Pricing and service structure: Is it time for change?

value-for-moneyWedding professionals are often frustrated by brides and grooms don’t appreciate the value of their services. Ultimately, aside from ‘customer service,’ there are three major factors that come into play.

  • Hours of service
  • Price for product/service
  • The quality of the result

One problem is traditional wedding service pricing structure . Particularly for entertainment, photography, videography, pricing is quoted within the framework of ‘time in direct service with the client.’

Until I went through the process of being a groom, I never realized how much time a videographer or photographer spent, before and after the wedding, before presenting the finished work. 

While customary in the wedding industry, linking pricing only to face-to-face service at a wedding, or wedding and reception, drastically understates the total time of service. 

A bride doesn’t know how many hours it takes to edit one hour of raw video footage from one camera, It’s hard for her to understand why the price is $5000 or more, rather than $1000. Hours of work at a wedding and reception are a specific measure of your effort; however, grossly incomplete. The result is more subjective. Hours of shooting does not equal the value of your work.

It is not enough to show a prospect samples of your reel or portfolio photos and expect  understanding degree of difficulty. Shooting a sunset wedding, has a high degree of difficulty. If one doesn’t explain situational differences in equipment, lighting, skill level, etc., you are just hoping the prospect figures it out. Likely an unreasonable expectation.

A Disc Jockey service or Live Band prices itself for a specific number of  performance hours. Travel and set up are typically not mentioned not in discussion or noted in an agreement (unless the event is outside the local market area).

What effect might it have were proposals and agreements included a ‘simple informational statement’ indicating a summary of unseen work, associated with your event service, not occurring during the reception time frame?

Effective service implementation, meeting or exceeding client expectations, includes explaining the total scope of your service, at some level.

  • Maybe this approach should become an industry-wide standard for wedding marketers?
  • What would change in the process of selling if every prospect understood you total measure of service, and its impact on a successful outcome?

I know, I’m turning wedding industry pricing and selling approach on its ear. Maybe it’s time we do that.

I invite your specific comments, and how you think this might apply within your slice of the wedding industry.

Andy Ebon - wedding marketing expert

Andy Ebon
Wedding Marketing Expert
The Wedding Marketing Blog

Anticipating Customer Needs Is Killer Customer Service

caesars-AC-logoMy travel schedule has been quite insane for the last several months. I do my best to create reasonable time buffers, but sometimes challenges cannot be avoided.

In late August, I spent the better part of a week in New Jersey for the ABC State Conference. I was there just long enough to experience both an earthquake and an evacuation from Atlantic City. The low point was the letter under-my-door from Caesar’s Palace Atlantic City. In terse language it, essentially said the following.

  • Governor  Christie has ordered the hotel and city be closed by 5pm, today.
  • YOU have to check out by Noon
  • You’re own your own
  • Good luck

No effort was made to set up some additional concierge service to assist with transportation out of Atlantic City. The letter was not even signed by the General Manager of the hotel. Just Caesar’s Palace Atlantic City. An otherwise solid hotel experience tainted by really weak communication.

Warm and fuzzy definitely not included…

The good news is that due to my urgency (aka panic), I arrive at the airport three hours before my scheduled flight departure. The big question would be: Would I make my plane change in Nashville, on the way back to Las Vegas? Remember, of course, on that Friday, it had already been announced that airports would be closed on Saturday at Noon.

As boarding time approached, the gate agent made it clear, by announcement, that although our flight from Philly to Nashville would be leaving late, that transfer flights in Nashville would also be held back until late arriving passengers could board. I made the plane-change, as did my bags. Score 1 for Southwest Airlines.

I was back in Las Vegas by 7:30pm, watching hurricane unfold on The Weather Channel. I admit to experiencing a twinge of survivor’s guilt.

Managed to hitch a ride to the Philadelphia airport by the kindness of a British couple, on holiday.

About two weeks ago I spoke at the NAWP National Conference in Naples, Florida. I was flying out of the beautiful Ft. Myers Airport. I arrived plenty early for the flight, only to find out that it was delayed an hour, which would cause a problem for my connection at Chicago’s Midway Airport. The check-in agent put me on a later flight from Chicago to Las Vegas. Not a huge deal.

So much for my optimism. Before I could blink, the 3:30pm flight, first bumped to 4:30pm, was delayed again to 6:30pm. That give me a stressful 35 minutes to make the change in Chicago, assuming everything went well.

As I, and 136 other passengers, brooded in our chairs, a Southwest gate agents made the rounds passing out $150.00 flight credit vouchers, as compensation for our inconvenience. The was simply a proactive move on their part. It turns out the delay was caused by a mechanical issue that required a fresh aircraft. Southwest owned the issue as their problem (not an ‘Act of God) and stepped up.

We took off a little late, so my anxiety level was up for the mad-dash in Chicago. I asked a flight attendant what I should expect. She called ahead, and returned to tell me what gate we would use after landing, where my connection would be gated, and that… again… Southwest would be holding the flight from Chicago to Las Vegas until I, and a few other passengers got there.

