The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Customer Experiences in Wedding Preparations
Planning a wedding has uncovered some interesting learning points in terms of customer experience. As I get ready to head out of the office to my wedding in Utah and honeymoon in Southeast Asia, it’s the perfect opportunity to reflect on how what I’ve learned at SGEi has come to life in this process. I’ve broken down my experiences to the good, the bad, and the ugly, and provided recommendations that any customer-facing employee can learn from to strengthen their customer experience.
The Wedding Planner
When we first met our potential wedding planner, it was onsite for another wedding she was staging. The wedding ceremony was planned for an outdoor mountain top vista, but a thunderstorm was suddenly rolling in. With less than an hour before the ceremony, the wedding planner had to move the entire event into the hotel ballroom. She had to create a beautiful environment to match the mountain location and set up everything from scratch.
This was a hectic moment, yet she had a calm, collected aura that immediately put us at ease. She took a moment to stop, warmly greet us, and set up a meeting for the next day. This immediately instilled confidence that she was highly capable, organized, and skilled; exactly the type of person we needed to plan the big day.
When something goes wrong in a customer experience, demonstrate composure to put the customer at ease. If you’re flustered, the customer will become more agitated.
Buying the wedding dress can be a very emotional and stressful experience. Yet the boutique I bought my gown from made the whole process seamless and relaxed. There was no sales pressure, the sales woman gave honest feedback and great recommendations, and my entourage had a comfortable couch to sit on and champagne to enjoy. The purchase process was just as easy, with flexibility and customization in each step. I left that experience feeling happy, confident, and appreciated.
Demonstrating that you care about the paying customer, the individuals in their group, and personalization at each step of the interaction goes a long way.
For our reception menu tasting, our wedding planner and florist created a complete mock-up of the table décor that blew us away. The room was transformed into the full guest experience, complete with the exact tables and chairs we were renting, the place settings, floral arrangements, candles, and music—every detail was executed perfectly. We could immediately imagine what the reception would be like for our guests. The passion and expertise of the planner and florist was abundantly clear.
By going all out when you are introducing your product or service to your customers, you show the customer how you will fit in, enhance their life, and create a feeling worth returning to in the future.
When I first tried on what ended up being “the dress,” I wasn't ready to purchase it, and wanted to go to my other bridal salon appointments. When I told the salesperson this, she pressured me to cancel the other appointments and refused to accommodate my request for a return appointment the following day. She told me if I didn't buy at that moment, I could not return to the store and would only be able to purchase via the phone. So, I went to my next appointment and bought the same dress I had just tried on at the second boutique, instead.
Be easy to do business with. It sounds simple, but your customer shouldn’t have to work to make a purchase. If they are not ready to buy then-and-now, then offer options and demonstrate that you care more about the relationship than just the transaction.
Booking Hotel Rooms
Managing the contracted hotel room block for guests is confusing and complicated. The contract outlines how many rooms the hotel will hold for your guests and the various deadlines about when you can reduce that number of rooms without penalty. In communicating these deadlines, our group reservationist used jargon that very few people outside the hotel industry would understand, and made the entire process very confusing. This unclear communication lead to several issues with guests being assigned to the wrong rooms, and mistakes in the number of rooms we were liable for booking.
You can’t assume customers have the same level of familiarity as you to understand industry jargon. Cover the basics in a clearly articulated manner, and don’t be condescending.
The most frustrating aspect of our wedding planning was having to repeatedly request menu prices and event orders from the hotel catering team. The excuse given was always “We have so many other weddings to deal with first!” We requested our menu pricing for four months and did not receive it until three weeks prior to the wedding. This left us scrambling to make last minute changes and adjustments. This created a stressful situation that could have been easily avoided had they fulfilled our initial requests.
Be responsive to guest requests and keep communication open; even if their need is not pressing in your book, make sure to demonstrate that you still care.
When I was 5, my father purchased a case of wine to save for my wedding day. So, being able to serve this wine at the wedding was a non-negotiable factor in selecting a venue, and we included it in our contract. After discussing the wines with the catering team for over a year and planning a menu to pair with the wines, three weeks prior to the event the Chef informed us that they could not serve it, saying it is against “policy.” After a meltdown, we reached out to his boss, explained the importance of the wines, and referenced the numerous email conversations regarding the wines with his team, as well as the signed contract. Thankfully, he honored our request and allowed us to serve the wine.
As a customer, nothing is more upsetting than being told, “yes” by one associate and then, “no” by another. Be on the same page with your team to ensure everyone has an understanding of company policies.
Getting married is an incredibly memorable part of one’s life and customer experience is pivotal in making this memory positive. While these lessons came from my wedding experience, they can be applied to any customer-facing business.