We have had a few clients recently who have been let down by another event planner, and we have been called in at the last minute to try and rescue the event.
This is heartbreaking for the event owner, and can often mean the difference between a profit and a significant loss. Some we are able to rescue with a little creative thinking and a lot of hard work. One we had to be brutally honest and advise that, even calling in every favour we had, it just wasn't possible to get all the permits and other bits and pieces together in time and they had no option but to cancel. (We did however come up with an idea for another event which will help them recoup their losses and make the profits they were hoping to get from the failed event, and will be making that happen in 2020)
Here are our suggestions to avoid this;
1) Clearly include expectations in your agreement, including timelines and communications. The closer it is to an event, the more frequently your event planner should be talking to you, emailing you and updating project actions.
2) Be strict about adherence to these expectations. A single rescheduled meeting is not a catastrophe, but if you can see updates regularly aren't happening on the project plan when they are due, if you have called three times over three days and you still haven't had a reply, if meetings are consistently rescheduled or cancelled, it's time to act.
3) Your planner will need to be paid a percentage up front to cover expenses, but it is not unfair or unusual to ask for a percentage, between 10 and 20%, to be held back until after the event, and to pay the balance in increments. This gives you a buffer to be able to pay someone if they need to be called in at the last minute, or to be able to claim a penalty for services not provided.
4) Have a "get out of jail" clause that gives you the option to change providers if all the warning signs start to show. This could include indicators such as;
i) if over 10% of the action items are more than 14 days overdue without fair reason. A fair reason would be, if the council are delaying on giving approval for the event management plan but have not given a reason why, and the event provider can give evidence that regular contact is being made with the appropriate council staff member and is trying to resolve the issue. Without fair reason would be if council are delaying on approval because they are waiting on further information and that request has not been actioned by your event planner within a reasonable time frame.
ii) if meetings are being consistently cancelled and phone calls not returned - in other words, your event planner is just impossible to reach.
iii) if you are reaching a deadline of 45 days before the event and there are still a lot of actions outstanding other than those directly related to management of the event on the day. At 30 days before the event, all activity should be focussed on event setup, and confirmations of action items already completed (eg staffing rosters, catering numbers, set-up etc) All bookings should have been made, staff sourced, signage delivered, approvals on file etc.
If these, or any other issues, have arisen, contact your event planner and ask for an urgent meeting within 2 business days. Video meeting or in person meetings are preferably to a phone call where you can't see if the body language is matching what you are hearing. Put this request in writing, and make it clear that if these issues aren't addressed immediately you will consider it a breach of contract. You should still have in your bank at that stage, a pre-event payment and the post event buffer, and if worst comes to worst you can use that to call for rescue.
Most event planners love what they are doing and are focussed on making sure your event is absolutely perfect, but these few actions will prevent heartache and a lot of stress if something doesn't go right.
If you aren't sure, call us. It just may be that your event planner needs a hand, that they are doing everything right and communication has tripped over temporarily, that they have it in hand and don't even realise you are stressed about something, or it is just a misunderstanding - we always genuinely hope that one of these is the answer. But if it is going horribly wrong, it is easier to fix sooner rather than later!
I know it just isn't possible to get it right all the time, especially for accommodation venues where so many human factors can influence outcomes. But here in Australia, we can certainly do better.
I travel extensively, and deliberately road test accommodation and event venues in the areas I plan to hold an event or experience. After each visit I receive the inevitable feedback form, which I dutifully complete, offering praise and constructive criticism where appropriate. I have even sought out managers whose staff have provided exceptional service, acknowledging that good staff requires good leadership.
It is disappointing to see how poorly feedback is received by those who ask for it. Whilst some have been fabulous and I recommend them often (Hyatt Canberra gets a special mention), more often than not I will receive, at best, an automated response. No personal comment, no feedback, no "I'm so sorry, we have taken your feedback on board and have taken xyz action" or "I'm so sorry, please find attached a drinks voucher / extended checkout voucher / breakfast voucher - please visit us again so we can show you how much we value our clients" (or something - anything - similar) Not even a personalised "thank you, we are so glad you enjoyed your stay."for the positive reviews.
We aren't talking about hard to fix complaints. I have an issue with paying premium prices for accommodation and then having to telephone reception because there isn't even a glass in the room - certainly no such thing as a bottle of water. As a guest, the last thing I want is to arrive at my hotel, often late at night and after a long flight, and then have to chase down reception for a glass of water. The demise of the mini bar in some hotels is also an issue, for the same reason. Half hearted cleaning and robot-like receptionists also gain a dishonorable mention.
I realise that it takes time and money to follow through on every single feedback response, but if you don't want feedback and don't intend to act on it, don't ask! If you have asked, and your customer has taken the time to respond, respect that their time has value too, and follow through.
With so many hotels to choose from, I have no doubt that other guests who have had similar experiences to mine will simply choose another hotel if they feel their response has been ignored. I know I do. They also pass their feedback to others who will listen - social media, friends, network acquaintances ... that five minute human based response you failed to give can result in a significant number of lost customers.
I would love to hear your experiences - do you have a "great service" story; or "bad service" story that could have been turned into a good service story if only they had taken some action? Email us firstname.lastname@example.org