As a Senior Business Travel Consultant for a small, independant agency, i am often required to set up a 'billback' for some or all of the charges for hotel guests. Not rocket science granted, but you'd think it was for some of the hotel employees i have had to deal with.
As far as i'm aware, the new rules regarding VAT apply to every agency in the UK, and this has to be shown and itemised on the invoices to the clients. Our agency cannot be the only one in the UK who request guest billbacks, and have to comply with the new VAT rules, so why do i always have problems in getting copies of hotel guest bills correctly addressed? Surely the hotels must have picked up on this by now?
We do all of the work for the hotel as best we can. We send a billack fax to the hotel with all the reservation details and even set out the way in which the invoice should be addressed for VAT purposes, and we then call the hotel to check the fax has been received. Then, without fail, this information is TOTALLY IGNORED and we have to ask them to resend the bill correctly addressed.
If it's all there, right in front of them , what possible excuse can there be for sending these bills back to the agency addressed incorrectly?
I await your pitiful excuses!!
Why not speak to the hotel directly to try and resolve it, alternatively have it built into your SLA agreement?
Talking doesn’t work – especially when the person you are talking to
doesn’t have a particularly good command of English. Anyway, all of
the information they need is there – the info on the billback fax negates the need to talk to anyone.
As a front of house manager, let me explain.
When the fax is received, the info is entered on to the system for the guest etc, however the invoicing address cannot be entered into most systems and let me explain why:
When a guest checks in, it is a legal requirement to get their home address details (and passport info if non native to your country). This info must then be placed on to the reservations system.
When the guest checks out, many systems make it extremely difficult for you to change the information regarding address etc. for a guest, therefore this is sometimes missed.
No matter how much screaming and shouting is done about it, changing the information on checkout often does not get done because the bill back info is either with another department entirely or is filed.
I appreciate your frustration, however regardless of whether someone is English or not does not actually matter in the slightest. Talking does work, it is demanding that does not work.
With regards to the bill backs and info being correct, there are very few systems that can store both the invoice address and home address, and front of house are forced to choose one to use. Legally it has to be the home address that is used, so I FOH just have a sales ledger account number or similar for billing back, and do not have the original fax then you will get these issues.
In my opinion, whilst I partially agree with you as it is people not passing info on, I do have to say that on most systems there is not the ability to add comprehensive notes to bill backs or reservations, usually only 100 characters or so if you are lucky are what will appear in comments on checkout. Further to this, when checking out, FOH may have 10 or 20 people queuing so do not get the time to change the details (which is very time consuming).
To ensure that invoices are addressed correctly etc, why don't you get hold of a contact within accounts at each venue you use, and send them an email specifying invoice address for all their bill backs. This should help you out massively as most bill backs have to go via accounts first.
Interesting reply. But i do have a question. It is also a requirement for VAT purposes for these guest bills to be addressed in the way i have mentioned otherwise we, as an agency, will get clobbered for VAT unless we can PROVE that we are only acting as an agent for the hotel.
The only way to do this is to have the guest bills/invoices addressed correctly for VAT purposes. As i have previously said, we cannot be the only agency that sets up billbacks for their clients. Would it not be an idea for hotels to get some software that permits the editing of guest details to accomodate requests such as these?
i think it is poor to blame a computer for thr failure - it makes us sound like characters from "little britain"!!
there are systems out there that can handle this request as I worked with them"
we need to look at our customer service - however great our product is , if our service is poor that is what a customer will remember
for VAT purposes, bills need to be correcttly addressed
I also think it's something to do with the general intelligence of some of these hotel employees. As a very recent 'for instance', this is what i sent to the Midland Hotel in Manchester yesterday afternoon..... you couldn't make this up.
From: Nick Gaxxxxxxxxx [mailto:email@example.com] Sent: 24 July 2012 10:46To: Midland ReceptionSubject: Your Guests Mr S Corington and Ms L MIllerImportance: High
References QH2XXXXXXXX - MR S CORINGTON
and QH2XXXXXXXX – MS L MILLER
please be so kind as to send a copies of the above reservation bills as these were charged to our company credit carding ending 2981.
Please ensure the guest bill is CORRECTLY ADDRESSED per the fax that was sent to confirm the billback, which was confirmed received by your reference Mandy.
etc etc. This is what i got back.........
