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Emily Sullivan

How Managing Client Expectations Ensures Event Success

Special Events blogger Emily Sullivan shares a famous recipe for success: under-promise and over-deliver.

A travel sales expert once shared the secret to near-perfect client satisfaction ratings nearly 100 percent of the time: Promise less and deliver more.

The example he gave was preparing a luxury group tour to check in to a remote historic lodge after days of staying at contemporary 5-star resort properties. The rooms were clean, the food was delicious, and the structure usually provided shelter from the region’s notorious winds. It was a good hotel--just a tough one compared with those earlier on the trip.

Describing it en route, he wove a tale of a “charming rustic lodge with an authentic local menu and historically inspired rooms.” He encouraged his clients to relish their opportunity to live like the frontier families did, and talked up the one feature of the property he knew could not fail: the warm welcome and legendary kindness of the staff.

What could easily be a disappointing night was often cited as one of the best of the trip for one simple reason: The expert tour director went to extraordinary lengths to manage expectations.

Managing Perception vs. Reality
By its very nature, the event industry is one of smoke and mirrors, constantly changing the environment to be pleasing to guests. We project this in our marketing and social media, both of which suggest that every event is flawless and every client is outrageously happy.

While we know this isn’t true, prospective customers don’t. There are so many moving pieces that something will often fall through the cracks. How clients handle such failures is the direct result of our efforts to keep their expectations reasonable.

The Rule: Promise Less, Deliver More
You can do this by anticipating the worst and delivering the best.

Instead of promising an instant quote, build in some padding and give a safe deadline--then send the proposal out early.

During your budget discussions, don’t low-ball your estimates. Offer fair and accurate insight. You can always negotiate for better rates, but you won’t set your clients up for disappointment if those negotiations don’t work out.

Be an Educator
Remember that unreasonable expectations often derive from inexperience. Your clients probably don’t know the ins and outs of rentals, design, using a space wisely, building an itinerary that works, or how to make savvy budget
decisions without compromising quality. Be an educator and help them understand throughout the planning process what they can expect and why.

Ultimately, you can’t change reality, but you can mold your client’s understanding of it. Ensure your highest levels of satisfaction ever by managing expectations.

Emily Sullivan is the owner Emily Sullivan Events, a full-service wedding planning company based in New Orleans and serving couples everywhere.

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