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Client expectation Part 2 – Pre and Post Contract

So last week I had a bit of a rant, and found myself coming up with a part one of three series, this being the second, that explores the client expectation and the burden it provides to us as Event Managers. Last week I touched on the overall idea of time, and how there never seems to be enough available to give to certain clients – some very special cases of those people for whom any amount of time you have shared with them (and it tends to be the largest part of any day) still  reason to threaten a complaint letter as they feel it simply isn’t good enough.

Two things really urke me as an Event Manager, and this is one of them.

Rudeness is the other.

Anyway, for this weeks post, I would like to briefly look at a second aspect of expectation – the pre and post contract work ethic.

Effort is always made to make a client feel special, and have them know that their event is important to us (which it is). There is always a large amount of work that needs to take place in the lead up to a contract being completed, as this is usually where most of the negotiation happens, and this can take a lot of time. On occasion you turn around having lost the booking and ask yourself “how?” There are specific occasions though, when the leg work you are asked to put in before a contract is signed, calls in to question the value of the booking itself, or requires a serious overview of time management, as it becomes clear that the expectation of the client exceeds your ability to manage multiple events – and within a timeframe that gives priority to what has to happen now, V what would be nice, if I had the time, and pigs could fly – could happen now.

Price negotiation
Menus
Set ups
Numbers
Audio Visual and Lighting
Bedrooms
Bands

The list is endless – and not always an easy one to cherry pick what you will cover and won’t cover before the paper work has been signed.

I took the decision recently, to put the onus back on to the client – someone who had suggested that I had not given enough of my time to dealing with their event (pre contract). I was open and honest with the client, and said that I felt that their expectation exceeded my ability at this time given other responsibilities that I have. As such, and whilst committing to both be a part of the process moving forward, and committing to be there on the night – I felt it fair to pull back at this stage and involve another member of my team.

In part I was surprised about the response I received, and in part not. After a certain amount of time, the client will realise that the grass isn’t always greener, and having received 95% of the time “they” feel they needed, they would rather stick with this than take a chance of having to start from scratch with someone else – with no guarantee that the same thing doesn’t happen again. You as the Event Manager have made your point, and moving forward thereafter, you can always show that you had offered to step back if the same comments surface again.

I am of course not suggesting that you should look for an out if you feel the client is taking up your time – after all we are Event Managers. However, not all clients understand what else it is you may be doing when not working on their behalf, and it can be a tricky conversation to have when those lines need to be drawn. In addition,

Best advice I can offer? Event Managers are smart people. Through the initial enquiry process, ask the right questions and by doing so you will get a pretty good idea of what kind of client you are dealing with. There is a difference between first time mothers of the bride, and those who are on wedding number two or three. A difference again, those who were hosted and who are now hosting. Are you dealing with an Events Company or the client – a PA to the CEO or someone who is part of a wider events team?

Set clear time frames and manage expectation.

The event is in a years time?, lets cover A, B and C but D, E and F really can wait for now.
“No problem for me to provide that for you, but if it is ok with you, I will have it to you for next Wednesday”
Or “when do you really need this information by?
“When are you hoping to make a decision?”.

Be clear on what you can and can not do, and the time frames you feel allow for the job to be done right.

There will – there are – always exceptions, and once the contract is signed there are an equal number of areas that need to be looked after. Working with traces is a great way to manage the lead up to an event and what should happen when. You are then able to give that heads up to the client, as you find yourselves then working to the same manageable timeline.

I would love to hear how you handle the working week and those clients that are that bit more special – and next week, estimates and the dreaded asking for money…..

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