Special Events Blog
Niki McKay of Blue Danube

Who’s Your Customer? (And What’s ‘Experience’ Got To Do With It?)

Niki McKay“Experience,” a noun, is used quite a bit in the events industry, especially within the last several years.

Sometimes this noun can feel more like a moving target, increasingly kinetic and quite unique depending on who or what is interpreting it. With technological advancements and daily emergence of the newest “thing,” building that “experience” has become less of a goal and more of an assumption.

As event production professionals, we know this. But do we analyze our influence of the “experience” regularly, critically and within the context of our layers of customers?

In a tailored, customized world, this should be priority. In my last blog—"Don't Do Rude: The Power of Staying Polite"--I allude to how, as event production professionals, we have many versions of the “customer.” To provide the best service, and ultimately create the tailored experience to these customers, we first must ask the following questions:

  1. At any given time, who is our customer?
  2. What is that customer’s idea of a flawless event experience?
  3. How will we work to deliver it?

The most obvious customer is the event planner. We interface mostly with this customer group and work hard to make them feel at ease, but we’re not here to make them happy, exclusively. There are layers to our customers. Let’s identify them:

The Boss: This is the event planner’s client. He/she could be the head honcho of the company or a C-suite exec. Yeah ... it's part of our job to provide them with an experience, too, despite this person being one layer out of our direct contact. We may not interface directly, but we need to make sure they feel the experience they want, too. What’s their idea of a flawless event experience? One that allows their meeting/event objectives to be carried through seamlessly. It’s our job to make that happen, even if we don’t regularly make direct contact with this individual during the event process.

Event Attendees: There are people coming to the event, right? Company employees and customers, stakeholders, press—those people are our customers too. We are creating an experience tailored to them. If we don’t wow them, we haven’t done our job.

Vendors/Partners: We need partners to make things happen. Beautiful, innovative stage design is nothing without a venue, or a place to sit, or something to eat. Yes, we consider our vendors our customers too. Often, they are our lifeline. There is a mutual respect and trust to make the dream work. It’s important to earn buy-in to make our production exceptional!

Think that’s it? Have we now provided superior service and event experience to all customers in the game?

Not yet. There’s a hidden layer to the customer cake--one that we all tend to forget! I’m talking about your own team. Don’t forget to treat this important group as a customer, too. Where would you be without them? Be a servant leader and remember that this important layer needs its own unique high-level of customer service. Take care of them. They’ll be more inclined to follow you.

In the end, there are layers to customer service in our field (and I’d encourage other fields to identify this, too). Our hope is that any interaction with us is positive—whether it’s a vendor thriving from our partnership, your team feeling the job satisfaction, the attendee leaving with a fresh perspective, the event planner happy with a solid execution or providing The Boss with the perfect platform to engage the attendees. It’s up to us to provide a tailored event experience for all these layers - that’s what truly creates a flawless event.

Niki McKay is owner of Blue Danube Productions, based in Seattle. Photo by Mike Nakamura Photography.

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