Remember human interaction, sans technology? Theresa Syer, founding partner of Syer Hospitality Group in Toronto, thinks it’s still important. – and that meeting planners would be wise to maintain human interaction as much as is – well, humanly – possible in a technological age.
Syer’s company operates on two fronts: training employees in customer service, mostly at hospitality companies, and testing customer service at hotels and at other businesses. She is also a frequent industry speaker, including regular appearances at meeting planner conferences.
Following, in her words, are Syer’s views on the importance of customer service and how meeting planners can employ it to make their work both easier and more productive.
Customer service is not enough
The competition is fierce. You have to elevate customer service to the next level and make it a customer experience.
What we do at Syer is called Customer Experience Management. And it’s the human side that makes it experiential. Make the most of every human touchpoint from the first impression on. That means anticipating needs from the first conversation.
The pendulum has swung much too far from human interaction and we need to bring it back.
Every member of your team has to have the same approach to customer or guest service and be equally committed. Every single moment of the interaction is based on the emotion it evokes. And that has to be the same no matter who on your team is interacting. That means training and constant retraining.
Is everybody greeting every person on the client’s team the same as the main person on their team? Are they initiating small talk, saying, ‘Thank you so much for considering us as your planner. Let me congratulate you on making a good choice.’ Make it about them.
Make them feel special
It’s all about how you make people feel. Companies come to us who are confident in the level of their guest service. We secretly check into their hotel or otherwise interact with their employees, and when we report back they are shocked. It frequently turns out that they are not delivering on their customer service promise.
If you make people feel special, they will spend more.
If you’re a planner dealing with a client with a limited budget, making them feel special will guarantee you loyalty and the next event.
Be emotionally engaging
Independent planners especially have to be emotionally engaging from day one. Think of it as being actors on a stage. When the curtain goes up, we’re on – and it’s live.
The client can’t see you sweat. That’s where professionals shine. It’s what goes on behind the curtain that makes it perfect, and that’s where the training comes in.
While you know you may be the best in the business at what you do, you still have to make that impression from the very first moment. That means name recognition, your handshake, your greeting.
Follow up quickly – and personally
There should always be human follow up. I will sometimes test planners to see if they respond within 24 hours and frequently they don’t.
Also, is the response human or electronic? You have to get personal. Ask if it’s possible to have just a 15-minute meeting to ask if a client is pleased with the results of your work. Emails don’t resonate. I need to be in front of you at some point.
Planners are missing the ball by not following up as quickly as they should – and doing it personally. And I don’t want to hear your sad story about how busy you are. We’re all busy. It should be about the client.
Human touch = higher attendance
Your potential attendee is more likely to be an actual attendee if there is some personal relationship. If it’s impossible to meet in person, create a 30-second video clip and that message had better be about the client or guest. Just tell them how much it will benefit them to attend the meeting.
If possible, customize the message. If you’re targeting a high-level executive, make it personal. ‘Hi (name), this is (name), I know you haven’t registered for the event yet . . .’ That makes it live engagement. If it’s just an email, it’s delete, delete, delete.
It’s all about hospitality
Hospitality should mean human engagement – and that’s the same for planners. We can’t forget that’s what made us who we are. Of course, I can book my flight online but there has to be an opportunity where you can generate a human emotion.
Same is true for ‘generation text’
Yes, the younger generation is texting. They are ending two-year relationships by changing their status on Facebook. But they have to have human interaction as well.
You have to train your teams – no matter how old – to engage, to make small talk.
If there are two people in a check-in line, the registration person should at least acknowledge the person who is waiting. We need to be acknowledged. We want to feel important.
Even your goodbye should be meaningful. Say, ‘Thank you for this privilege.’