Mr. Blanc

Meetings & Conventions

The Art of Developing Client Relationships

By Eric Blanc, President, ACOM

Whether personal or professional, the meetings industry is primarily based on relationships. Meeting planners are often influenced by their colleagues and the relationships built with the service personnel they work with to help produce successful meetings. Often times, the decision for a meeting planner to return to a venue or destination (or not) rests solely on the ability of convention services managers (CSMs) to develop thriving client relationships.

To do this successfully, CSMs at hotels, convention centers and convention and visitors bureaus (CVBs) need to take personal ownership of their client’s events and work diligently to fulfill their needs, all while making suggestions to them for improvement and efficiency. Building solid client relationships will ultimately help CSMs achieve customer satisfaction and customer loyalty to their venue or destination.

Why Develop Client Relationships?

“I believe developing and maintaining client relationships are the keys to successful business,” said Felicia Davis, Convention Services Manager at the Atlantic City CVA. “It is our responsibility as service providers to build productive partnerships based on respect, knowledge and shared experiences.”

Devon Sloan, CMP, Director of Events at the Hilton Tucson El Conquistador agreed and added, “Developing client relationships is very important, critical even,” she said. “We need to become a member of the client’s team so we can better help each other, trust each other, support each other and brainstorm with each other. If we can develop that kind of relationship with clients, the event logistics and planning will go so much easier for both parties.”

According to David Raymond, CMP, Senior Convention Services Manager at The Westin Charlotte, the success of a program could come down to the relationship CSMs have with their clients. “It does not always need to be ‘buddy/buddy,’ but a true understanding of your client’s moods and ‘hot buttons’ is important,” he said. “You will also know the best way to approach your client (i.e. head on or casually).”

In addition to client relationships helping with the overall success of an event, these partnerships also play a crucial role when either party is faced with a challenge or difficult situation. “By developing these types of relationships, we know we can be honest with each other and even if the news isn’t good, we know we can work together to come to a solution. We also know we can count on each other to resolve a reservation mishap, or if a high maintenance Board member has a special request. Sometimes we can even laugh at these situations together,” said Sloan. “We ultimately know we can depend on each other to be proactive, honest and have each other’s back.”

Getting to Know Clients Personally and Professionally

After the initial take-over process, many CSMs immediately begin the process of getting to know their clients, both personally and professionally. “An introduction phone call is a great way to begin with any new client and then as you begin the planning process, continue on that fact- finding-mission to learn what the client likes, dislikes or is passionate about,” said Raymond.

According to Sloan, after the initial call, sending clients a confirmation letter and a “client profile” and asking them to complete it and send it back, is a great way to learn more about them. “The client profile asks them to share personal items—birthday, anniversary, significant other’s name, kids, pets, hobbies, likes and dislikes, allergies, etc.,” she said. “It also asks them to share their likes and dislikes about meetings—what was good, what was bad, etc. This can be very helpful with establishing commonalities, providing information about significant dates and providing a “heads up” in the likes and dislikes department.”

Davis indicated she communicates with her clients regularly starting with an in-person meeting at the beginning of the sales process. “I also make myself easily accessible and follow up periodically with phone calls and emails to check on their progress and well-being,” she said.

It also doesn’t hurt for CSMs to go that extra mile to get to know their clients, as it will ultimately help strengthen the relationship between both parties for the long term. “I have called the CSM at a prior property to find out what the client is like and how they appreciate their communication,” said Raymond.

Davis added, “I invest my time in getting to know my clients individually so I am able to communicate and assist them accordingly,” she said. “I consider all of my clients new friends—we must remember that our clients are people with personal lives too. With social media, we now have the perfect tool for our society and industry to connect even more authentically.”

Venue or Destination Involvement

In addition to having their own methods for developing client relationships, it also aids CSMs to work for venues and destinations that have their own specialized processes in place to help cultivate these relationships.

According to Davis, the Atlantic City CVA hosts and participates in various networking opportunities. “We hold client forums, site visits and meet and greet events,” she said.

Sloan added, “The Hilton has a program called HOST which invites clients to the hotel for a day or an overnight stay and educates them on how to plan meetings. Attendees meet with various department heads and learn how their meetings affect that department and vice versa,” she said. “They are able to experience the facility, meet with appropriate people and they even get to prepare a meal (or part of it) and participate in team building exercises. Overall, it is a great way to get to know everyone in a different situation rather than just over a desk, while planning their particular meeting.” Sloan revealed that this experience is often an eye opener for meeting planners as well.

“The hotel allows us to make a difference in any way we can (within reason), but on occasion, we have been known to step outside the box with that surprise and delight,” said Raymond.

“Ultimately, client relationships are like any other relationship,” said Davis. “Your individual investment is essential in creating beneficial partnerships.”

