As we were chatting about fees, surcharges, and customer service issues on today's MeetingsRadio show this morning (the archive is still up, if you want to go have a listen), host Bill Wulff came up with a really interesting idea on how to get better service from your meeting's hotel.
He said that a few years ago, he asked hotels to sign an agreement where the final room-rate price would be determined by the service levels received. Say, if 90 percent of attendees who fill out a form on the hotel's service levels at the meetings end said it rated at a certain level, he'd pay $5 more per room per night than the agreed-upon rate. If the hotel's services rated below a certain level, he'd pay $5 less per room per night. So if the base rate was $125, a hotel that scored well on service would get $130, and a hotel that didn't rate too well would get $120. He said he got a couple of hotels to actually agree to do this, and he ended up paying one of them the extra money because they did such a good job.
I like this idea a lot more than the "mandatory gratuities" and service charges that get tacked on now, whether the service received deserves it or not. As I mentioned on the show, making tipping "mandatory" (I know, it's an oxymoron like giant shrimp) actually can hurt service levels by taking away the financial incentive to do an exemplary job. As someone who waited tables and bartended for a living during her wild and wooly days, trust me, tips do make a difference in how service workers behave toward you. (An aside I learned while writing an article on tipping a while back: Tip housekeeping every day, not as a jackpot at the end of your trip, since a different person may be doing your room each day.)
Anyway, it was interesting to go on the radio, and horrifying to hear my voice when I listened to the playback. Do I really sound like that?? But Dave McCann, Rob Carey (both of Meeting News fame), Bill, and I had a good discussion, mainly about fees, surcharges, and the like. And I got a "that one's a keeper" comment from Bill when I mentioned my mantra when it comes to this stuff: Have a clause in the contract that says that no additional fees, surcharges, etc., will be applied other than those disclosed to and agreed to by the planner in the contract. I also suggested that planners get together a checklist of every possible surcharge/fee/gratuity scenario they have heard about or can think of, and have the hotel check off each and every item, and add any additional items at the end. You can't negotiate out what you don't know exists, so informed is armed when it comes to this stuff.
Back to wading through my hundreds of e-mails that accummulated since this morning...