The aircraft circled Midway, delaying us another half-hour, and I was certain the connecting flight would be gone. Upon landing, I hustled from the B Concourse to the A Concourse, where a very relaxed gate agent scanned my ticket, and welcomed me aboard. Bags? Once again, despite the quick change, my bags arrived in Las Vegas. Score 2, 3, & 4 for Southwest.

Why I Fly Southwest

They boast low prices. That helps. But things like Bags Fly Free and No Flight Change Fees are a huge deal.

Most of all, I fly Southwest for the overall disposition of all their employees and their collective efficiency.

In these recent situations, thinking ahead, and acting on behalf on small numbers of passengers, such as me, was stellar customer service. The surprise on the faces of passengers receiving $150 flight vouchers was visible.

I turned my voucher into a gift for my girl friend, Jessica. She had been talking about making a trip to Chicago to visit her daughter, who had moved there in the spring. That voucher and another $29.40 gets her to Chicago and back. Talk about turning lemons into lemonade!

It reminded me that customers are often in the hands of professionals, in a big way. That’s a big responsibility. I’m going to see what I can do to ‘get out in front’ on a more consistent basis. Southwest sets a superb example.

Professionals, in all industries, should not just serve our clients, but protect them and act in their best interests. It’s a high standard, but worth achieving.

Had a great service experience lately? Please share it in a comment.

Andy Ebon
The Wedding Marketing Authority
The Wedding Marketing Blog

Practice Makes Perfect

Practice Makes PerfectIt is often said that “Practice Makes Perfect”. The reality is the “PERFECT PRACTICE makes PERFECT”. If one practices, incorrectly, a person becomes proficient at doing it wrong.

A couple of days ago, I made a stop at local Great Clips location. These days, a ‘haircut’, means getting a buzz cut, for clean shaven head. It is a quick cut, and doesn’t demand loyalty to a particular stylist. On any given day, I might stop at a Super Cuts, or some other competitor.

It is apparent that Great Clips stylists have been trained to greet a customer with moments of entry to the store. I have found that they take this to its literal extreme. When walking in, I was greeted with a screaming ‘Welcome to Great Clips!!’ from the rear of the store. Then, a stylist, working on a customer at the first booth behind the register, started a sentence to me, looking at me… but continued it with the back of her head, facing me.

Somewhere along the line, the greeting training lost the concept of eye contact and connection with the customer. One experiences this in many fast food establishments when completing a purchase. You hear Thank You!”, but the server is fixated on the register. It smacks of insincerity.

It’s not unusual for management to get frustrated with staff and adopt the approach of “Just do what I tell you. Don’t think!” While this may be understandable, it’s bad business.

To the extent that one gives an employee better context, purpose, and direction, you might be surprised at how the execution of an instruction, improves.

Being impersonal, doesn’t come naturally. It takes a lot of practice. Bad practice…. fueled by poor instructions.

Andy Ebon
The Wedding Marketing Authority

How to annoy a prospect or customer

how to annoyFrom time to time, we do things that annoy other people. If you or I are truly honest with ourselves, we put aside hypocrisy and admit it. For the record, though, it is much easier to spot annoying habits in other people. And, if we’re lucky, sometimes we notice that we do some of those same things… and we take note.

Yesterday, I made an early morning visit to my orthopedist. Early is the best time for a doctor appointment because scheduled visits tend to happen on time. First, get an MRI and then see the doctor for a follow-up to understand what’s causing the pain inside my left shoulder.

Before one leaves the office, you MUST stop by the CHECK OUT station. That’s where staff makes sure you have completed your co-pay, schedule the next appointment, etc.,.

What had been a Swiss-watch-smooth-experience, was marred by the staff member at the CHECK OUT station. She was impatient and didn’t listen. She preferred to finish my sentences with what she thought I was going to say. After the third time she interrupted by finishing my sentence, incorrectly, I said (brusquely) “You really need to let me finish my sentences.”

By her expression, you’d think I had tweaked her nose. No poker face, here.

Here’s the thing. When we know our jobs and the usual questions/answers, it becomes common to believe that we know what the other person is thinking. Often times, that may be true. Even so, it’s rude to finish another person’s sentence.

Whether in a sales or customer service situation, the two most important techniques are:

  • Asking good questions
  • Listening

I admit to making this mistake, periodically. It’s annoying. So, when the shoe was on the other foot, it was annoying to me.

The Moral

  • Observe bad habits in others
  • Learn by them
  • Recognize those tendencies in yourself
  • Limit one’s own annoying behavior
  • Reap the benefits of being a patient listener

One more thing: What’s annoys you? Would love to hear it.

Andy Ebon - wedding marketing expert

Andy Ebon 
Wedding Marketing Expert
The Wedding Marketing Blog