Customers want creative ‘extras’ and service
The phone rings on a busy Monday morning. The caller asks, “Do you have tables and chairs and how much are they?” Are they quickly given the price and the call is over or are they encouraged by the consultant to speak about their event with some gentle questioning uncovering their true needs in addition to tables and chairs?
We encourage brides, grooms and event organizers to visit our showroom and design studio, not only to preview equipment, but so we can consult with them regarding their event and offer suggestions and expertise to achieve a flawless event and ensure complete customer satisfaction.
When entering the event rental business, I never realized that I would find myself in roles of mediator, counselor, design expert, flow-of-event engineer and multiple other roles. At times we have the bride, groom and families in the showroom, all with different ideas and thoughts regarding their upcoming event. It is a fine balance to make sure the hosts — generally the parents — are heard while respecting and implementing the thoughts and visions of the bride and groom, as well as staying within budget. Our reward at the end of the event is to have all parties satisfied because of the expertise we offered.
After more than 30 years in the rental business I have realized that, as event rental companies, we really offer much more than what appears on our websites and in our brochures. It is our belief at Ventura Rental in Ventura, Calif., that you need to be unique and provide extra benefits and ancillary services to be considered the company of choice by event professionals. Recently, we spoke to our top clients and asked them, “What makes you partner with the companies that you do to ensure a flawless event every time?”
Many of the caterers we work with mentioned creative design assistance and procurement of décor items. Can you offer innovative or cutting edge ideas to a client that helps them stand out? Do you have a team of quality vendors such as lighting, décor and floral that you can provide to the client for services that you may not offer in-house?
Jennifer Kenton, senior conference services manager at the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa, Ojai, Calif., which is a five-diamond resort, mentioned that they look for “definite design assistance … very outside-the-box ideas and always keeping us in the know about the next new trend.”
Many of the events we participate in are “once in a lifetime” events and partnering with the caterer, resort or other service providers to create the perfect celebration is priceless.
“Advice, advice, advice. This cannot be stressed enough,” said Rachel Main, executive chef of Main Course of California in Ventura. She says she looks for a company with decades of event experience to be experts in client psychology, venue specifics and flow, and that having a vendor deeply rooted in the community with years of experience is vital to them. Is this more than renting tables and chairs? I think so.
Some other tidbits that were mentioned were familiarity with the venue or client preferences on setup and installation. If we invest time to figure out how our client likes their kitchen set up, for example, it makes it easy for the client and saves them both time and money. This also ensures a long-term customer. One of our long-term clients, Glenn Fout, owner of Lorraine Lim Catering, Santa Barbara, Calif., says, “I look for a rental company that supports our efforts and teams with us for the perfect celebration. I rely a great deal on my rental company to provide the client and us with design advice, keeping a close eye on the rental order, ensure a seamless installation and, above all, provide terrific customer service. I also need to be able to get through to a person who knows me without getting voicemail and need to be able to change orders without getting grief. Anyone can provide basic rentals, but I find that the company that ‘has my back’ is both rare and extremely valuable.”
Philippe Bergér, catering and event manager of Catering Connection, also in Santa Barbara, says, “Everybody can rent tables and chairs, but the elements we, as the caterers/planners, look for is all that goes around it, but seldom found: Creative design ideas, unique inventory, custom creations, from linens to tabletops, knowledgeable staff and site planning. All of that, along with a personal touch, help create a real working relationship and offers us a support team that we look for in all of our partners.”
Did you notice that none of the companies interviewed mentioned new tables and chairs or virtually anything about the actual equipment provided? It was unanimous — the extra services are vital to them. So I ask you to ponder, what else do you and your team provide? Inspire yourself to consider what other services you can offer to the client for a complete experience, one that will keep them coming back for many years to come.
Heidi Whitcomb, CEO, Ventura Rental, Ventura, Calif., can be reached at 805-644-4496 or firstname.lastname@example.org.