20 questions to ask when negotiating with an outside AV services provider – or there’s AVaStar

By Eric Bracht

You’ve got a newly built or recently remodeled hotel, and you’ve made the decision to self-manage the AV services process. Bill, your hotel’s banquet manager, was chosen to be responsible for the hotel’s built-in and portable AV equipment. To help Bill, you’ve invested in AVaStar, a managed-services solution that provides step-by-step guidance to manage every aspect of the AV services process. Bill plans and details all meeting technology needs, including ensuring that portable and built in equipment is working and ready for customer use, all while controlling expenses. But what happens when a meeting planner asks Bill for event technologies that your hotel doesn’t own?

Nobody can or should own everything – it isn’t practical. Even the biggest AV services companies subcontract for certain event technologies. According to the American Express 2019 Global Meetings & Events Forecast, mobile apps, facial recognition, virtual reality, artificial intelligence and robotics are just a few of tools that will be used in 2019 to stimulate attendee interaction. But it typically doesn’t make sense for a hotel to invest in these types of technologies. How would Bill (whose primary job responsibility is catering sales, not managing technology) evaluate the qualifications, competence, and capacities of the local AV rental company to provide these resources? And, how would he know how to negotiate an agreement that guarantees your hotel receives a fair commission while the guest pays a fair price?

Finding the right outside AV services partner isn’t an easy task. Terms and conditions need to be included in contracts to ensure that events go smoothly, and that no damage is done to the hotel or to its built-in systems. Even though an outside company is bringing in equipment, it’s the hotel’s responsibility to support the guest and provide a seamless experience. A strong working relationship with outside service partners ensures they value your business and won’t try to poach the business and ask the meeting planner to work with them directly the next time they bring an event to your destination. Most local companies appreciate a good working relationship with a hotel and are happy to receive a new revenue stream from your customers, but there must be a formal understanding of roles and responsibilities.

So, there are two ways a hotel can manage this situation.

Option No. 1 – Ask Lots of Questions Bill can do his best to find a local AV partner and negotiate the best agreement. To help with that process, here are 20 questions to ask of prospective candidates:

  1. What types of services do they provide?
  2. How long have they been in business?
  3. How far away is their local warehouse?
  4. How much equipment is stored locally versus at offices in other locations?
  5. Do they employ full-time technicians or utilize freelance technicians?
  6. Will they assign an account manager to your hotel?
  7. Will the same account manager handle equipment drop-off rentals?
  8. Will the account manager contact your client’s directly?
  9. Will they provide you with standard pricing for equipment, labor and services?
  10. Will they work with you to create packages that can be sold to supplement your basic services?
  11. Can they provide technical labor when needed?
  12. How much notice is required to schedule labor?
  13. Will they bill you directly for services?
  14. How long after an event before you receive an invoice?
  15. What are their payment terms?
  16. What discount can they offer you on equipment?
  17. What discount can they offer you on labor?
  18. Are there any equipment or services that they will not discount?
  19. Are they willing to work with pricing on an event-by-event basis?
  20. Do they carry the proper indemnity and workers compensation insurance?

Option No. 2 – Leverage AvaStar After looking at Option No. 1, your head may be spinning. Unfortunately, there are no “How To” books on the AV negotiating process. As a self-managing hotel and user of AVaStar, however, you can leverage the expertise of AVaStar’s professional services team to search and select a reputable AV services partner and negotiate the contract on your behalf. Not only will the AVaStar team work with hoteliers to secure outside provider agreements, AVaStar provides tools to audit actual performance against the terms of the agreement to ensure that what was promised is being delivered. AVaStar gives people like Bill the ability to manage those contracts by monitoring spending and comparing that spend with what was charged to make sure the AV department remains profitable.

AVaStar is for everyone. It’s ideal for hotels that prefer to self-manage AV services. But when outside services are required, AvaStar can help with that too.