May 01, 2002
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio May 2002 Current Issue
May 2002 Back to BasicsPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:

Back to Basics

By Louise M. Felsher, CMM, CMP


Keep cool and gripe wisely to ensure event snafus are resolved to everyone’s satisfaction

While every planner’s dream is to pull off the perfect meeting where attendees are thrilled, the client is happy with the bill and the hotel makes money the truth is, something almost always goes awry.

Complaining about meeting elements can be awkward. Unfortunately, as a result of recent cutbacks in staffs and budgets, miscommunications and errors are more likely to occur. Planners who prepare a solid plan for the event and stand firm when trouble arises can help ensure superior complaint resolution.

First evaluate the time and cost damages associated with a complaint, and determine a realistic time frame for correction. Ask yourself: Is it worth the effort to go after compensation?

Remuneration might be worth pursuing when the hotel suddenly changes the meeting space assigned to your group, but an unauthorized lunch entrée substitution is not as catastrophic. It might be enough to acknowledge the error and review the banquet event orders with the convention services manager or the catering manager for the rest of the event to ensure there are no more surprises.

Most importantly, factor in the relationships involved and the long-term outcome. If the supplier is a longtime partner, weigh the future value of the connection before taking drastic measures to rectify a situation.

When a problem arises, quickly and carefully identify the person you should speak with for instance, the convention services manager, the general manager or the person responsible for the infraction. Often in the frenzy of an event, the closest target receives the wrath, which can cause harm to a relationship.

Choosing to go to the most senior leader (i.e., racing to the CEO) is another mistake. You can always follow up later with a formal letter should it be necessary.

Consider first who can fix the problem quickly and effectively. This should be your first point of contact and hopefully your last.

In addition, decide if you should limit the number of people who know about the problem, or if there is any need to notify other people, such as the perpetrator’s direct boss or members of your own team. Spreading the word might circumvent future problems, or it might be a wise move considering the basic hierarchical structure of your organization.

If the lunchtime entertainment doesn’t show up, for example, and the cocktail reception’s band is booked through the same talent agency, make calls to the agency and then let the planners of the evening activities know about the problem.

Consider a range of solutions before you attempt to collect on your grievances. Ideally, outline the objections and put your expectations in writing even if it’s just for a personal record or notes for your post-con meeting.

Present the problem simply and directly, and hold back on your demands until hearing the defendant’s plan, as it might exceed your expectations. Similarly, it is honorable to downsize an offer if you think it is too generous (yes, it happens).

If the compensation is not satisfactory, restate your losses briefly and ask for what you want. Always be gracious and listen to a counteroffer. In the end, relationships will have greater value over any bottom-line adjustments.

Staying as calm as possible is to your advantage, so be sure to hold your tongue. Tirades are always a last resort.

The ultimate goal for all concerned is prompt and pleasant resolution. Act swiftly for credibility and results.

Louise M. Felsher, CMM, CMP, is a free-lance strategic marketing consultant in Northern California’s Silicon Valley.

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