What does this have to do with the hospitality and meetings industry? Two things: first, I think many planners view their relationship with their event suppliers as critically as the one with their hairdresser. As one planner I know always says, “it’s my suppliers who make me look good to my client.” Secondly, because most event professionals are people pleasers, like me, they may not be very good at making known their decision to go elsewhere.
So like me, they go silent. That’s right. I’m not proud of it, but I have yet to tell my hairdresser the real reason I haven’t returned is the premature fading of my last three colours. To his defense, he texted me to remind me I was due for my next appointment. I didn't reply, but he never called to ask what was wrong. It was just easier for me to try someone else.
How often has that happened to you? You’ve had the same group at your hotel for years and, all of a sudden, they say they aren’t coming back… Or they stop returning your calls and your emails and when you finally corner them, they tell you “management” decided to try something new.
Unfortunately, it happens more than any of us would like. Feeling under-appreciated or being dealt with by a non-caring staff person was cited by nearly 70% as the main reason they changed suppliers, according to a study by the US Small Business Administration.
So here are two strategies to avoid the pain of being cut by a regular customer:
- Surprise-surprise: show your appreciation! No need for big bouquets and expensive gifts here – though that is nice on occasion and if the client’s organization allows it. Consider low-cost, personalize tokens of your appreciation: hand-written notes, “how-did-your-other-big-conference-go” calls, and forwarded emails with educational information. Anything that you feel will be helpful to your client, on a personal or professional level.
- Go high, wide and deep: sometimes you’re stuck with a client who thinks they are your ONLY client. Or they get their knickers in a twist about something outside your control. If you’re looking for some insurance against getting dumped, Colleen Francis, my sales coach, advises to forge meaningful relationships with your client’s boss (go high), with people in other departments (go wide), and with people below your client (go deep). You can watch a video of her discussing this concept by clicking here. By demonstrating your value and your appreciation across the organization, it doesn’t mean you’ll keep the business forever; but you could stand fewer chances of getting the boot unexpectedly.
Now excuse me, as I have to gather courage to write a proper “Dear John” note to my hairdresser…