From: Midland Reception [mailto:Midlandreception@qhotels.co.uk] Sent: 24 July 2012 12:35To: Nick GaxxxxxxSubject: RE: Your Guests Mr S Corington and Ms L MIller
Please can you confirm the last 4 digits of the card that was charged. and also the amount charged to the card.
There may be systems that can handle this, but Opera, which is one of the most common, is notoriously difficult and cumbersome for changing info for billing and requires you to update the entire guest profile, or create a separate guest profile for the billing address information, which you do not have time to do when you have 30 people checking out at once
It may be possible to get this set in Opera, however I am yet to see it. I am not blaming the computer, but I also do not think it fair for it all to be levelled at the hotel reception staff because working the desk is a very difficult job, and there are usually many different things going on at the same time. This does fall usually to the accounts team, but where credit cards are concerned for bill back it is a slightly different story as this falls to front of house.
The point I was making is that from an external perspective, I can see why people think this is easy to do, but when using systems and actually running the front desk, this sort of amendment to a final invoice can be time consuming and often the actual bill back info is missed on departure for one reason or another. On top of this, sending invoices to companies, usually needs a specific level of access which many reception staff do not have (corporate security nonsense IMHO)
I am just trying to give some info from the perspective of someone who deals with this every day. As a manager I get wound up when staff do not follow billing instructions, or leave incorrect addresses on invoices, but this is something that does occur, regardless of the processes you put in place. I disagree that you say this is poor service; the majority of agents do have accounts and bill back via them, if you consider a hotel running at 80% occupancy could be dealing with hundreds or thousands of reservations every month, the bills that require all the info changing for billing purposes represent probably less 1% of these, which makes them an exception to the rule for many venues.
All I am saying really is that please do not say people give poor service, just because an address needs changing. This can be remedied easily and does not take much, yes I agree it is frustrating, however is not something that looks likely to change in any big way. If this is a persistent issue it needs to be addressed via hotel management directly by the agent as I understand that an agent does not have the time to continuously chase bills, but there are 2 sides to every story.
As for the email posted by the original poster... That is ridiculous and is probably a copy-pasted response! Inexcusable!
As i said in my original post, our agency cannot possibly be the only one requesting hotel billbacks for their clients. When the same thing happens time and time again, and billing instructions are constantly ignored, what else can it called other than 'bad service'? Call a spade a spade here - please.... it IS bad service.
Oh, and the copy/paste email? Yes it was cut and pasted. I wasn't about sit here and type everything word for word. However, that is EXACTLY how the email was sent and the reply received. It just goes to back up my point about sub-standard service, and hotel employees who can't be bothered to read what's in front of them. So there was nothing inexcusable about that at all.
I was not talking about you cutting and pasting, I was talking about the hotel cut and pasting!
If the same thing is happening time and time again, speak to the hotel management team to address it.
Alternatively, to gain the correct invoices all the time, speak to the accounts team and open a ledger account with the hotel. You will then get all the correct invoices from accounts.
Another alternative is to speak to the reception manager or similar and arrange for them to send you all the invoices on a monthly or weekly basis via email. I do this for a lot of corporate clients and agents.
What I am saying is that if you find that billing instructions are ignored, then find an alternative that works. Your billing instructions will not be ignored on purpose, nor is it a sign of incompetence. It is a failure in communication as probably 4 or 5 different people will have dealt with your booking by the time the guest has checked out, and in a several hundred room hotel, things like this do get overlooked, particularly with many hotels cutting costs and reception staff at now doing the jobs of 5 or 6 people in one shift
If the hotel really is such bad service, why do you continue to use them and send clients there?
To respond to your comments, yes, there are many agency that request bill backs for clients, but very few require payment to be debited from a credit card as the majority have accounts where one invoice is submitted every month or so. If the way you currently get invoices etc is not working, then surely as a business, you need to review your operation. You can scream and shout to the hotels as much as you like, but the fact remains that there will still be issues.
My personal recommendation is to arrange ledger accounts with the hotels you use if you are using them regularly, or speak to hotel management/accounts about getting invoices addressed correctly.
Please also bear in mind that whilst you and I may know the vat requirements, many hotel receptionists would not.