If asked, I’d guess that most meetings professionals would say that the most important element to concentrate on in a recession, is customer service, and if they don’t consider it important, that they need to reassess their priorities!
In a shrunken market, with every business wanting to be a conference venue, and all increasingly vigorously seeking to get hold of our customer, we need to ensure that the experience we give to him/her is top notch all round.
Sad to say I’m old enough to remember the days when cordials on the meeting table were considered exotic, mints outrageously luxurious, and the venue coordinator said “hello” in the morning and “bye” in the evening (if they were still there). Happily, we’ve come a long way in the UK in the last few decades. The meetings industry has responded to the increasing demands of a more sophisticated and well-travelled clientele. The need for better service is well recognised, and training has become ingrained in modern business culture and more available than ever before. Better service is evident throughout our industry, not least in my own university sector, which was slow to get going but which I’m glad to say is now up there with the very best.
But it’s not enough just to put fruit on the meeting table and check if the organiser is OK a couple of times during the day. We need to concentrate on every single aspect of a client’s experience with us, and seek to improve. We need to look at the competition, and find ways of differentiating our service from theirs (in a good way!), and we need to constantly monitor how our clients see us, so that we can quickly see where change is needed, and then make the changes. Hanging on to our customers, and gaining a reputation for better value, and high levels of service than our competitors has never been more important.
At a large four star hotel recently, when I asked for a drink in the bar, I was told by a scruffy youth with a dirty collar, “be with you in a minute mate” as he continued to thumb a text into his mobile phone. I’m sooooo glad he works for them and not us!
– Richard Handscombe, Head of Sales and Marketing, Residential and Commercial Services, University House, University of Leeds