When I think of standards, my mind snaps to sanitation at Disney Theme Parks. The grounds are spotless. If someone drops a candy wrapper or any piece of trash, it is swept away in moments by a Disney crew member.
Janitorial crew members seem to be everywhere. Of course, keeping the grounds spotless tends to lower the number of people who might carelessly drop trash.
I think of Ray Ford. He was the Entertainment Director of Bobby McGees Conglomeration, a chain of extremely successful restaurant-discos in the 70′s and early 80′s. In 1986, both Ray and I were speaking at the Nightclub and Bar Conference in Las Vegas.
I attended a seminar Ray presented. One particular statement he made has stayed with me, all these years.
“If something in your business is in disrepair and affects the guest or the guest can see it, get it repaired or fix the problem, without delay.”
Ray would go on to give examples:
- Nothing is more obvious than a beautiful leather booth, with a visible tear. Duct tape is not going to get it done.
- Your bar has a blender with the noisiest motor on the planet. It makes it tough to hear orders, and customers can’t carry on a conversation when it’s running. Get it fixed or replace it.
- … he could give 100 more examples of simple, clear standards
In your business, what is or is not, open for compromise?
I’ll give you one of mine, from my years as mobile disc jockey. In every situation, our company would be set up, road cases put away, cables neatly taped down, sound check performed, changed into formal wear, and in the wedding reception room, 30 minutes before the doors opened. Period! Not negotiable. Nada.
Under no circumstances would we allow a scenario where we would set up during cocktail or dinner hour. It did not matter whether the client was trying to save money by skipping cocktail and dinner music or they had hired a classical trio for those two hours.
One would think the reasons are obvious. They are probably obvious to you, as a wedding professional. However, more often than I care to remember, with prospects, I would softly work through an explanation of the absolute necessity of being set up in a timely manner.
If a prospective customer indicated that another company was willing to make that compromise, I would flat-out tell them that they should run in the other direction. The issue was not money, for me. The issue was simple: Only an unprofessional slob would roll in equipment, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, while guests arrived in their wedding finest. At my company we respect the client, guests, and the entire event.
I don’t remember losing any jobs due to my intransigence on this issue. I do recall having to explain the reasons for prompt (I didn’t consider it early) set up and the necessity to pay my staff for those two hours.
Did I ever compromise on this issue. Only occasionally, and only on the money. I may have reduced the fee for those two hours or rarely, thrown in that time for no charge.
Sometimes a prospective client just follows your lead. Other times they need to understand why. Often, that can happen in the context of conflicting information from various sources.
It’s up to you to communicate that your standards exist for their benefit. Explain the factors, clearly, and the client will see it through your eyes.
Now, I ask you. In this challenging economy, what have clients been asking you to compromise on? And where are you compromising?
Are you compromising on dollars? Are you adding demonstrable value in services?
Whatever you do, don’t compromise your standards? Before you know it, you won’t be worth a nickel. On the flip side, if you firmly, rationally provide service with high standards, people will notice the difference between your company and others.