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Customer Collaboration in the Digital Age

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How can I gain more than my fair share of today’s growing market?

We hear this question a lot from event planners. Our advice: take customer collaboration up a notch, or two, or even tenfold. That’s the best way to stand out in a competitive marketplace.

In this information age of events, old-school tactics like having more meetings and conference calls aren’t nearly enough. Customers today have done their homework. Filled with rising expectations, they come to us with long lists of target venues and robust analytic tools for greater visibility to maximize their spend. 

The problem is, rather than simplifying event planning, as technology should do, many of these tools have made the job much more complicated. It’s not unusual for planners to report they’re doing three times the work in a fraction of the time to get the same results.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. What customers today really want is a planner who understands their vision and can bring it to life. To that end, it’s time to take off the wraps and give customers more visibility into the complete planning process, start to finish. We consistently find that meeting professionals who embrace transparency gain market share faster than those determined to keep customers at arms’ length. 

The fact is, fully collaborative planners get the immediate feedback they need to stay in step with customers’ evolving needs. As a result, they build trust faster and maintain an integral role throughout the entire planning process. 

How do you promote full collaboration?

Start by asking yourself if you only let customers see the end product of your work. Or, do you involve them throughout the vetting stages, as well, to become fully educated on their needs and gain their buy-in early on in process?

If you find you’re not leveraging collaboration to the max, there are some compelling new technologies to help get you there. Here are two examples from Zentila:

  • Interactive Bid Summary – This Swiss Army knife of event planning compiles hotel bids in a comprehensive summary that calculates costs and savings automatically, so it’s easy to compare offers. You can add or remove hotels and decline or connect with properties directly from the summary. Then, customize the view to create a professional presentation that prioritizes options for focused discussions that drive faster, more informed decisions. Keep customers in the loop by sharing your interactive bid summary via read-only web link or in a comprehensive, one-click report. 
  • Direct Portals – Take transparency to the next level by giving customers a direct portal into your planning process. Let them view bids returned and concessions won in real time. They’ll see at a glance all the value you add throughout the process. In return, you’ll receive essential feedback to fully understand customers’ changing needs. So you remain vital to the process and better equipped to guide sound decision-making as a trusted advisor who truly gets it when it comes to transforming the customer’s vision into a spectacular event.

Concerned that transparency will open a Pandora’s box of expanding options that drag out decision-making? You can play an essential role in moving things swiftly along by weeding out information that’s not relevant to customer priorities and staying focused on the most pressing items in the RFP summary. 

In many ways, giving customers visibility into your planning process is like the early days of online flight reservations. Back in the day when the new airline booking system became available, early adapters discovered that having visual access to flight options changed their perceptions of value. They often shifted direction mid-course to select a different option than originally planned. Travelers quickly caught on that having a clear picture of best available options in real time not only enhanced value; it actually simplified decision-making.

Like booking airline tickets online, meeting and event planning is a dynamic process. Astute planners provide visibility throughout the process and are quick to adapt as customer expectations change.

The value of a great planner lies not in amassing details and options; it’s all about building customer trust. That means working collaboratively, quickly presenting sound options and alternatives, and coaching customers through the process to assure the best experience for their M&E spend.

Learn more about how to be a collaborative planner by automating 100% of the sourcing and booking cycle in this free eBook.

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