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Hotel Sales Staffs Are Blowing Business

Memo to Hotel General Managers:

Here’s what’s wrong with ALL your sales operations, which are apparently the result of some cookie-cutter approach from before the Civil War.

I’ve contacted seven hotels in New York City in the past month to run two-days of programming in September. This is the inevitable and consistent sequence that follows:

  1. Hotel operator connects me to sales department.
  2. Administrative person takes five minutes getting contact and logistics information to determine which sales person should take my call.
  3. Sales person is not available, but will call back.
  4. Sales person doesn’t call back.
  5. I call back and demand to speak to general manager.
  6. General manager’s secretary or administrative assistant promises action and gets someone to call.
  7. Sales person calls and asks for exact same information as in step #2.
  8. It takes ten minutes using a computer to determine if conference room space and sleeping rooms are available.
  9. If not, conversation ends. Up to now, at least 24 hours have gone by.
  10. If there is availability, sales person emails complex information with menu selections, boilerplate legal warnings (charges to accept FedEx, attrition rates, deadlines, etc.).
  11. I find errors in the information that has previously been requested twice.
  12. I call back with corrections and ask for firm fees, citing some disappointments. Sales person promises to get back to me.
  13. Sales person doesn’t get back to me, I call again.
  14. Sales person calls back and has better prices (best offers are never extended the first time, which makes me suspicious about what is really available). Up to this point, at least three days have gone by.

What the hell are you thinking? Why do you make your buyers jump through hoops with people who seem to be busier (or more uncaring) than toll collectors at rush hour?

And to make matters worse, some hotels have joint arrangements where you’re not even speaking to the property you have in mind, but rather to some central booking office.

My horrid experience of the week was the W Hotel in Times Square, where my wife and I have stayed dozens of times but where the service is deteriorating. The general manager has invited me to call him directly when I need something. I did and he wasn’t around. Twice his assistant tried to help me, but their sales department apparently operates in an alternate universe. Promises to get back to me are never met. As I write this, they are 17 hours past their last promised call deadline.

At the Plaza Athenee I was told that a sales person was too busy to get back to me in four hours. Four hours. That tells me I’m simply not much of a priority and won’t be one if I book my events there, either. I return all my calls within 90 minutes.

Would you make your guests at registration wait four hours? Does room service take a day to get back to guests? Why do you create such a horrible sales environment for customers who want to book events and rooms? You remind me of a car dealer I visited once where all the sales people were talking to each other in an otherwise empty showroom. Not one approached me. So I walked out. Since then, I’ve purchased about $2 million worth of cars elsewhere.

Here’s my favorite over the past week: “I’m sorry, the sales staff is in a sales meeting and can’t take calls.”

“A sales meeting at 10 in the morning? And they’re talking to each other and won’t talk to customers?”

“That’s correct.”

“Who called the meeting?”

“The sales director.”

I’m only a consultant, but maybe that’s the problem.

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Alan Weiss is one of those rare people who can say he is a consultant, speaker and author and mean it. His consulting firm, Summit Consulting Group, Inc. has attracted clients such as Merck, Hewlett-Packard, GE, Mercedes-Benz, State Street Corporation, Times Mirror Group, The Federal Reserve, The New York Times Corporation, and over 500 other leading organizations.

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