The leading association for specialist venues, Conference Centres of Excellence, continues to grow its presence and influence across the UK with new venues recently announced in Glasgow, Sheffield, Bristol and London. We ask 'Why are sales and marketing associations still relevant in these days of TripAdvisor and other rating schemes such as the MIAís AIM and the AA'
Anthony Lishman, Conference Centres of Excellenceís Executive Director explains 'Our purpose is becoming increasingly important as we see more consolidation and homogenisation of the hotel sector by the large hotel groups, their dominance makes it difficult for independent venues and small groups to be heard above their marketing noise". Clients find it hard to distinguish between what hotels have to offer and what specialist venues have to offer.
Itís clear that purchasers of Training, Meeting and Event space are looking for the best deal and consolidating bookings under one roof or one organisation can sometimes be the most effective way to achieve best price. But it does not always deliver best value for money or a quality service and may indeed detrimentally affect the outcome of the event.
Whatís the point of running events if you donít get the outcome you need? Well thatís the question - sometimes itís not possible to confidently forecast the outcome, particularly when there is disconnect in the venue between the sales and operations departments or operations and finance, all pushing and pulling in different directions. Itís hard to see how an effective level of service can be offered on such low margins, when there are so many hidden costs that the end user just does not see or benefit from.
What do you mean by hidden costs? In Conference and Training Centres we used to think we had a monopoly on all inclusive pricing, but we donít anymore and, in an effort to save money, some customers want all the extras or added value items pulled out of the final pricing model. But itís not these hidden cost Iím talking about. Many of the large hotel groups have expensive lease arrangements or finance to pay on their buildings on top of the usual commissions, contributions to agentsí marketing budgets and overrides for additional volumes of business. We donít disagree that most of these are necessary business costs but customers should not underestimate the effect on how little of the delegate rate is left, once these charges have been paid, to spend on looking after the quality of the customer experience.
Iím sure if we used the budget airline model for charging our customers you would see these as additional on costs after the basic price has been quoted, particularly as the agentsí commissions alone can reach 20% of the delegate rate for certain pieces of business.
But surely this puts these businesses at a disadvantage? Only in the respect of what can be spent on delivering the end service, which brings me back to the point about how customers can identify the value as opposed to the cost of holding an event. Customers are realising there has to be a way of identifying quality assured venues ahead of their event taking place.
Quality is the cornerstone of membership of Conference Centres of Excellence. We know our venues have reached a high standard to be accepted into membership, but we wanted to go a step further, with independently audited on-going quality control.
All our venues have signed up to BDRC Continentalsí Venue Verdict service which rates the experience of our customers whilst at the venue. This gives our customers added peace of mind that our quality assurance processes are independently audited and directly based on customer experiences. This sets us apart from any other sales and marketing association as we actually listen to our customers to measure quality and donít rely on in-house inspection teams whose interests are not best served by losing members should an inspection go badly.
Conference Centres of Excellence has its own in house venue finding team, Hotline, who are a one stop shop for clients looking to find a quality venue across the UK with just one call or e.mail.