Hotel sales, banquet and private event managers know what it’s like to work under pressure. Whether they’re responding to new prospects, following up with them for contract signatures or chasing down clients for payments or vital input for their event, there is rarely any free time in their schedule.
Add in the tedious process of jumping between multiple CRMs, applications, emails, files, printouts and physical folders to track client and event details, and things can quickly get overwhelming.
Olivia Isquith, Event Manager at Hotel Salem (part of the Lark Hotels group), knows this well, having worked in hotels that didn’t have a smooth system for managing event bookings and sales.
“The biggest challenge at most places I have worked in the past was definitely having information spread everywhere,” Olivia explained. “It caused all sorts of problems with following up with leads, getting paid or even something as simple as looking up details quickly. Everything was a struggle.”
Olivia found that disorganized processes not only added to the stress of the job but also increased the risk of missed details or payments.
More importantly, the extra time it took to coordinate between disconnected systems prevented her from being able to spend more time better serving clients and following up with leads promptly — both of which are significant revenue factors for hotels.
Does your hotel sales team struggle with imperfect event booking and planning tools and processes? Planning Pod can help. Our software solutions have helped hundreds of hospitality and event professionals streamline their venue management processes, enabling them to serve more clients, increase revenues and cut down on busywork. Sign up for a free trial!
How hotel event management software came to the rescue
When Olivia started her position at Hotel Salem, she was introduced to an all-in-one hotel event planning software that solved those problems. Before she started, the hotel chain had already begun replacing its antiquated software solutions and processes with Planning Pod to streamline its workflows and increase its ROI.
Olivia quickly found that centralizing everything into one comprehensive, yet simple, event management platform freed up her schedule so she could focus more of her time on filling out her booking calendar, working one-on-one with clients and delivering experiences that align with her clients’ wants and needs.
“Planning Pod is a one-stop-shop. Everything is there—invoicing, contracts, floorplans, BEOs, you name it,” Olivia said. “It keeps a record of everything so I can quickly find how much someone has paid me or when an event is booked.”
The best part is that it only took her a few days to get acquainted with Planning Pod’s event management system so she could easily find, track and add event planning details, payments, contracts and more.
“The most important thing with software is keeping it simple, and Planning Pod does that,” said Olivia. “It is very user friendly and it is so easy to get Planning Pod down quickly.”
Let’s look at Hotel Salem’s event booking challenges and how our event planning software solved their problems
In this article, we’ll dig deep into the specific challenges Olivia and her sales team faced when booking and tracking private events and how they used Planning Pod’s award-winning management tools to overcome them. These common challenges included:
- Dealing with too many event booking and planning tools and the inefficiencies that this situation creates
- Tracking down buried and misplaced information across disconnected systems
- Wasting hours chasing down contract signatures and invoice payments
- Staying a step ahead of the competition by following up with leads quickly
- Finding the time needed to overdeliver in creating amazing experiences for clients
Challenge: Juggling too many planning tools and apps, leading to inefficiencies, delays and oversights
Event booking and planning tools are critical to running a successful event venue. However, when you have too many tools, the jumble of event management solutions can quickly become an unwanted and unnecessary obstacle to overcome.
Olivia, like many hotel event organizers, knows all too well what it’s like to work at a hotel that relies on an incongruous arrangement of tools and systems—filing event orders and contracts into folders, tracking invoices and payment processing via Excel spreadsheets and Quickbooks, even managing ticket sales through a one-off event app (if your venue hosts your own events with paid ticketing / admission).
While each tool on its own might help to accomplish a specific task, before you know it, data for every event are spread between multiple online systems, individual inboxes, physical folders and paper printouts—creating process gaps that lead to buried details, lost leads and, eventually, unhappy clients.
“At one place I worked, they would book something, take a deposit and put everything in a folder. Then, when the event was happening a year later, they would have to go back to the file to see all the details, if they could even find the file,” Olivia explained. “I don’t even know how they kept track of how clients paid them. They were doing it in such an ancient way. It was just so inefficient.”
When Olivia arrived at Hotel Salem, they were already using Planning Pod to manage event details in one convenient place. However, she did get to witness the struggles of a sister hotel that hadn’t yet transitioned to Planning Pod.
