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Stop, Look, Listen – The Events Complaint Highway Code

I was recently reminded me about one of the fundamentals of Event Management.

We can spend as much time as we like preparing, ensuring all bases are covered, with every eventuality explored – but there is little way to escape “client perception” of their event and how it was managed. There are times when little out of the box effort has been made, and yet the praise flows like water. However, it tends to be more frequent, when thinking that you have done all you could have to ensure the success of the event, that the comments imply otherwise, and you feel the uncomfortable feeling in the pit of your stomach as you read an email that causes you to get that itchy anxious feeling inside.

I will say this. Outside of knowing that there are always things to learn from an event, even if it did go well, and  how to do things slightly differently a second time around –  it is more likely than not, that we didn’t quite do “everything” we could have to avoid  reading the negative feedback, or having to manage what always (if you genuinely care) feels like a personal attack on our abilities.

Perception is a very interesting way to see things, and a word that can be used all to often without justification for the allowances that usually then follow. The question then is obvious; “How do you manage the client perception, and in the event of receiving a complaint, what is the best way to approach a response?”

I will admit that this is something that even now is a learning curve for me, and the thoughts below are reminders more than gospel, and (a la the X factor) in no particular order;

Listen – both to your clients needs pre event, and their comments post. This works for when things go well, and when needing to respond to their feedback. If we don’t listen then we will never learn
Do not listen and then start your first sentence with the words, “yes, but…”
My sister used to tell me, “opinions can’t be wrong”. I never liked that, but she may well be right. The same therefore, goes for perception – and whether you agree or not, we must understand the “who, what, where and why’s” of the feedback our clients give us
That said, the client is not interested in our “why” – and I would avoid giving explanations as to what went wrong
Without feedback how would we ever better our service?
Unless you know for sure that the comments are directly attacking you and your ability, do not take them personally
Even the best oiled machines break down, find the problem – fix it, and make sure it doesn’t happen again
Never leave a matter unresolved, I promise you, it will not just go away
Don’t be afraid to admit you made a mistake
Clients respect honesty

I can’t profess to having always got things right, and for sure, sometimes I may take things too personally. I try though to learn from each experience, and in doing so improve who I am. Success is dependant as much on a mindset as it is the ability to write or speak in a manner that begins to rebuild the positive perception our clients need to have, that ensures they re book with us once again.


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