We all know that conference operations play a large role in both helping to fund the academic programme of a university and, importantly, introducing potential new students to the institution. We also know that they are all looking at ways to increase revenue. Raising rates and offering new services are the most common means of increasing the bottom line, but perhaps not the most effective.
We have seen however, that there is one activity conference department should be doing that can positively affect revenue streams which many are currently not: inquiry tracking.
This may be due to the amount of work involved or maybe because there is no perceived value in tracking these leads. The lead is often reviewed for viability, space availability is checked and if they are not booked, they are simply turned away with little or no record of their request.
So why is it so important to answer and track these inquiries? According to Convirza’s industry research, 46% of inquiries are missed opportunities. Below we’ll explore two big areas to focus on that have a massive potential impact on your ability to generate maximum revenue for your campus.
Based on our research, we know repeat business bookings for summer conferences typically range between 70-80% from year to year. With many conference departments operating as self-sustaining, that figure represents a significant amount of annual revenue on which the department is dependent. Therefore, it is paramount to monitor rebooking activity year on year.
When inquiries are used to capture rebooking requests, it is easier to identify which customers have requested to rebook and which customers have not. For those who have not, it could be an early alert to you that something may be amiss with the customer.
Some commercial software providers make this easier to monitor by providing a Frequency and Recency report. This report, that can also be crafted manually, tracks who has booked with you in the past, when, how many times and the quantity of future bookings they have in place. By having this information, you can easily spot any of your regular customers who may not have any bookings in the future, allowing you to be proactive about the business and affirm their intent to rebook or determine their intent to leave.
Have you ever had a regular customer unexpectedly inform you they will not be returning? How do you recover? They key is to identify and anticipate a customer’s possible intention to leave before the they even tell you. When you have identified a customer is leaving, or may be leaving, inquiry tracking will also enable you to contact potential options to fill the void as discussed previously in How Conferencing Departments Can Easily Recover Lost Opportunities.
Are you keeping track of any of the following information?
- Why you lost a piece of business / why you had to turn away a piece of business
- The value of the above lost business
When you track incoming inquiries, you should also be tracking the estimated value of the business and when lost, the reason why it was lost. Why is this important? By understanding the why, you can segment the responses into two groups: reasons for which a solution may exist and reasons for which no solution exists. Additionally, by then calculating the value of the lost business by each reason, you can ascertain if a possible solution makes sense.
Have you had to turn away external business because an internal event was booked in the space(s) you needed? If your campus provides services and spaces at no cost or reduced cost to internal departments, then you should be tracking this as well. When you cannot earn revenue from an external group because of an internal group, your bottom line is being directly impacted. You should be able to explain lack of revenues due to internally-impacted lost business with hard data.
At the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman Quad, the team will create an invoice listing all charges at the external rate, but then enter a “100% Discount” line item, creating a zero-balance invoice. Internals are provided with this invoice to show them the scope and value of services and spaces being provided.
This also allows Tom Hauber, Executive Director, to track unrecoverable revenue from internal business. Tom’s team also tracks other discounts given to community organizations. This not only explains reasons for lack of revenue but provides tangible examples of how they are supporting the local community.
One campus in the Northeast US started tracking why they lost business and found they were losing large groups because the campus auditorium was not air-conditioned. Over the course of two summers, it was demonstrated they had lost more revenue than the cost of installing air-conditioning, resulting in the campus deciding to invest in change.
Many other reasons may factor into lost business. Knowing why a sale didn’t close can help you understand whether it is a problem with your process, your prices, your facilities, etc. You can be responsive to the actual issue and clear out the blockers to make way for more business.