“I asked their general manager how they were taking payments and tracking their events, and they were still doing everything by paper the old school way,” she remarked. “They had hundreds and hundreds of files and paperwork. And I said ‘How do you not have Planning Pod yet?’”
Too many tools also led to another challenge … Having to dig for basic event details and being unable to provide quick and accurate answers to clients and staff.
When your data is stored in so many places, you don’t always know where to look. It could be located in the mobile app, in a physical file, on your coworker’s hard drive, in a document or spreadsheet or on a sticky note that fell into last week’s trash. This can create frantic and frustrating searches to locate the most up-to-date and accurate information.
“I wanted to get more organized with all my documents as I always have 20 tabs open on my screen,” Olivia mentioned.
Being unable to retrieve basic event details quickly and in real-time can also show poorly to clients. It’s normal not to remember every detail of an entire event, but not having the ability to relay information to a client quickly can hinder your decision-making skills and erode your bond of trust with them.
“You definitely don’t want to look unorganized in front of your client,” said Olivia. “Scrambling for information in front of them because you don’t have a good system or tool in place to manage those details isn’t a good impression.”
Disorganized processes also create a collaboration impasse, when processes become roadblocks, and the inability to track and share vital pieces of information puts a strain on your relationships and collaborative efforts with clients and staff members.
Solution: All-in-one hotel event management software that integrates various planning tools, centralizes data, streamlines processes and tedious tasks
The best way to fill process gaps and prevent collaboration impasse is by centralizing all event details into one, comprehensive, shareable and easy-to-use hotel event management platform.
By aligning and organizing the entire hotel event planning and sales team via Planning Pod, Olivia and her team can achieve cross-organizational alignment, which leads to fewer errors, better integration efforts and reduced redundancies.
“I’m now using all the tools in Planning Pod to put proposals, contracts, invoices and payments all in the same place, and my accounting team is happy that I’m using these tools to make their jobs easier,” Olivia added.
Planning Pod works so well for hotel venues and event professionals because it encompasses all of the tools that you may need to run your venue … you never have to leave the platform to log into another program. This keeps everything organized in real-time in a central location. Let’s walk through how this process works…
With the lead and sales CRM manager, Olivia can manage her lead pipeline and prospects’ contact details easily, so she always knows the status of every lead.
Once a lead becomes a client, she can then quickly plug their information and event details into her customized proposal and contract templates that already have all of the core information and pricing for her commonly-sold packages. She just updates the details and makes a few changes, and within minutes, she’s sending it off to her client to collect their electronic signature.
Tracking down signatures, updating the proposal and sharing important event details is also super easy with Planning Pod’s client portal. Simply create a login for your client and they can sign in to view the status of their account, sign proposals and contracts, view invoices and make payments, mark off tasks and even respond to surveys.
If your client isn’t keen on signing in, you can easily email them downloadable, printable PDFs of proposals, contracts, invoices and banquet event orders (BEOs) from inside your account.
Planning Pod also includes invoicing and payment tools that instantly turn proposals into an invoice with a single click. You can then email invoices to clients directly from the system and collect online payment with one of our merchant payment processing partners. You can even set-up customized payment schedules with automated reminders and auto-payments.
Banquet event orders and food-and-beverage management are also easier with Planning Pod, which prepopulates event orders with information already attached to your event, letting you quickly pull information into your BEO template (like pricing, menus, headcounts, room blocks, etc.) that you can then share with front-of-house or kitchen staff and clients electronically or via PDF (and even collect e-signatures from clients). We even provide every account with multiple pre-built BEO layouts for a variety of use-case scenarios (like a client-facing BEO, front-of-house BEO, kitchen BEO, delivery sheet, etc.).
The booking calendar also makes it easy to track all of your booked events, leads, client appointments, walkthroughs, payment due dates and scheduled tasks—all in one quick view. The ability to add and edit the calendar from multiple devices also makes it easy for anyone on the team to make real-time updates so the sales team knows what rooms are available to book. Planning Pod’s hotel event sales software also warns you if you’re in danger of double booking, and it gives you a timeline view to see your availability at a glance.
The built-in task manager also allows Olivia and her team to create task list templates that can be imported and edited to each new event, which keeps everyone on schedule and ensures important steps aren’t missed.
The tasks are automatically backed out from the event date and can be assigned to clients and individual staff members. Optional reminders will alert you and task assignees when it’s time to take action.
