Strive to provide first class customer service and reap the rewards down the line says Isabel Smith
All businesses ultimately want lots of bookings and happy clients. Not only for our own satisfaction (and revenue figures) but, if you cast your mind back to my sales funnel article in the last issue, because a flawlessly run event makes for clients who will advocate your venue – essential in an industry where there is no repeat business so the marketing machine never stops!
Now we all know that some brides can be a right pain, but we can’t really blame them. Think about the pressure they are under, between parental expectations, budget limitations, the weight of wanting everything to look gorgeous and run flawlessly etc. This pressure is bound to spill over onto you, your venue and the other suppliers involved. This is where going above and beyond to put your couple at ease and take some of that pressure off really turns each client from ‘satisfied customer’ to ‘singing your praises’.
Here are some things that you can do to go that extra mile:
- Offer as much planning support as you possibly can: Your clients need your input and support more than anything. Develop some wedding planning tools that you can share with them such as a wedding budget calculator which shows how most of your clients spend their overall budget, or a planning schedule which guides them on which elements of the wedding planning they should be focusing on each month between booking with you and the big day.
- Put work into your PSL (preferred supplier list): The idea is to inform your clients of all the wonderful suppliers you work with and the special contacts you have available at the drop of a hat, thus proving you readily have to hand whatever the client may need.
- Get involved in design: Over time, you’ll have seen many design ideas take shape at your venue so when you get a client who perhaps doesn’t have quite as much vision, help them out by showing great (ideally, professionally taken) images of what has come before. Show passion for each client’s ideas, gently advising if something won’t work for some operational reason and suggesting alternatives. Figure out each client’s style and throw a few wild card ideas that they might never have thought of into the mix – this is where you can really begin to impress them by demonstrating how versatile your venue is.
- Adapt to the way they work: We all have our favourite ways to work and it is a pain when a client works a different way. If you are all about emails but your client wants lots of face-to-face time, it can be frustrating. But adapting to their preferred communication method can really reduce their stress levels. Most couples are working 9-5 themselves so making yourself available outside of their normal working hours (within boundaries of course) can also go a long way to ensuring a great working relationship.
- Offer operational flexibility: Bending your usual terms and conditions where possible is a great way to go the extra mile for your clients. You might not usually allow a marquee to go up until Friday but, if there is no real impact expected, why not allow access on Thursday? Assuming it won’t interfere with any other clients, taking deliveries of booze or decorative items and storing everything for an extra day or two can also make a huge difference. It isn’t about letting your clients walk all over you, it’s just about listening out for any particular needs and accommodating them where possible.
- Say no as little as possible: Your clients are not going to be your biggest fan if the only things that come out of your mouth are “I’m afraid we can’t do that “or “we don’t allow that here”, or worst of all “we’ve never done that before”. There are always going to be things you just can’t allow like having loud music outside your licensed times or letting 100 cars park in a field that fits 50, but if there is one thing consumers hate, it’s hearing a ‘no’ and not understanding why. Where you have to say the ‘n’ word, offer your reasonable explanation. Simply saying, “because we said so/that’s just how it is” isn’t going to be well received by your client!
- Look out for opportunities to wow: When you work with a client for a year or so, you share a lot of time together on the phone or in person. You will be amazed at what little titbits of information you pick up. If you normally put flowers in the bridal suite, make them the bride’s favourites. You might hear that it is the groom’s birthday so send a card. You don’t need to spend a fortune – it is the little things that build an outstanding relationship.
Getting your clients fully engrossed in your offering has never been about reducing prices or throwing in extras that sacrifice your profitability. It’s all about flawless customer service. We want you to reach a point where your clients don’t even realise that you are going above and beyond for them because that’s just who you are. Raise your standards and let it become your benchmark. Make every project you work on and every client experience first class.
Reaching this standard isn’t all that difficult. Where basic customer service is about fulfilling the needs of the client, exceptional customer service is about meeting their needs before the client even knew they needed it. Not everyone is going to be specific about what they want so it’s your job to read between the lines. Being there for your clients in more ways than one doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spread yourself thin, you just need to do what you do with extra involvement.
At the end of the day, customer service is what this business is all about, so why wouldn’t you want to excel at it? Don’t settle for mediocre, strive for greatness and always go the extra mile for your client. It’s an admirable quality which they are unlikely to forget!