Preparing for the Future of Meetings Business
In Denmark, where approximately 75% of the population is vaccinated, Comwell Hotels is open for business.
Small meetings have continued at Comwell’s 14 properties over the past 18 months, and larger, education-style meetings with a stayover component are finally returning, as well. So Comwell is unpausing a pre-pandemic strategy to embark on sweeping technology upgrades, aimed in part at maximizing group sales amid Denmark’s rapidly rejuvenated post-pandemic meetings business. Seeing the many benefits of an open cloud-based architecture, Comwell tapped iVvy for its new integrated Sales & Catering system, restarting a chain-wide implementation in November 2020.
Pre-pandemic, Comwell was looking for a more innovative way to manage their meeting and events business. The company had used the same system for 20 years and was “looking to implement a strategy to take us sustainably into the future,” says Louise Thuehøj Hansen, project coordinator for Comwell Hotels. “We were thinking about digitization. We had the same supplier for Sales and Catering and POS and PMS and it just wasn’t working. So we wanted a partner that was focused on sales and catering, not spread thin with focus on all the other products, too.” The company also decided it was time to upgrade its Sales & Catering systems to receive longer-term benefits, most notably a greater level of sustainability and digitization. That includes fostering a much more paperless environment in both the front and back of house. “We are looking at the end state, and sustainability is a vision of our leadership and will require some change management,” says Thuehøj Hansen. “I envision a day when all waiters are walking around with iPads, and print nothing.” Now, meeting space at Comwell’s hotels is back to a premium, with corporate, academic and social groups all competing for many of the same venues. “Private parties have been popular,” Thuehøj Hansen says. “People want to celebrate now, since they haven’t been able to do that for a while. So we have a lot of short lead time private events. It’s sometimes also not easy to find a hotel room. This is part of why we want to be the first company in Denmark with online meeting space booking.”
With the majority of Comwell hotels up and running, the team is now seeing benefits from the iVvy system. Primarily, the system’s cloud-based architecture enables team members to multitask more effectively, juggling communications with multiple leads all at once, while also easily keeping the entire sales and catering team updated in real-time.
“I enjoy having multiple tabs open,” said Thuehøj Hansen. “When a customer calls, you can just open a new tab, instead of closing the opportunity. Then you can go back easily. And sharing information is live: You can use virtual run sheets, so when you make a change to a booking, everyone is on the same page.”
Comwell is also moving full-steam ahead toward its paperless and sustainability goals. The new iVvy system has been an integral part of realizing that vision for the future.
“You can open it on an iPad, so it’s really good for our waiters; they use it a lot,” said Thuehøj Hansen. “In terms of sustainability, we are not printing as much paper as we used to. We now have the possibility to take our systems with us wherever we go.”
The iVvy implementation has enabled the group to:
- Automatic tasks are completed 40-50 seconds quicker on a confirmed booking
- 7-10 minutes of work saved per booking using online booking
- Paper consumption is reduced by over 25%
- Time to generate reports is reduced by 50%
As the first hotelier in Denmark to employ iVvy, Comwell and the system developers worked together on the holistic upgrade of Comwell’s systems, harnessing the iVvy platform’s open API for easy integration with the hotel company’s PMS, POS and spa systems, which have all been recently replaced with new technologies.
By implementing iVvy as its centralized Sales & Catering solution, all Comwell sales activity now moves through one singular channel, whether the communication is conducted through its websites, CRS, phone or email, including the RFP process. The system also helps to empower each individual team member to act on bookings, rather than potentially miss opportunities while awaiting approval.
“Everyone in the conference department can make a quote for a customer,” explained Thuehøj Hansen. “Nobody has to check with a manager; everyone can send an offer to the customer. The customer can look at the offer and then sign and confirm the offer.”
But systems are only as good as those who use them. Working with iVvy throughout deployment and implementation, Comwell began conducting its first training sessions roughly three to four months before the go-live date. Bookings were moved from the old system to the new iVvy platform, and three weeks before the go-live date, more on-site teaching was held. These sessions taught team members how to use iVvy in their daily lives, including sending invoices and taking reports. Hotel chefs and restaurant managers were also trained, so F&B teams can be informed on when meetings are happening, to begin preparing menus in advance.
“In our experience, it should be a project for the whole hotel,” said Thuehøj Hansen. “Everyone on our staff hears from us about why we’re changing and how they should prepare to use this in their daily lives. Then, everyone will have access to the information to start building the hotel’s strategies.”
“The new iVvy system has been an integral part of realizing that vision for the future.”
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