In addition to task management, Planning Pod’s schedule and timeline builder also helps you create to-the-minute event timelines, complete with email and text reminders so that you and your team are always in sync during the event. You can even share it with clients, so they know exactly when everything is supposed to happen.
A bonus for Hotel Salem, which specializes in customized function spaces, is the event floor plan design tool, which allows Olivia to create to-scale floor plans and layout designs for her clients. Not only do the quick mockups help prospects understand how you can accommodate their vision, but it can also be shared with set-up crews so they know exactly what goes where.
The best part about all of these features is that everything lives online in Planning Pod, letting you input, update, track and share event details with anyone, anytime, anywhere.
“Now that I have Planning Pod, everything is electronic, so I don’t even print anything out anymore,” said Olivia.
Challenge: Chasing contract signatures and invoice payments wastes valuable time
A verbal “yes” is great, but until a client’s signature has been collected, nothing should be assumed.
Olivia understands the frustrations of chasing clients down to sign contracts, proposals and BEOs. She also knows that it can be equally difficult and time-consuming to collect payments, especially if there isn’t a solid system in place.
Many times, hotel venues will collect an upfront deposit, then require a series of payments leading up to the event. However, if the information is in various tools and you’re trying to track payments through a combination of phone calls, emails, spreadsheets and accounting software like Quickbooks, it’s all too easy for a missed payment to go unnoticed or for made payment to go unrecorded.
And as comprehensive as Quickbooks may be regarding accounting tools, its proposal and invoicing tools don’t offer the additional features required by hospitality businesses (like payment installments and auto-payments, the ability to work with multiple credit card payment processors, sections with subtotals, standard additional fees like service and gratuity charges, etc.).
When it comes to invoicing and collecting payments, Olivia will attest that it’s worth investing in a program that will help you make sure you get paid on time. Because, as she says, “the most important thing is getting payment, right?”
Solution: Signature and payment automation tools that make it easier for you to collect and for clients to pay
Planning Pod’s hotel event sales software comes equipped with a comprehensive invoicing and digital payment system, making it easy to collect money.
Electronic signature capabilities simplify collecting signatures on important documents (no appointments or meetings needed). Simply send out an email with a link to the proposal, contract or BEO that needs to be signed, and the client can provide their signature instantly. If your client is set-up in the system, you can even just notify them that the updated documents are waiting for them in their client portal, where they can log in, review the items and sign off.
You can also automate the payment process with invoice payment installment reminders or automated payments. With reminders, you can schedule email notifications to your clients for when payment is due. Clients can then click on a link and make their payment instantly. With auto-payments, you and your client agree to an installment schedule of when their credit card will be billed and set up those dates in advance.
And because Planning Pod integrates with popular payment providers like PaySimple, Stripe, and Square, it’s easy for customers to make secure online payments.
Never forget a payment either. Planning Pod’s dashboards inform you of which proposals or contracts are still awaiting signature and of overdue or unprocessed payments so you know exactly who you need to check-in with.
“Planning Pod’s invoicing and signatures tools make it so easy to collect payments from guests,” says Olivia. “I can just do it right online. Plus, the invoicing tool calculates the taxes, the gratuity and the service charge. Everything is precise and I know the calculations are correct every time. And with contracts, it’s so easy to change and so easy to collect signatures. Just a few clicks and that’s it.”
Challenge: Following up with leads in a timely fashion … before your competitors do
You would think that prospects would take their time exploring venues and hearing back before making a decision on where they will hold their event. However, many people in search of a venue, especially for weddings and social events, don’t always follow logic or a rational process.
As Olivia can attest, choosing a venue often boils down to who responds the quickest.
“One of the biggest challenges of being an event manager is responding to leads promptly,” she said. “People want instant gratification. Wherever I’m at, whether I’m at work or out and about, I’m always responding to leads coming in. And I am always on top of this because I have clients tell me that they contacted such and such a hotel and didn’t hear back for a day or two and so they moved on with me in booking their event.”
Lead lag is a major reason for losing out on viable prospects. When you are delayed in your follow up with a new lead and your competition responds quickly, your close rate will obviously lower. However, when your day is consumed with chasing down scattered details and you’re tracking your leads through several programs, it can be difficult to respond to leads in the timeframe they expect.
