Imagine you have been tasked with planning a conference for an organization for which you volunteer.
The committee looks at you and naturally, with your conference management experience, want you to handle arranging all the logistics. First, you have to find a venue. You start making phone calls to various venues to find out if they have availability.
When you call, you are informed that the person on the phone can only tell you if they have space available. If you want to find out about food service, call the catering department.
Need A/V? Better call the tech department.
Do some people need to stay overnight? Call the reservations staff.
Your one phone call has now turned into four... and you are not yet in a position to book anything... you are just trying to find out if the venue can accommodate your date!
Is this the kind of experience your customers have when they call your venue? If not, good for you. Chances are you are easily winning over more business than others.
If this does sound like your venue, even in part, read on.
Many people call themselves a “one-stop-shop,” but are they really?
A true one-stop-shop is where the customer has one contact on campus for everything they need. That contact is the person who then speaks to everyone else on campus to orchestrate the event.
If your customers have one contact for everything except foodservice needs, for example, that is not a true one-stop-shop.
But why would this even matter? Surely one extra phone call is not a serious burden. Think again. While being a true one-stop-shop does mean more work for your team, there are also added benefits to genuinely managing the entire process.
Benefit 1: Business Impact
The first, and most important, the benefit is you will gain more business by being a one-stop-shop.
Customers do not want the hassle of having to contact multiple departments to sort out their event requirements. They often have to repeat themselves as to what the event is, when, where, for how many and possibly sign multiple contracts.
I have a friend who, when working in a role as a venue-finder for an organization, would phone up and ask “Do I need to talk to multiple people to make my camp arrangements?” If the answer was yes, he said "thank you for your time" and moved on.
He would not even consider a venue that was anything but a one-stop-shop.
He was busy and did not have the time to chase and track multiple contacts for each location. Are you possibly losing business because it is too much hassle to do business on your campus?
Benefit 2: Customer Service
A second benefit is improved customer service. If you are in control of the information and responsible for organizing the supporting resources, then you are in greater control of the overall customer experience.
You have had conversations with the customer and understand what they need. You will not be put in the uncomfortable position of having to deliver what someone else promised.
You also have the opportunity to build a relationship with the customer, understand their needs and will come to recognize the nuances of working with them.
Benefit 3: Financial Accountability
The third is financial accountability. As you are also in control of what has been requested, how much and at what price, you also know what is to be delivered.
When the customer needs to go through you to make any changes, you are able to capture them and ensure they are included in the final invoice. When the customer can make changes, especially those that affect fees, directly with a different department, you are relying on those departments to effectively communicate those with you if you are responsible for assembling the final invoice.
Benefit 4: Team Cohesiveness
There are many other benefits, but the last one we are focusing on here is the impact on your team.
While a true one-stop-shop seems like more work from the outside, it will actually save time and frustration.
Think about this scenario: your client orders their food directly from the catering department. They decided to throw in continental breakfast service as guests are arriving for the conference.
However, catering forgot to tell you they added this service and now, no tables have been provided for the buffet. It is a Saturday and all the folding recs are being used for other events.
If you had only known yesterday, you could have arranged for other tables to be delivered to the venue. The runaround that will ensue in a situation like this (not to mention the anxiety levels of the staff and the customer) can be completely avoided when you are managing all the moving pieces.
I know sometimes the option to become a true one-stop-shop is out of your control. Universities can be very territorial places and some people do not wish to relinquish control.
However, if you think about these and other benefits, everyone should be able to agree that having one place for each event to call home will ultimately improve everyone’s situation, eliminate errors and omissions, reduce tensions and improve the customer experience.
Conference departments largely exist to generate revenue. Any inefficiency standing in the way of this should be regarded as an obstacle to success.
Bring everyone together and talk through what it is like from your customer’s perspective and ask yourselves, if you were that customer, would you do business with you?