Written by Melissa Chapman: Director of Staff Development & Carizza Rose Villa: Director of Marketing + PR
One of the things that is a must-do when building a wedding planning business is building an outstanding client experience. Whether potential clients are referred to you by prior ones who you impressed or decide to reach out because of your 100 5-star reviews, how you make each of your clients feel throughout the planning process is just as important as the actual tasks you check off the list. And, as we often say that we're really running a customer service business that happens to plan weddings, we know that creating a consistent and high level of service can be challenging when your business finally grows to include a team.
So, we wanted to talk about just that with our friends Melissa Chapman, Director of Staff Development, and Carizza Rose Villa, Director of Marketing and PR, at 24 Carrots Catering. With a huge team of sales reps, servers, cooks, managers, and leadership, they know a thing or two about blending the core values of their business with the support and training they provide each team member. Read on to learn not only why excellent service is not only important but how they consistently work to impress every client (potential or booked).
What is "Service Excellence" and why is it important to building a successful business in the wedding industry?
M: Service excellence is providing the “wow” factor. To not only deliver on requests, but to anticipate your clients needs and navigate them through the entire process. There are so many areas to provide service excellence in the wedding industry, and you want to set yourselves apart by providing that from start to finish. It’s not only about treating the bride and groom, the family, or a VIP client extra special, it’s about delivering that level of service to every single guest at the wedding or event. That comes from hiring managers, leaders, and staff members that have a passion for hospitality!
C: Service excellence is one of our 24 Carrots core values. We define it as “combining experience with a friendly, team-driven attitude allows us to proactively identify and meet the needs of our colleagues, clients, and communities”. We serve purposefully (with experience). We serve with the bigger picture in mind (team-drive attitude). And we serve not only the day of a wedding or event, but our service comes standard from the very beginning (proactive). Service excellence is not limited to reacting to the events on a timeline. Service excellence is every single moment leading up to and closing off a wedding, because service excellence is hospitality in action. This is important in our wedding industry because we share, sell, and plan experiences for our clients. Without service excellence, the experience lacks the personal connection that clients tend to expect for their celebration.
What are the challenges of building that culture and ensuring it is consistently executed in your client experience?
M: Finding employees that have hospitality in them! We can train how to set a table, serve dinner, and execute an event. One cannot be trained on how to love and encompass hospitality. Going the extra mile for every single guest at the event only comes naturally to those who love pleasing others, truly care about service excellence, and hold a natural passion for this industry. That is much easier to do with a staff of 100 or less. Our front of the house service team alone consists of over 300 staff members. Catering experience is not our top priority on a resume, hospitality is.
C: I believe that you attract what you exude. While it can certainly be a challenge to build a consistent company culture of service excellence, it’s a common thread in our team, and we believe that living it / demonstrating it is the best way to encourage others to do so as well.
When someone is in a leadership position, how can they support each of their team members to provide the highest level of service?
M: “Cater” to each other’s strengths. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses and when we divide and conquer with each of us handling what we are best at, we will inevitably provide the best for our clients. Have trust in each other and especially in the teams below us. Empowering others in their positions will elevate their level of commitment providing that unforgettable experience.
Lead by example. Set the bar high and never settle for mediocre. Working alongside your team and setting the tone/example will gain you respect and give very clear expectations
C: By having service excellence as a core value, we identity that is one of our overall goals as a company. It may look differently for, say, the Operations department than it does the Front of House team, but consistency shows up when we have the same goal. We support each other by understanding that we all do our part for the bigger picture, encouraging each other and keeping each other accountable, and being available for others to ensure they feel supported.