seminars

Lucas on the point of The Customer Is Always Right

The customer is always right.

We all heard it, especially in the hospitality industry, where there are no “Nos” and the guests are by far closest to being self-proclaimed gods (outside of banking obviously). All knowing. Always having an opinion, and even more, since it is their own opinion it has to be right. If they decide to have two opinions these are both right too. It takes a lot of guts and truly a Machiavellic style of conduct to persuade a strongly opinionated guest in any way; something like explaining to a four year old child it is ok to be Spiderman, but without actually swinging from skyscrapers or the sofa. Another good comparison of explaining to the client they are actually wrong would be an ancient, Roman advisor to emperor Nero, known for his love of art, music, good food and burning down the Rome because it smelled. The advisor explained that in order to convince the Caesar, one must always squeeze a massive and clearly visible compliment into a very small and superficial “no”, obviously handing over the whole decision making power to the emperor/guest. Insulting a sensitive soul of the emperor was usually rewarded by a visit from Praetorian Guards, equalling to a death sentence.

We live in a very tolerant, accepting and forgiving society, everyone is sensitive, everyone can be offended by someone else celebrating a holiday (tut, tut). Cutting through three lanes without indicating at eighty miles per hour can be seen as creative and Barraco is the president of the world. Everyone is entitled to an opinion. Everyone can express it via social media while review websites terrorise and terrify hoteliers and restaurateurs to the point where they would rather offer a complimentary Kobe beef steak than deal with an online troll who cannot be touched, criticised, reasoned with, and as per statistics is going to let all other trolls know about “poor experience”.

The list of complaints we discussed with a venue recently only reinforces the feeling that little has changed since Roman times.
We include the list of the most interesting “issues” below.

  • We could not take the guest’s bags to the bedroom straight away – We did take the bags but the guest had to wait a few minutes.
  • The guest found a hair on the bed – we changed all the linen. Then the guest found another one, so we changed it again. We think it could have been guest’s own hair, but obviously could not prove either way.
  • We had to change the clock in the meeting room to a less reflective one.
  • The flipchart was too tall, so we swapped it.
  • The guest had to go outside to get to the restaurant, but it is still within the same complex.
  • The guest complained that the teabags were unhygienic as they were not individually wrapped. We sourced an alternative.
  • The hot water was too hot.

All these terrifying, horrible and life threatening issues happened during a one day booking for approximately 10 people. Instead of the course contents, the attendees have watched in horror how the organiser’s emotions jumped up and down, finishing with an audible and distinct rant at the management about the venue quality, service etc etc. Obviously, since the training was interrupted by some 7-8 extra breaks when the organiser had to go and release the boiling abundance of neurotransmitters in a bottleneck between amygdala and prefrontal cortex (anger management and emotions controlling parts of the human brain) in a form of half-coherent sentences thrown at random members of staff; there wasn’t that much material covered during the day and the self-fulfilling prophecy fulfilled itself – it was a disaster.

The final of the story was classic, the organiser demanded a full refund and got it. The interesting part was, we knew this venue for its consistency, good, stable standards as well as financial awareness and flexibility. The more interesting part was, that we listened to this client’s rant about the venue (obviously omitting the above bullet points and using general expressions) being so bad, we actually questioned our own knowledge and experience. The best part however was…the client ranting about us, to us, and trying to extort us. This happened after the client completely ignored ALL communication from us, including dates, rates, rooms, locations; literally, if there was any detail vital to holding a meeting/seminar/conference, it was entirely ignored and replaced with the client’s own interpretation. It sounded like this:

