Venue/Vendor: Know Thyself. Buyer Beware!

There was an episode of the Bob Newhart Show where a character was writing a book and used something that happened with his love-interest in the show as an example. She realized that he was using everything in their relationship as material.

I preface this blog with that because you're about to see, albeit not named, situations in which venues and vendors both know little about themselves, their services and pricing, and disclose less unless asked.

Experiences that prompted this blog:

1. My reservation at a resort at which I was conducting training specified that the room should be near an elevator. The front desk clerk assured me it was.  It wasn't. It was easily 25 rooms away. She didn't know their inventory.

2. At a recent (stunning new hotel) my room was very comfortable and had a long, built in counter, for use as a desk, with two chairs, only one set of outlets (odd) and no desk lamp that I could find. After a search of anything that could be light over the desk, I called the service line. The offer? To have engineering come up to show me.

I think of engineering as assistance for something that is out of order!

A transfer to the front desk and others did not yield any information.

Know why? Not one of the people with whom I talked at the service line or front desk (including a front desk manager) had ever been in a guest room! They didn't their product.

(The light? They finally got a message from engineering: there was a little toggle under the wall-mounted TV. It turned on a light only over a small portion of the desk. The light was so dim - maybe 10 watts - that it didn't matter.)

3. Many of the contracts I negotiate for clients are for meetings years out. They all contain yearly review clauses to ensure that all information is correct. Rarely does anyone from the vendor side initiate a review.

Earlier this year, I contacted a hotel about information in a contract (which I hadn't negotiated) to obtain clarification of unclear terms.  The sales person kept asking why I wanted to know.

Really?

I guess being a buyer or an agent for a buyer isn't sufficient reason to be allowed access to information. Maybe it was really because he didn't have answers; he didn't know his property and the reason for their standard contract provisions.

In a(nother) hotel contract review in the last few days, I was fascinated (nice word for astounded, angry, frustrated ...) that those from hotel sales (local and national) and services didn't know specifics of their hotel, had never updated the information in the contract even though they were to have done so at specific points and when there were changes. They hadn't provided information to the client on a recent planning trip because the client "didn't ask." And I guess they saw no reason to advise the buyer of the terms and conditions, some significant and others with significant budget implications, without an ask.

(They're going to get back to me and the client with the information. They're not sure these changes should be memorialized in an addendum tho' they have agreed to a rate addendum.)

Fixes:

Vendors/Venues
1. Know your product and services. If all your personnel have never experienced your guest rooms, for example, make sure they do. If you provide transportation services, let every employee ride on a bus that is being used by a client. If you provide entertainment or speakers, see/hear them with an audience to know their impact.

It's the same as restaurant staff doing a tasting of the items so they can recommend or advise.

2. Keep up-to-date on changes. If there are changes in the venue or in policies of venues and vendors, learn about them and think about the impact on customers. Don't assume that a change, minor to you, will be so to a client. (You know - like taxes going up more than 1% or a spa no longer being part of the property even tho' it says there is one in the contract!)

3. TELL rather than waiting for the ask even if there is not a provision in the contract to do so. Make no assumptions about what's important to the client/buyer.

Customers
1. Select vendors more carefully and with more thorough RFPs. Ask lots more questions. Learn about what you are buying! If you buy a mobile device, you are not likely just looking to see if it's pretty - you want to know how it works, the service provisions, etc. When you contract a venue or vendor, you want to know all there is to know.

2. Contract smartly. "Don't worry; we've never had that happen" ir "No one's ever asked us that before" is not sufficient to leave a term out of a contract. Contract for specifics and clarify terms.

3. Review contract provisions regularly. Things change. Include a contract review clause especially if you are contracting years out. And trace the review dates.

I know that owners want higher return on their dollars and thus sales people are being pushed to rush contracts through. I know buyers (aka planners or meeting professionals) are over-worked.

We still can do better and make these relationships and the end products - meetings and events - better.
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