As an onsite managed staffing and media service provider in a busy corporate environment, we provide our clients various levels of media support. I work specifically in audiovisual -- anything from simple computer projection in a small conference room to a large musical performance with live and broadcast sound mixing, multi-camera shooting, production lighting and even multi-language interpretation for live streaming the event in several languages. The client’s needs in these two examples couldn’t be more different, but their expectations are the same – flawless, high-quality audiovisuals from start to finish. But how do you ensure your company provides a service product the client will be happy with? Meeting client expectations isn't always easy, but here are a few things that will surely help.
The key to balancing client expectations is having a full understanding of the objective of the event. What is their broad vision? What are their goals? Obviously, the most critical element is their budget, but you also need to work with other limiting factors including room availabilities and capabilities, staffing needs, etc. This can only be achieved with good communication between your group and the client. This seems obvious, but at the same time it’s impossible for you to personally speak with every client about every event in a busy workplace. However, without some sort of communication, expectations can soar out of control and become impossible to meet. So what can you do?
Proper intake is critical! In a large organization, audiovisual needs may not be gathered by the AV department but rather by conference planners as only a small part of the overall event. By the time the audiovisual requirements reach your desk, they’ve been filtered through several people. Has the information been summarized properly or has it been misinterpreted or have key aspects been lost in translation? The key to an efficient flow of information is to ensure the right questions are asked up front. Provide the conference planners with a concise reference guide for all conference spaces and their capabilities and be sure to keep it up-to-date. Provide questions that they can ask the client. A simple question that can provide considerable insight to an event is, “If you have a written agenda for this event, can you provide it?” Complex events most certainly have agendas, prepared ahead of time, which can offer many AV details that may have been overlooked -- media playback, audio/video conferences, number of panelists requiring microphones, set changes, quick turnarounds, session/break times, etc. The trap is to rely on assumptions about a client’s needs. For example, a request for a departmental Town Hall meeting is quite common, so it would be easy to make assumptions about their AV requirements. But from experience, this simple request can disguise a larger, much more complex event.
Look for Red Flags
Once you’ve been provided with the initial details, look for red flags and follow up directly with the client. Direct communication takes more time, but for complicated events, it lessens the chance of misunderstandings and eventual disappointment. For multifaceted events, it’s also best to meet face-to-face at least once so that the client can explain their event’s purpose to you. Together, you can work through the limiting factors I previously mentioned and land at a common understanding of the service product you’ll provide.
Maintain Open Communication
From then on, keep the lines of communication open. I always tell clients (and event planners) that I’d rather have too much information than not enough. We know what we do and can filter and interpret any information provided to us. For example, a delivered lunch may indicate a working lunch session requiring AV staff, or a request for a power drop in the rear of the room may indicate external press that will need audio or video feeds.
On the day of the event, it’s critical the AV technicians/operators establish a rapport with the client. So many ‘emergencies’ that could derail your client’s expectations can be handled by the onsite technician when there is good communication. Time and time again, the client’s perception of a successful event hinges on the rapport between the technician and the client.
Ask for Feedback
Finally, have an avenue for the client to give their feedback. It could be a simple survey on the email confirmation or a phone call. The last thing you want is an unhappy client that isn’t given a voice. It’s nice to hear the good, but it’s important to hear the bad.Ultimately, this helps you see the situation through the client’s eyes and gives you the feedback and insight you need to improve.-