TV: we have proposed rates of £38, £45 and £47.
Client: No, I want £40 everywhere.
TV: Yes, but in that location these were the best we could achieve, they are very, very competitive for Central London (!?!)
Client: I didn’t see them.
TV: Right, I believe we have discussed these on the telephone, prior to visiting the venues
Client: Yes, but I want them to be £40, your proposal was very unclear, you should improve your system
TV: How would you improve our system ?
Client: Make sure that individual prices are clear and visible, not only the totals. I was misled to believe the rates were £40 everywhere, I only looked at the totals. (the brief was for 20 people, ideally at £40.00 per person per day)
TV: OK, so the totals were not £800.00 each ?
Client: I don’t know, I don’t have time for checking these and scrolling through all the paperwork, you should improve your system and your proposals (just FYI the proposal is usually 4x A4 pages PDF document, with venue options, pictures, itemised and explained individual prices and totals on the bottom in a separate box)
TV: I thought we have discussed these rates on the telephone and you said they were steep, but doable, obviously you have visited all three venues ?
Client: Yes, but I thought they were all £40, because I only looked at totals, your system doesn’t work, I don’t have time to be looking for information !
TV: OK, these rates are already reduced, I don’t think the venues will be able to do anything else.
Client: Can you tell them I would be paying by debit card on the day ? Surely that should help ?
TV (in their mind only, wishing they have not given up smoking some time ago as it would be a great moment to start): Did you know that a new-born baby giraffe travels about six feet to arrive on the ground ? What are your thoughts on the Middle East process ? Do you think there is a possibility for discovering silicone and not carbon based living organisms in outer space ?….
Client: Unfortunately I will not be able to work with you.
TV: Sorry to hear that…

We have terminated all arrangements with this client, which is unusual for a small company, but the valuable lesson we have learned (again) was – if it sounds impossible, it might actually be impossible to work with someone.

Value your time; you will never get back the energy and nerves. Extra work will cost your company more than the actual revenue achieved. Most importantly, have no doubts, you are not creating a healthy client/business relationship, you are creating complaints, whether you like it or not.

All the best and good luck to all sales people.

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Top Ten Tips When Booking A Venue

As part of our ongoing want to help you busy event planners, we thought we’d offer a quick run-down of tips for when booking a venue. We’ve split the list into a quick-fire list and a more detailed list. Use the tips as a tick-list or as a more detailed reminder. Whatever way you choose to use them, we’re sure they’ll come in useful!

However, if you’re still struggling once you’ve got through these tips and need some help – give us a call or contact us here and we’d be happy to step in and take all these things into consideration for you.

1. Location

2. Facilities

3. Cost

4. Response Time

5. First Impressions

6. Suitability

7. Accessability

8. Food & Drink

9. Accommodation

10. Quality of Customer Service! (Last but by no means least!)

 

 

Location

Setting is one of the most important things to consider when choosing a venue. It can determine accessibility, the facilities available for you and the suitability for your event. Things to consider –

  • Do you want a local venue or an international venue?
  • What type of location are you looking for? e.g. a countryside spot or an inner city area?
  • How far are your delegates travelling? Do you need access to public services/airports/railway/motorways, and if so how far away are they?

Facilities

Having the perfect facilities for your event can mean the difference between it running smooth and running wild.

  • Can the venue offer a room large enough to hold your delegates? Can guests travel around the space without trouble?
  • Are there suitable toilets nearby?
  • Can they accommodate disabled people?
  • Can caterers provide food and drink inside the venue, or is it in another room? If so, can guests easily access these areas?

Cost

Make a budget right at the beginning and stick to it. Provided you choose a good quality, experienced venue committed to making your event the best it can be then you’ll get far more from the experience –

  • Have you made a clear budget, and stuck to it?
  • Does the cost include everything you need for your event?
  • Are there any extra hidden costs?

Response Time

How fast or slow a venue responds to an email, or call can give a clear indication of what the service of the venue will be like on the day of your event. If they give clear instruction to wait at least 42 hours, and they have not responded within that time, it may be wise to have another search.

First Impressions

If possible, book a viewing at your chosen location. When you first view your chosen venue does it amaze you, or does it make you yawn?  If your first look is positive – great! If your first impression is a bit of a let-down, don’t give up – there will be other options! (it may be the inside inspires more than the outside – let’s face it, unless your event is outside, most of your attendees will only notice the inside.

  • Make a list of things you want to see in the venue. That way, you can thoroughly assess your venue in terms of your event’s needs. If at the end of the viewing you are still not satisfied, search again.

Suitability

You’ve viewed a few venues and have narrowed them down, but how does your venue suit your event?

  • Is the venue available on the date(s) you want? Are they flexible if change is necessary?
  • Does the venue fulfil your events purpose?

Accessability

Your venue is set in the beautiful English countryside, surrounded by thick forests and a large lake. But can you actually get there? And how are your guests getting there? How about disabled delegates?

  • If you need a venue which has good transport links for example a motorway or an airport then the countryside venue would be no good. If possible, make sure guests can access your venue easily and research into possible options and routes.

