The customer is always right. The client always comes first. You know these sayings, right? They were drummed in to me as a waitress from the age of 17, and invariably carried over to other jobs and eventually my own business.

But there is a fine line between keeping the client happy and being taken advantage of, right?

Having just completed the running of an event at one of the largest convention centres in South Africa – I have to be honest and say I was quite surprised at the lack of interest in assisting their clients (me specifically) with the ever changing needs of our event.

The types of events we host are unique to others in the fact that we cannot guarantee attendance numbers up until the actual starting of the event, as they are free to attend, and the number of show ups could really be anybody’s  guess, but also the fact that we work with clients who are very demanding, changing things two hours at best, or at worst sometimes 20 minutes before they are about to happen – leading the events manager to  sometimes have to make decisions in the blink of an eye to accommodate them. I leap when my clients ask me to – why do my suppliers not leap when I, the client require something?

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Now I get that large companies have the need to have to adhere to a certain set of rules or policies, and for good measure – as we know, without rules, society and structure crumbles, theft and other elements are opened up – but there has to be some balance to assisting clients with their wishes, no matter how random or out of the norm they may be? I am not asking for 10 pink unicorns in tutu’s – that said if my client required them I would move heaven and earth to spray paint some horses, but things like an extra cocktail snack menu that was not ordered 10 days in advance, but rather 2 days prior – when our client let us know, is not that out of the ordinary, is it?

The venue rule is you can only set up your room from midnight onwards. We are there at 5pm, the event that was in our venue before us has completed and moved out – why on earth can we not set up at 5pm, instead of waking our whole team up at midnight to do a 3 hour set up and then run a 14 hour event immediately afterwards? No, it’s the rules – you must have security and a medic. I understand for events managers that are bringing in expensive equipment and building large scaffolding and sets. I just want to unpack my boxes and put up a few banners, so that in the morning my crew can execute their tasks instead of crawling round scratching through boxes looking for their requirements.

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If my life is in danger – give me a form to sign a waiver. If I am taking a risk that you do not want to be held responsible for, let me sign an agreement taking responsibility – I am an industry professional, I run over 70 events a year, I do know what I am doing, and would never jeopardise the venue, my life or especially the life of my team and crew on site – without a doubt. But the show must go on.

Flexibility – that’s it – flexibility. Bend and weave, move and change. Nothing can remain rigid forever – eventually cracks will occur and the structure you strive to hold together will crumble.

For those who were wondering – yes, it got done, we set up at 5pm, we got a few hours sleep before being back on site to run the event, but not without struggle, pleading, compromise and a whole lot more upheaval, eye rolling and stress to my team than necessary. Give your client the service by doing what you can to keep them happy – am I right?

So how much is too much- what is your opinion?


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