director of Sales at Kew Green Hotels and has previously worked at companies including IHG, Starwood, Ramada Jarvis, GLH and The Ascott Group, before joining Kew Green in 2015.