Mr Konkel, do you have a rough idea of how many events the Diehl corporation holds every year? No, no idea. I know no more about that than I no about the total costs of these events. But I made a bet with my boss that we spend around €5 million in this company every year.
And what did he say? "Never!" So I went to the accounts department and asked them to check the corresponding invoices to get some data that was at least reasonably useful. But that didn't help me any further. So I asked my colleagues in our Human Resources department to have a look and see what events they had held.
And what happened? The result was an Excel sheet that was as big as a sheet of wallpaper and the realisation that we reach a figure of €1 million in this area alone. At that, my boss said that I should sort it out. But that was easier said than done, because even after a comprehensive market screening process, we found nothing that would have really made us happy – not a single provider worked with online availabilities, and some of them made my toes curl. So initially I just let the matter rest again. It was only a year later, when a colleague from the personnel department came to me and complained about our participant management and participant administration that I set out to find a solution for this problem at the very least. And that was when we came across one company, but unfortunately its proposal was much too oversized for our purposes.
And that was that for the moment once again? Not quite. A few days later, a man from Meetago called on me and asked why we weren't actually his customers yet. And as we continued to talk, it turned out that participant management is not just integrated into the Meetago MICE solution, but that this participant management is additionally based on the respective company's own technology.
And then the matter was settled? Almost. We said that we would pilot our most important event right now – the annual meeting of the 260 people in the extended management team, who were coming from around the world – and if that worked, then we would roll out Meetago.
Pretty brave. I did have a few gripes in the pit of my stomach. But the entire organisation of all aspects of the meeting went absolutely perfectly and now the HR heads in all our sub-groups want to get Meetago too. For all further training, training courses, seminars, conventions... In short: We are starting with the group-wide rollout now, and in six months I will likely know better whether my €5 million was right. Then we will have complete transparency for the first time.
I'm sure that Meetago did not win you over because of its participant management alone, or because the tool operates with online availabilities. What was it exactly that convinced you? Up to now, we always had to transfer our offer results painstakingly into an Excel sheet in order to be able to compare them at all. But that never really worked. Even if individual chains, like for example Accor, had standardised the way they draw up an offer within the chain, different offers came in time and again, because an additional €6.50 was charged for Wi-Fi here and €5.00 extra for water there, and so on. Not to mention the offers from the various individual hotels.
In contrast, Meetago is a procurement tool that prepares the offers for me in the way that I want them, and most importantly, in a way that makes them comparable. Because the system defines clearly what is included in the delegate rate. Above and beyond this, and this is my pet topic, the bookings are carried out based on my T&Cs. In short, Meetago in my opinion is the most advanced and: It is user-friendly. We have now already begun to send queries for 2017 to the hotel industry. But they start whining about: "So here you come now with yet another tool!"
Is another tool really so bad? Of course, the hotel industry is afraid of losing the direct contact with the guest if conference booking is taking a cue from room booking and now being done via a portal. Above and beyond this, the question of commission pops up time and again too. But seriously: A reasonable commission as an agency fee is completely acceptable, after all. And when individual chains then start to argue that they could save the portal costs if we booked with them directly, I could just simply hit the roof. Because that is not actually true: They have distribution costs without portals too. That means that, in the end, we corporates actually pay the costs anyway.
To conclude, here's a totally different question: Could you also imagine using instant booking? Apart from the fact that I initially thought this was a new type of coffee: That is absolutely the right way. It will come, and then it will be just awesome.
Thank you very much for the interview, Mr Konkel.