Developing client relationships is truly an art and requires CSMs that are dedicated and skilled to master. Despite the challenges faced when building these partnerships, the end result of securing customer loyalty to their venue or destination is worth it.

Eric Blanc is President of ACOM - the Association for Convention Operations Management. Mr. Blanc has been involved in the convention and special events industry since 1992. His career spans stints with Tropicana Field as an event coordinator, Tampa Convention Center as a convention services supervisor, GES Expositions as a sales manager and the Freeman Companies where he is currently employed. He is currently a senior sales manager for The Freeman Companies in Orlando, Florida where he is responsible for sales and production aspects of the companies Exposition Sales division. Mr. Blanc can be contacted at 813-274-7773 or Eric.Blanc@ci.tampa.fl.us Extended Bio...

HotelExecutive.com retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by HotelExecutive.com.

Receive our daily newsletter with the latest breaking news and hotel management best practices.
Hotel Business Review on Facebook
General Search:

NOVEMBER: Hotel Architecture and Design: Unique, Timeless and Memorable Design

Samuel J. Cicero Sr.

No matter how glamorous, there comes a time when every hotel requires renovation. Years of wear and tear, new fashion trends, and shifts in technology can prematurely age a property, leading to customer complaints and the need to lower room rates to remain competitive. Also, in this age of social media and online reviews, an aging property means lost revenue as travelers increasingly turn to the Internet for advice and not the hotel’s website. READ MORE

Patricia  Lopez

Guestrooms are getting smaller. With trendy micro and capsule hotels on the rise, brands everywhere are working with designers to shave off square footage and conceptualize new and improved layouts that use space more efficiently. But designing a versatile room is only functional to a point. If you want to create a space that responds to your guests’ needs without compromising the elements that turn a simple hotel stay into a luxury, then you have to strike a balance between tradition and innovation. And it all comes back to the art of crafting an experience. READ MORE

Pat McBride

The designs of the most renowned hotels and resorts give careful consideration to every aspect of a guest’s experience. This is no small task – the design team leads the way to ensuring a property has everything it needs to offer a memorable, comfortable and relaxing stay for customers, which ultimately determines the success of a property. Complicating matters is the fact that designers very rarely need to consider just one type of customer – there are honeymooners, young families, empty nesters, groups of friends and wedding parties to consider in the design process. The task of designing for still another subset of customers – business travelers – presents an interesting but surmountable design challenge. This is a group growing more and more accustomed to mixing business with leisure. Designing a property that appeals to business travelers, a critical source of revenue for many properties today, requires its own set of considerations that must be weaved seamlessly throughout the design of the property, from meeting and conference spaces to restaurants and guestrooms and beyond. READ MORE

Patrick Burke

Encompassing over 3.5 million square feet with a price tag of $4.4 billion, Resorts World Sentosa is one of the world's largest multi-recreational luxury parks. A city-within-a-city, the resort features six hotels, offering a total of 1,840 rooms; a large casino; a convention center, including a 7,000-square-meter ballroom, conference and meeting facilities; a multitude of theaters and entertainment facilities; a maritime museum, a large marine animal park and water park; a world-class spa and extensive retail stores and restaurants. Anchored by Universal Studios Singapore, the project required a design approach that would celebrate the unique site in a very special way. READ MORE

Coming Up In The December Online Hotel Business Review

Feature Focus
Hotel Law: Legal Issues Looming Large in 2015
In an industry where people are on-property 24/7/365, the possibilities are endless for legal issues to arise stemming from hotel guest concerns. And given the sheer enormity of the international hotel industry, issues pertaining to business, franchise, investment and real estate law are equally immense. Finally, given the huge numbers of diverse people who are employed in the hospitality industry, whether in hotel operations or food and beverage, legal issues pertaining to labor, union, immigration and employment law are also significant and substantial. The expertise of all kinds of specialists and practitioners is required to administer the legal issues within the hotel industry, and though the subject areas are vast and varied, there are numerous issues which will be in the forefront in 2015 and beyond. One issue that is gaining traction is how hotels are dealing with the use of marijuana by employees, given its ever-changing legal status. The use of marijuana is now legal in 21 states and the District of Columbia for certain medical conditions. Two other states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized recreational marijuana use for individuals who are 21 years old or older, and Alaska and Oregon currently have similar legislation pending. Most state laws legalizing marijuana do not address the employment issues implicated by these statutes. Therefore, it is incumbent on all hotel operators to be aware of the laws in their states and to adjust their employment policies accordingly regarding marijuana use by their employees. Other issues that are currently looming large pertain to guest identity theft by hotel employees and the legal liabilities which ensue; issues of property surveillance versus a guest’s right to privacy; and immigration reform could also be a major compliance issue. The December issue of Hotel Business Review will examine some of the more critical issues involving hotel law and how some managers are addressing them in their operations.