Food & Drink

Venues may provide catering or they may not. Whatever the outcome, discuss a few things –

  • What type of food/drink do they offer? Does it come under the price or is it an extra charge?
  • Ask for sample menus – maybe organise a tasting session. Make sure the menu offers both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options.

Accommodation

Choose somewhere that can cater for everyone, not just a few people. If you’re event needs overnight accommodation, find out the following –

  • How much are they charging per room / per night?
  • Do they have the space for all your guests? If not, ask for an alternative near by.
  • Ask to view a few rooms – what are your first impressions? Do they offer en-suites, coffee and tea and towels? Would you feel comfortable staying there yourself?

Quality of Customer Service

When you visit your chosen venue, what is the overall customer service like?
From the initial phone call, to the visit itself and how they deal with you and others around you, there will be a clear indication of how they will treat you and your event.

  • Are they attentive and have good product knowledge or are they somewhere else and give you little to no useful information?
  • Can they identify problems and sort things out quickly or do they time waste?
  • How do they approach you? What manner do they talk to you with? Are they interested in your event? How do they respond to your questions?

 

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A Visit to the Countryside

Today we visited a venue called Cottons, a 4 star hotel located in Knutsford, Cheshire, and part of the Shire Hotel group which have properties spread across the UK.

Cottons Hotel Bedroom

Cottons is a perfect example of why choosing a venue outside of the city centre can often be the correct decision. The hotel is located close enough to Manchester, Chester and Liverpool to make an ideal day out whilst also having its own local attractions and acres of beautiful countryside to enjoy.

The shire group work on a three year plan which involves renovating and improving aspects of their hotels every three years, the main conference suite at Cottons underwent a complete renovation a couple of years ago, part of the restaurant is due to be done this year and the bedrooms will follow. There are three types of bedrooms, executive room, suites and family and each comes with complimentary water, fresh tea and coffee as well as free Wi-Fi Internet access.

Cottons prides itself on these thoughtful little touches and that mentality can be seen throughout the hotel with friendly and helpful staff on hand to help be it in the restaurant, bar & lounge or the 24 hour reception and room service. The hotel also boasts a beautiful spa which offers a range of treatments for male and female visitors as well as complimentary access to the pool, full equipped gym and even any gym classes that should catch your eye.

The hotel is a perfect destination for business as well as pleasure with 16 meeting rooms varying in size, the largest of which holding up to 220 delegates, and each boasting state of the art conference equipment and a dedicated conference team.

So if you’re wanting to get away from all the hustle and bustle of the city and try something a little more peaceful or different, have a look at those venues on the outskirts – or better still, give us a call and we can do it for you!

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Here’s To 2013!

We thought we would create a little video to welcome you into the New Year (it is still January so we’re allowed 🙂 ). We hope you like!

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A Little Christmas Message from Top Venues…

Please note: our office will be ‘Off Duty’ from Friday 21st December through until Wednesday 2nd January 2013. All emails will be responded to upon our return!

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Accor – from Ibis to Pullman Hotels

I was recently at an event called the ‘World of Accor Expo’ in London which was a showcase from the Accor Hotel Chain of a number of their world-wide hotels. Whilst there I was asked by someone from C&IT Magazine whether Hotels/Chains were doing enough to entice and promote their hotels to agents (that’s me). My response to that was that some are and some aren’t. Whilst this wasn’t really an answer I did go on to explain that while times are much tougher than ever before for business (from both client and agents’ perspective) it was more important now than ever before to keep clients interested and in the know about hotels, be it a chain or an independent, and while the bigger chains have bigger marketing budgets it was just as important for smaller independent venues to keep working with clients and getting out to see potential new clients to show them what they can offer. However, of the larger hotel chains, one brand that is promoting themselves well, is that of Accor. With the hotel brand changing and increasing in size quite rapidly, they need to make their clients, and potential clients, aware of what they have to offer.

Accor Expo Exhibition Stands

In the last two months, I’ve attended a more low-key UK-based event (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory themed) where I sampled their Mercure brand and now the World of Accor Expo where I have been able to sample both the Ibis and Pullman brands. In between all that, I’ve been regularly updated on the new venues coming on board and those currently going through a refurbishment.

Accor is a French brand and you notice a French feel throughout each of the brands, although it may be quite subtle, from staff to literature to just the colours and style. The company are very proud of the fact that they are French and I think this is great that they’re keen to make people understand the history behind the group.

