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Monday, 23 January 2012

Conferma releases results of Customer Survey

Conferma has published the results of its recent customer survey.
The survey was distributed via email to all travel agents on Conferma’s emergency contact list. The survey was completed by our database of frontline staff in the corporate hotel booking world.

Following the previous customer survey conducted in March 2011, Conferma set out to gauge customer perception with the performance of the Support service and the online booking tool, Hotel Booker.

Customer perception of Conferma Support was extremely positive, with satisfaction ratings exceeding 95% for availability, resolutions and knowledge. This compared favourably with results from the previous survey, with the number of negative responses reduced in each category. In the remaining category, 94% of respondents indicated that the response time of Support either met or exceeded expectations. Indeed, Support was widely praised, with several positive comments, such as: “Always available when help is needed” and “Always have a quick reply.”
As ever, the aim of a customer survey is to identify any areas for improvement. Negative responses for availability could be attributed to customers contacting Conferma outside of office hours. Conferma is currently dedicated to providing a support service to handle and enquiries from Monday to Friday 8.30am – 6.00pm, excluding public holidays. Service Management are currently investigating the possibility of extending Support’s hours of availability.
Some comments suggested that the communication of resolutions could be improved. Service Management is contemplating implementing a more sophisticated method of recording all internal communications to ensure that communication between Support and Development is monitored regularly and thoroughly.
Finally, some respondents indicated that they had never contacted Conferma Support or were unaware of the email address. Contact details are prominently displayed on www.conferma.com and are present on all promotional literature. However, to raise further awareness, Conferma is currently making a concerted effort to disseminate contact details for Support as widely as possible. Conferma Support can be contacted by email at support@conferma.com or by telephone on +44 (0)844 815 3601.

The results of the survey also reflected extremely favourably upon Hotel Booker. The layout, user-experience and responsiveness were widely lauded, achieving 100% satisfaction ratings, whilst customer satisfaction with the ease of use and reliability exceeded 96%. Praise for Hotel Booker’s layout and user experience was particularly welcome, as it justified the measures taken by the Development Team to improve the booking tool’s performance over the previous 12 months. Positive comments included: “I think Hotel Booker is an excellent tool, very easy to use and straightforward.”

The 100% satisfaction rating for responsiveness was also particularly pleasing as Development has invested significant time and resources implementing the latest .net technology and introduced considerable performance enhancing software, ensuring the infrastructure supporting the v4.3 solution is the best available in the industry. Investment in innovation and the latest technology reflect Conferma’s commitment to provide leading solutions for our technology. This superb feedback unequivocally indicates that this investment was completely justified.
With regard to respondents’ suggested improvements, nearly half of all suggestions called for more search criteria in Hotel Booker. Conferma is looking into incorporating searches according to hotel facilities, landmarks and GDS reference codes into future releases of Hotel Booker. However, these data issues would require significant development and would therefore not be available until the latter half of 2012 at the very earliest.

Other suggestions pertained to group bookings, payment restrictions and improving Agency Admin functionality. Conferma aims to introduce some of these changes for the next release of Hotel Booker (v4.4) in mid-February.

The final question of the survey concerned alternative Self-Booking Tools and returned extremely positive feedback for Conferma, with 30% of respondents revealing that they use Hotel Booker exclusively.

Conferma’s next Customer Satisfaction Survey is scheduled for June 2012. Watch this space for further development!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

2012: A big year for UK hotels

On behalf of everyone at Conferma, I would like to begin this blog entry by wishing all our customers and partners a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

As Conferma’s booking volumes increase around the world, 2012 will present particular issues, challenges and opportunities for the T&E sector in the UK. With the advent of London 2012 and Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee, London is preparing to welcome athletes, visitors, media, sponsors and dignitaries from across the globe. Therefore, as global focus centres not only on the capital, but also other British cities and regions, 2012 will have considerable implications for the T&E sector.

Given the significance, interest and prestige surrounding London 2012 and the Jubilee celebrations, the temptation for TMCs will be to centre their focus on the capital. However with events for both landmark occasions being staged in venues across the country, TMCs will also need to reinforce their coverage in alternate locations. Olympic event hosts outside the capital include Windsor, Weymouth, Portland, Broxbourne, Benfleet, Wembley, Glasgow, Cardiff, Manchester and Newcastle. Moreover, flagship annual events on the British calendar, including the Edinburgh Festival, the British Grand Prix, the Open Championship and the World Travel Market will ensure that the T&E sector cannot afford to take its eye off business as usual amidst the furore of the Games and the Jubilee.

Furthermore, the anticipated influx of international officials and tourists will inevitably result in increased hotel prices. Indeed, rates currently stand at 30% higher than average for June and July. TMCs will be required to demonstrate the capability to process more and larger transactions than ever before. Large visitor numbers and the mayhem that will inevitably ensue, particularly in London, also mean that the importance of forward bookings and planning ahead cannot be overemphasised. This ability to manage large volumes of bookings and transactions will provide agencies the opportunity to demonstrate their value to large corporate companies and become the TMC of choice. Indeed, hoteliers are likely to give priority availability to TMCs with lucrative corporate clients with the highest levels of expenditure, ancillary spend and bookings for meeting space.

This is where TMCs can rely on Conferma’s platform of payment solutions to streamline their business operations. The Conferma Settlement Platform (CSP) offers TMCs an automated solution for the settlement and reconciliation of travel expense that removes manual intervention, reduces processing costs and is PCI-DSS compliant.

Despite high demand for hotel accommodation, hoteliers must guard against hiking their prices too much, so as to avoid the scenarios experienced in Athens (2004) and Vancouver (2010), when extortionate prices deterred visitors and resulted in late availability and unsold rooms. Hotels must also be mindful not to neglect service levels for their all year round business, whilst increasing expenditure to satisfy their increase in new international guests. London hotels in particular still need to cater for demand for annual events such as Royal Ascot, Wimbledon, The Proms, Henley and the Farnborough Airshow, as well as the Paralympic Games in September.

With regard to forward planning, TMCs must strike a fine balance when advising their clients. Advocating early bookings secures availability but at high rates with prohibitive booking conditions. On the other hand, later bookings leave clients vulnerable to a lack of availability, but payment does not have to be made months in advance of the Games. Alternatively, any business-critical staff may need to be accommodated outside of London, for example in Saint Albans, Watford and Reading, due to the impracticalities of commuting or being based in London during the Games.

As hotel availability becomes increasingly sparse, TMCs and corporates alike will have to look harder than usual to locate accommodation throughout the UK during the Games. This search could be made easier by Conferma’s online Self Booking Tool. Hotel Booker offers an inventory of more than 150,000 properties, including direct connections to budget hotel chains Travelodge and Premier Inn, who have both increased their presence in the capital ahead of the Olympics.

Moreover, as prices increase, merely locating accommodation will, in most cases, not suffice. Thanks to Rate Analyser, Conferma’s intelligent hotel price comparison tool, TMCs will be able to offer clients the best value rates available. Rate Analyser also provides TMCs with rate trend data for all hotel bookings and notifies users of any favourable rate changes, allowing time to rebook if appropriate. This could become an increasingly attractive proposition if prices drop to reflect last minute availability in the build-up to London 2012.

2012 holds many challenges in store for the T&E sector. Yet many opportunities also lie in prospect. I would like to conclude this blog by expressing Conferma’s commitment to overcoming these challenges and seizing these opportunities in collaboration with our existing partners, whilst expanding our portfolio to work with new partners.