by Leo Jakobson | October 16, 2012
Hyatt Hotels & Resorts today unveiled details of a new group billing tool it believes will set the standard for ease of use, clarity, accuracy, and timeliness for the corporate meetings and events market. 

The new Group Bill tool will allow planners to see all charges in real time during the event — from room charges to banqueting to A/V services — via an interactive PDF document with linked budget items that run from high level overviews down to individual room bills and line-item coffee-break charges. 

It has been rolled out at 95 of Hyatt’s 120 North American properties, with the rest scheduled to come on board by the end of the year.

At a demonstration of the tool at the Grand Hyatt New York today, Hyatt executives Steve Enselein, vice president of catering and convention services, and Rodahl Leong-Lyons, vice president, sales operations, showed off the sleek billing system, comparing it to a 300-page old-style bill with endless photocopies of individual banquet receipts to be vetted, and long spreadsheet-style room lists that required the reader to turn the page sideways to read. 

From the planners’ perspective, the new Group Bill they receive begins with a table of contents with hotlinks that let them quickly drill down to specific event sections and even individual attendees. And types of charges – for example A/V charges at multiple sessions — can easily be consolidated across the entire meeting. The system automatically imports data from the signed contract, and checks those agreed-upon charges against those input at the time of the event, automatically highlighting any charge that is higher or lower by 10 percent or more as a way to catch possible errors. 

The data can currently be imported into an Excel spreadsheet so planners “can cut it up any way they want, whatever their internal needs,” said Leong-Lyons. A cloud computing version of the Group Bill tool, which planers will be able to access anywhere at any time without having to even be sent a PDF document, is scheduled to roll out in the first quarter of 2013. 

The new system will be a competitive advantage, Enselein predicts. “If you’ve ever planned a meeting you know it used to take a week to reconcile the bill,” he says. “We are giving [planners] time back – this is a huge timesaver.” 

Many of those advantages apply to Hyatt staff as well. Enselein says that the new system “is much less arduous to catering and operations” making it much easier to input charges — particularly for catering staff who would find themselves inputting data at 2 a.m. after a gala dinner finished and was broken down. “It saves our staff 20 percent of the time it takes to do billing," says the Grand Hyatt New York’s senior director of catering, Jim Dale.