At the World of Accor Expo, it was apparent as to how much they love their hotels by the fact that five of the six Parisian hotels are all undergoing major refurbishments over the next year to keep the hotels up to standard.

The Pullman London, the newest addition to the Pullman part of the chain has undergone a major refurbishment. Formerly a Novotel (another of the Accor brands) it boasts a tiered theatre to hold 446 along with other meeting spaces. Within 2 minutes’ walking distance to both Euston Station and St Pancras Stations and directly next to British Library it’s ideally placed and while it’s not the prettiest building on the outside, from the inside, it offers imagination and a quirkiness that you just can’t help but love.

Even the lower budget hotels (Ibis) have undergone a rebrand and facelift. Having stayed in an Ibis hotel and attended the event at a Pullman hotel it was clear to see that all brands, from budget to more luxurious, are clean and spacious with friendly staff and a modern and up-to-date feel.

So while I’m all in favour of Accor Hotels and as a brand it offers something for everyone, I hope they continue to keep up the good work of keeping us informed as, with so many hotels and venues on offer for both business and leisure, it can be difficult to be seen and heard unless you shout!

 

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University Venues Up Their Game

It’s amazing how perceptions can be based on the past experiences we’ve received and stick with us for years to come.

A few years ago, if a client had said they needed a conference venue that had equipment, a basic conference room and could meet their particularly low budget, one of the first types of venues that would spring to mind would be a university.

Universities have, until recently, typically been known as cheap venues with adequate equipment for training, only available out of term time and full of loud and scruffy students.

Not so much the case anymore. Yes you still get loud and scruffy students occasionally but with the lack of funding and a requirement to increase revenue to manage the growing costs to run, universities have quickly realised the potential in improving and selling their space to external clients.

So much so that some universities have built additional complexes to purely house the external clients for conferences and events.
This is the case with Warwick Conferences. Although based on the grounds of Warwick university campus in Coventry, the university have three venues purpose-built for conferences, training and anything else event related, with planning to build more in the near future. These three venues are nothing like the university of the past.

Having been recently refurbished to a high standard and with grounds to match, you wouldn’t realise you were on a university campus until you see the address.

I happen to know all this as I recently stayed as a guest. From the moment I walked into the reception I was greeted with a warm smile and very attentive staff, something that could rival even some hotels!

With everything included in the packages they offer (wifi, unlimited access to teas/coffees, free parking to name but a few) it made it very easy for me to check-in, log-in to my emails and find my way around.

Now, even in their improved state a university won’t be for everyone. They won’t work for the Incentive group that wants to be in the middle of nowhere in a unusual venue or for the client who wants a 5 star, all singing, all dancing venue. That’s not to say some universities don’t offer a five star service because some do. However, like with any particular ‘style’ of venue it works better for certain events over others.

In my mind, these new ultra slick and refurbished (both in the facilities and staffing mind-set) venues can offer a lot more than people imagine. Very good for training, conferences, and even perhaps for dinners and exhibitions, these venues are something to consider.

So next time you’re looking at somewhere decent to hold your training or conference, don’t discount the universities, you may be pleasantly surprised!

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An End To Another Year…

And so, we’ve come to the end of 2011.

What a year…it’s been manic to say the least. With lots of
conferences, meetings, exhibitions, trade shows, incentive trips…the list is endless…taking place this year, we’ve been very busy.

Along with all that we pushed the business forward by offering our Event Management services (although the website is still to reflect this – we just simply haven’t had time to update it!).

We’ve had some tough times with the economic crises having a knock on the market and clients being unable to do the events they want but we have hope…there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Careful management is the key and we’ve made sure that all of our clients have managed to get what they need within their budget and with the customer service they require (and should expect)!

Our aims for 2012 are:-

  • To continue to put our clients’ needs first
  • To continue to source new venue options and make sure customer service comes first
  • To work with our clients as much or as little as is required
  • To keep smiling even if things seem tough

With that in mind, we wish everyone a fantastic Christmas, a brilliant New Year and we look forward to speaking to you in 2012.

 

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Our approach

From start to finish we will help you find the right solution for you and your event.

No matter what size your event is, we can take the pressure off you by sourcing, negotiating and making the arrangements, allowing you to spend your time on more important issues.

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Testimonials

 

"Thanks for all of your help - you really made the difference for me because of a) the time it saved me hunting around and negotiating rates, and b) getting such a good rate."

P.T, Gore Workwear