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FLASHBACK ARTICLE FROM AUGUST 2010
In his book “Remembering Walt,” Howard Green writes, “Walt Disney was our bridge from fantasy to reality, challenging our perceptions of both. “
Walt Disney once said, “I don’t want the public to see the world they live in while they’re in the Park (Disneyland). I want them to feel they’re in another world.” He created the perception that his fantasy world was a guest’s reality for at least a short while. But, he also knew that he could not leave it up to the rides and attractions alone to create the fantasy. Other important elements, like costuming, structures, cast member interaction, etc., would create the perception that the adventure was “real” in the guests' imagination. The end result allows guests to enjoy a more memorable ride experience.
If Walt Disney ran your wedding business, regardless of what part of the industry it may represent, a bride and groom’s perceptions of the service they are provided would be equally important to the actual service they received.
In other words, Walt would have elements within his business that would reinforce the joy of planning for a wedding so that the wedding itself would be more fun, exciting and memorable. He would also assure that the stress and difficulty that sometimes accompanies planning, remained in the “outside world,” on the other side of the “walls” of his care.
As you absorb the notion of providing your bride and grooms with a “world” where they can enjoy a fantasy of wedding planning, consider this simple example. At the top of the list of the most often heard, post-wedding complaints from a bride comes a story about the one wedding professional that was consistently slow in returning her emails or phone calls. Sometimes she had to send multiple correspondences or leave several voice mails before she was, finally, contacted.
It could very well be that the wedding professional always had a (hopefully) legitimate excuse. Although I think most of us would have a hard time imagining what it could be. There’s also a truth that some business owners don’t grasp the concept of quality customer service and would have no justifiable explanation. Regardless of the situation, the damage was done once the bride perceived that slow response as a blatant lack of care (service) that caused her undue stress and worry.
Never mind that the same, slow to respond wedding professional may have pulled out all of the stops at the wedding and/or reception and delivered far more in service than was offered or even anticipated by the couple. The perception, real or imagined, that there was a lack of concern, taints the reality of the service the bride received. That negative perception could cost the “guilty” wedding professional a favorable review, referrals and a happy client.
The experience would be about the same as trying to feel the joy from the fantasy of a Disneyland ride at a parking lot carnival. Without the added service and escape elements found in a Disney theme park, it’s just another ho-hum novelty.
Now, how could this situation be avoided? The obvious answer would be to return the call or answer the email as quickly as possible. Or, better yet, respond faster than the client expected. Even a simple acknowledgment of the communication with a promise to respond in more detail within a reasonable period is better than making a bride wait. But, sometimes stuff happens and other events, or other clients take precedence. Even the best of intentions can be overlooked. It usually happens because we as wedding professionals don’t understand the importance of our actions…or inactions.
We must see every interaction with our clients from their perspective, not ours. Their perception of the service they receive is more important than most think. When we learn to manage perceptions, customers sing our praises, and word-of-mouth kicks in.
To impact client perceptions (and thus, satisfaction), good intentions must constantly match up to our actions to assure the client that their best interest is always our primary focus. Doing so also prevents misunderstandings. Build your “wall” that surrounds the comfort and support that only you can provide as a happy place where a bride and groom can escape.
In the example presented, a pro-active approach to communication, sending the client an occasional and somewhat regular, “How ya doin,” “I’m here for you,” “What can I do for you today,” email, well in advance of the first meeting, creates the perception, “Hey, these people are looking out for me.” That pro-active approach also keeps them from wondering if your focus has shifted away from them, especially if it takes you a little longer than usual to respond to their next query.
Even if you are “on top” of every email you receive from a client, being consistently pro-active makes you a hero in their eyes. This small gesture helps strengthen your relationship. You become someone they trust and you will be the professional they know they can always count on. Plus, your value increases expeditiously. You are also in a excellent position to do something that has been discussed in previous articles….EXCEED EXPECTATIONS!
The scenario I’ve chosen for this communication article may seem trite. But the point I’m making is huge. It’s easy to let the simple things we do as wedding professionals for our clients become mundane. Sometimes, “simple” can become confused with “unimportant.” A question from a bride may appear redundant to our ears, even though she has never posed that question to us before. How we respond creates the perception of the service she will provide throughout the wedding process until the service is received. That perception should be a happy one!
Get a fresh perspective. If you’ve never sat down with the couples you’ve served a few weeks after their event and asked them to share the ups and downs of their wedding planning experience, you should. If they tell you a story about an unhappy experience they had with a contracted wedding professional, listen carefully and make improvements in that specific area of your business that will always set you apart.
While everyone else may talk about tearing down walls, I encourage you to build the highest, most beautiful “wall” you can and create a fantasyland where Brides and Grooms know they can come to enjoy the process of planning a wedding. You don’t even need bricks and mortar. Just use a little imagination instead.