“There’s a good chance that if you don’t reach out to them quickly, they will have looked at other options by then. If you can grab them when you can, then all attention is on you and your venue,” confirmed Olivia.
Solution: Integrated CRM tools that collect leads via your website, manage your pipeline and allow for continuous, quick follow-ups
Planning Pod’s CRM tool makes it super easy to collect and manage leads both online and in person. You can embed our lead capture form into your hotel event website to easily take in leads or manually enter leads you’ve spoken with in person or over the phone.
The lead capture tool also has built-in email marketing automations that send autoresponder emails to the lead and notifies your salesforce to follow up with them. The sales team can also track leads through the various stages of the sales funnel and set-up automated reminders and task lists for following up.
Planning Pod is also equipped with a centralized email communications center that lets you and your team members use your own email addresses to send and receive email from one central inbox. This makes it easier for you and team members to follow up with or answer questions from prospects and clients as well as make decisions based on previous communications.
“We get new leads into our Planning Pod account all the time through the lead capture form that integrates into our website,” said Olivia. “It’s so convenient to have all of that automatically input into one place.”
Challenge: Finding the extra time to go beyond what clients expect and deliver a memorable experience
Like many hotel event managers, Olivia is with her clients throughout the entire process. However, the many hats of salesperson, bookkeeper, project manager and event coordinator can sometimes weigh heavily, making it hard to find the extra time for each and every client (when you really want to help them all).
“I service the entire wedding, and I am here from beginning to end,” explained Olvia. “Eventually, I will need an assistant, but I love doing it all because I get so close to my clients. Like I had one client who literally gave me an invitation to their wedding because we got so close.”
Reserving space in the day can become even more challenging for event managers who contribute a large portion of their business to weddings, which often require more attention and detail. For Olivia, it is particularly challenging because Hotel Salem caters toward custom wedding and event experiences, which can add to the complexity of the event (and the number of things to keep track of).
“The customers I am getting are looking for an outside the box wedding, which is the trend in the industry right now,” said Olivia. But, those out-of-the-box experiences also come with an expectation to overdeliver, which can lead to extended hours or falling behind on other vital tasks.
Solution: Reduce wasted time and inefficiency so you can focus more on clients and filling your booking calendar
The average Planning Pod customer saves more than 62 hours per month. That’s 62+ hours you can put into servicing your clients and providing them with exceptional events they’ll rave about. And you can devote more time to prospecting, generating leads and even event marketing and social media outreach to your target audiences.
“Even if I might feel unorganized at the time, nobody would know it because I have everything where I need it and organized in Planning Pod,” said Olivia. “Even if I forget the event time or some detail, I can just look up the client in Planning Pod in a few seconds and it’s all there.”
Planning Pod’s intuitive design allows you to input information instantly and access data in a matter of seconds. Its built-in automations and smart dashboards also make it easy to get a bird’s eye view of all of your bookings and receive reminders that let you know exactly what needs attention. Reporting tools also give you a more in-depth view so you can track underlying trends and make smarter business decisions.
Plus, Planning Pod’s user-friendly interface makes it easy for almost anyone to hop on and start using the platform. Most new Planning Pod customers only need a couple of days before they’re managing vital business processes in their account.
How our hotel event management software can help you overcome your challenges
The challenges that Olivia and her team at Hotel Salem faced are identical to many obstacles that event planners and venue management teams run into on a daily basis. And while we aren’t the only ones in the hotel event management software market (Cvent, Tripleseat and EventPro are just a few of our competitors), more than 1,000 venues and event planners rely on our software solution every day to grow their business.
In addition, our platform is the only true all-in-one offering in the industry that includes event floor plan design and online event registration functionality as well as every event tool you need to run through the lifecycle of your event bookings while eliminating inefficiencies, saving time and contributing to increased profit margins.
Hotels aren’t the only venues we cater to either. Concert halls, arenas, exhibitors and trade show spaces and even online event planners find our planning tools instrumental to managing and growing their business. In addition to the tools listed above, we also have unique features that can help power your business, like ticketing and group sales tools, event management tools for virtual events and webinars and more.
If you would like to see how Planning Pod can help you solve your challenges and grow your private event business, we invite you to give our platform a try. Sign up for a free trial today.