Setting their sights on small- and medium-size meetings, the executives at Crowne Plaza Hotels and Resorts sat down with more than 100 meeting executives this year to hear their concerns. That billing, RFP responsiveness, and the hassle of multiple on-site contacts surface as planners' biggest gripes comes as no surprise, but what happened next may turn a few heads. Crowne Plaza has committed to three new franchisewide mandates expected to measurably improve the planner experience.

First, the company has created a new position, the CMD, which stands for Crowne Meeting Direct. Conceived as kind of an ├╝ber-convention services manager, the CMD will be a single point of contact for the planner once the contract is signed. CMDs will be senior level, report to the hotel general manager, and, ideally, hold the Certified Meeting Professional designation, says Kevin Kowalski, Crowne Plaza's vice president of marketing.

Crowne Plaza has also rolled out a Two-Hour Response Guarantee, which promises a response to planners' Request for Proposals within two hours and a full proposal with 24 hours. Kowalski says that research showed the average Crowne Plaza RFP response to be about 48 hours. However, in the five North American hotels beta testing the new system, the company has shrunk that time to two hours or less in 90 percent of the cases.

The third new program, the Meeting Daily Debrief, attempts to resolve billing problems proactively by having the planner and CMD meet daily to review charges. Rolled out at the Six Continents investors conference in mid-October (Six Continents is the parent company of Crowne Plaza, InterContinental, Holiday Inn Express, Holiday Inn, and Staybridge Suites), the new standards were expected to be in place in all 190 Crowne Plaza hotels by March 1.