Are you giving lip service to great service at customer events?

Customers look at where you’re being congruent with what you say and what you do. When you say you believe the customer comes first yet act differently, the disconnect can be jolting.

When people are faced with conflicting information, they choose to believe the one that matches their view of the world. So if your inconsistencies are rare, people will continue to believe you are customer focused. But the more instances of inconsistencies, they will believe the opposite.

Recently, I attended a conference for 1500 bed and breakfast owners. The conference organizer is known in the industry for his focus on creating memorable guest experiences.

Yet, over and over again I noticed practices that weren’t congruent with the concept of guest comfort and regard.

* The organizer announced that the average age of the attendees was 44. Yet, for the presentations for 25-50 attendees, they had only a TV monitor not large enough for participants to see even with large and minimal text. Attendees did not have chairs for these sessions, but instead were to sit on pillows on the floor. The type size in the printed program was 4 point.

In one medium-sized room, 4 presenters were presenting simultaneously. Imagine the noise!

Organizers clearly had not considered what middle-aged eyes and bodies needed to have a great experience.

* The hundred company staff people helping with the event had logo shirts but no name tags. The organizer didn’t understand that being able to read, remember and call someone by name helps create a connection. Instead, the staff were nameless, albeit friendly, entities. If we needed to explain what a previous staff member had told us, we’d have no idea who to reference. In the event evaluation we were asked to call out staff who’d been particularly helpful. I said this was difficult since they’d made it impossible for us to know the staff’s names.

* We made our own name tags with a marker on sticky labels. It was hard to decipher most people’s handwriting. After a day of wearing, the edges curled. When I wanted a new name tag for day two, I had to stand in a long line to get one. Wouldn’t professionally printed, large-type plastic name tags have been a better solution for a 3-day event?

* Meals for the 1500 attendees were served via box lunch, which meant standing in one long line. It would have been better if there had been 5 stations throughout the event hall so people wouldn’t have to queque so long.

* Half-way through the second day, one of the two sets of restrooms in the building were cordoned off and never reopened. No explanation. So 750 women had to share one 8-stall restroom. Imagine the lines.

* There was a reception at the company headquarters a across town. But no transportation was provided. So everyone had to hail taxis or Uber cars or drive and fight traffic across town. Private buses would have been more efficient.

* At the end of the first night, we were to go to restaurants for hosted dinners in groups of 50. What a lovely idea! However, no transportation was provided, so 50 people had to hail cabs as there was no attempt to get all those going to the same restaurant together to share rides. Dinner was to start at 8:00, which is a tad late after starting the day at 7:30. At my restaurant, we were served hors d’oeuvres but never got dinner — they kept saying it was coming. At 9:30 I left — hungry, as did almost all of the others. Not a great way to “host” a dinner.

* After the awards ceremony on the last night, we were told we would be served at our seats in First Class airline style. Servers were to bring us 3-course meals on trays. After waiting 45 minutes with no server in sight, I went to investigate. I found that people were stopping the servers at the door and taking the trays. The servers couldn’t get past to serve anyone seated. The organizers hadn’t tried to curtail this or announce a change. So much for First Class service.

* On the last day, the organizers arranged for 3 food trucks to park outside the event hall. We would have anything we wanted from any of the trucks, which sounds like a good idea until you factor in the logistics. Can you imagine how long it took for 1500 people to line up, order and wait for their food? Much longer than the organizers imagined.

While I applaud the organizers attempts at being innovative, the execution was far from customer friendly. In fact, because no one thought through the impact of these “innovative” ideas, the customers felt disrespected. It’s sad, since a lot of money was spent to treat us to a nice weekend. But the impact would have been so much better if there had been someone in charge of ensuring the customer experience was stellar.