With technology, event planners have become quite efficient at planning and executing events. But, are we starting to overlook customer service standards? This is a discussion that I plan to continue having with event planners over the several weeks/months.
Customer Service Standards Are Playing Second Fiddle to Technology
When I started out in the hospitality industry, I was fortunate enough to have worked with a maître d’ that put good customer service above everything else. It was the days where “the customer is always right” was front and center. Of course there were also established service standards that played a vital role in the overall operation as well.
But I can’t help notice whenever I’m at a networking event, or a food and beverage function, there seems to be a lack of service standards. It’s not that the service staff aren’t friendly enough. It’s a combination of several little things that add up. How many times have you seen the service staff put their fingers inside of the glasses to remove them from your table? Or, while being served, you’re not sure whether the server is coming from your right or your left and therefore you end up looking like you’re in a game of dodgeball. Yes there are standards that establish from which side you should be served for both food and beverage.
Now a lot of people that I relay this conversation too will say “well, that’s just the type of venue that you’re frequenting”. I wish that were true. However, some of these places have been the four and five star venues that are the talk of the town.
I’m finding that venues, restaurants, etc. are spending a considerable amount of time on the decor, the food, and really good-looking service staff. And I completely understand why that’s very important. But I also feel that some of these well-established venues are overlooking the very basic customer service standards.
And it’s not just the event planning industry. I think this is going to be and all around crisis very soon. The other day I was standing in line at a grocery store. I just happen to be paying attention to the cashier and the customer that was in front of me. What struck me funny (not in the funny ha ha way) was that the cashier never spoke one single word to the customer. When I approached the cashier I couldn’t help but comment. I said to the woman; “do you realize that you just did a complete transaction without speaking one word to that customer”. Well of course the cashier blushed and was completely embarrassed. Which was not the point I was trying to make. I was just simply astonished that this is what is accepted as customer service standards.
See also: Are Event Planning Standards Slipping?
The Disney Corporation Is an Example of an Organization With Excellent Customer Service Standards
I was fortunate enough to have been sent on a Disney management training course early on in my career. There were several takeaways that I learned during that course. One of the things that has stuck with me was how they operated their human resources department. We actually went through the selection and hiring process so we could get a good understanding of a potential employee’s experience with Disney.
Disney’s philosophy towards customer service standards was that you can teach people technology, but you cannot teach people personality. In other words, they would hire front-line employees that didn’t necessarily have the greatest technological skills for operating various equipment. But what they looked for in those front-line employees was whether or not their personality was a match for the image of what Walt Disney represents. And you see it in all of their employees. They do not wait for you to approach them to say hello.
I’ve made a point to employ that philosophy throughout my career whenever I was in a position of hiring front-line employees.
Event planners can be a tough bunch. After all, their very business depends on their own customers being happy with their experience. As we will begin to explore here, it’s vital that event planners, and the hospitality industry as a whole, get back to basics regarding establishing excellent customer service standards.