There is no industry that exemplifies the virtue of empathy like the hospitality industry. So, to improve upon the shortcomings of the eRFP process, one must recognize the source of grief for their counterparts on the other side of the proposal.
Meeting planners depend on the accuracy and speed of information from vendors to properly relay project milestones and progress to their clients. This is no different than a hotel asking for the exact requirements in the eRFP to properly assess the availability and the possibility of accommodating their event. The eRFP process does not have inherent governance over the amount of information that is offered (although Cvent does allow for a short-form eRFP for early buying stage inquiries.) It falls to the users to provide not only the necessary information but relevant and sufficient details as well. Whether it’s a meeting planner underestimating the amount of space required or an hotelier not quoting their best room rate up front, it’s always going to end up in a missed opportunity and time wasted. This issue is exacerbated with the addition of automation.
New Methods, Different Problems
Automation has been widely regarded as a blessing and a curse in the digital age. More proposals surely will require more responses, and hotel practices that focus on leads instead of completed bookings add to the overload of information. These waves of thinly detailed eRFPs drown out the quality proposals that are later in the buying stage; increasing response times for meeting planners and overburdening the inboxes of hoteliers to the point where they’re sifting through the spam to find a proposal worth bidding on. If planners are waiting a week for their response from a specific hotel, there’s no telling how many others will rush in to fill that gap, especially in a world where their clients are demanding shorter lead times and fast turnaround on objectives.
The discussion of quantity v. quality cannot be sidelined in the eRFP process, and we must constantly remind ourselves of the opportunity cost associated with “blasting” out proposals and bids. Alongside the wave of automated proposals, there is an abundance of spam caused by the meeting planners that are new to the eRFP process. Casting too wide a net with their proposals means hoteliers are burning more time pre-qualifying eRFPs than ever before to avoid getting caught in a cycle of indecision and miscommunication. While it’s easy to blame the inexperienced planner, it’s more prudent to ask why there is a lack of required training with little-to-no barrier of entry in most eRFP platforms. It has seemingly become the norm to jump right into Cvent or StarCite and “learn as you go” with little regard towards the wasted time and attention of others along the way.
Cvent actively addresses this issue by offering eRFP courses and sending automated video messages upon logging-in that announce new features and training videos on how to properly use them. StarCite offers a full resource center on their website, complete with infographics, videos, and podcasts to help their users. With all the education readily available from the platform providers, it falls to the submitters and bidders to take responsibility for their eRFP practices.
Meeting Planner Tips for Improving Your eRFP Experience
- Target or filter the eRFP towards relevant properties – The more details you provide, the more qualified the responses will be.
- Share your history of past venues – make sure hotels have some examples to get an idea of what you’re looking for.
- Include a decision timeline – It’s not always easy getting a firm date, but if you provide an anticipated timeline, the hotelier knows what to expect. Hoteliers:
- Read the notes and attachments – There may be vital details included in these supplements that would otherwise be lost in a form field.
- Provide your best rate up front – Giving standard or outdated room rates in your response can result in your property being swiftly removed from the shortlist by the planner’s client.
- Explain why your property is turning down an eRFP – There could be an opportunity for the planner to adjust their proposal or consider you for an event in the future.
For a more detailed look at the issue, check out The eRFP: Growing Pains, Remedies, and Preparing for the Future
Many thanks to Brie Richards and Genny Castleberry for their insight and expert opinions on the subject!