Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Quality Committee Update: Members React to Quality Audits

When they’ve undergone Quality Assurance Audits this year, member conference centers have raised a few questions. Most commonly they wonder, “Why aren’t the Quality Assurance Checklist and Pre-Audit paperwork identical to the documents that the BARE auditor uses?” During my property’s recent audit, I puzzled over some of these differences, too. Though the variances were not so striking that I couldn’t answer the questions, I thought it might be a good topic for the Quality Committee to consider. And, in August the subject appeared on our agenda. The committee determined that we’d like to close the gap between the two sets of questions and began considering ways we might accomplish that aim.

Let me offer a couple examples of the sort of questions we’re talking about because we understand that members might not immediately see their relevance to our Universal Criteria.

(1) “How many meeting suites does the facility have?” The Criteria don’t make any direct reference to meeting suites (or guest suites that can easily be converted to meeting space). However, when you look at criteria numbers 5 and 33 you can see the validity. These criteria concern the separation of dedicated conference rooms from living and leisure areas. So, the Auditor asks about meeting suites in order to ensure that members do not typically allow meetings outside of the conference center.

(2) “How many portable sound systems does your property have?” This question directly correlates to criterion number 18. “Do all meeting rooms larger than 1,000 sq. ft. have built-in voice reinforcement sound systems?” If you answer “no” when this question comes up, the auditor must determine the extent to which that’s true for the whole facility because IACC may allow for less than 100% compliance as long as you have enough portable sound equipment to accommodate client needs.

In any case, IACC’s Audit only scores members according to their compliance with the Criteria. Any questions that don’t directly relate to membership criteria either supply facts to support determinations about compliance or provide data that refer to IACC’s Recommended Guidelines. And neither of these types of question count toward or against a member’s Audit score.

When the inspection occurred at my property, the auditor mentioned how pleased she was to see all of the pre-audit paperwork completed as BARE instructed. Shortly after the audit, we received our preliminary score and I feel confident that the audit went well overall.

Despite the positive outcome, most of us find audits and inspections daunting, regardless of what organization conducts the review, but IACC audits can be very instructive. When we become overly comfortable, even complacent, about our properties and their fitness as conference centers, we may miss things that customers don’t overlook. In the course of our daily routines, we don’t always recognize that a little extra touch could make all the difference for some customer. Audits provide fresh eyes. They keep us on our toes and give us the opportunity to correct potential issues. In particular, IACC Audits ensure our clients that they can expect the best possible meeting experience at a member conference center.

Next Quality Committee meeting: September 30.

Written by:
Michael Blackley
Banquet/Conference Center Manager
Hilton Washington DC/Rockville Executive Meeting Center

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