Venue Staff Can Make (or Break) an Attendee’s Experience

A new report shows how venue staff can affect an attendee’s meeting experience, which is backed up by CVBs investing in their local hospitality staff to ensure they deliver first-rate customer service.

In the past few months, I have written about how important it is for both exhibit staff and association staffers to be prepared for and educated about upcoming meetings and events. And now a report released earlier this week shows the same goes for venue staff.

People are a venue’s backbone—regardless of how good a venue’s facilities are, they cannot compensate for poor staff behavior and bad customer service.

The Value of Satisfaction report [PDF], commissioned by Warwick Conferences, reveals that 62 percent of attendees, managers, and event bookers consider knowledgeable or helpful onsite staff to be the leading factor resulting in satisfaction, outranking things like parking, food, and the effectiveness of the venue itself.

According to 52 percent of delegates surveyed, it takes just one staff member to ruin a good customer-service experience, with 43 percent reporting they had been let down by the poor quality of a venue’s staff at an offsite meeting they had attended in the past 12 months. Another side effect of ineffective staff? Loss of productivity for attendees, which 21 percent of those surveyed report has happened to them.

“People are a venue’s backbone—regardless of how good a venue’s facilities are, they cannot compensate for poor staff behavior and bad customer service,” said the study. “Selecting a venue on cost over and above reputation risks a substandard experience for delegates and managers.”

This report comes on the heels of related news this week that the Tourism Ambassador Institute confirmed its 10,000 Certified Tourism Ambassador (CTA). Created in 2006, the CTA program trains frontline staff, executive managers, and volunteers who work in hotels, attractions, restaurants, government, and transportation, as well as other industries, to work together to improve the visitor experience in their destinations.

The CTA Program goes beyond basic customer-service training; it gives participants the opportunity to build upon their knowledge of the local region, enhance their skills in serving customers, increase their awareness of information resources, and understand how tourism contributes to their local economy To date, more than 100 direct-marketing organizations in 15 states have adopted the program.

One of the more recent adopters of the program has been Experience Columbus. The CVB has certified nearly 1,000 CTAs since it introduced the program last February. “The Greater Columbus Tourism Ambassador Program will engage our entire community and foster a culture of quality service and welcoming residents,” said Brian Ross, president and CEO of Experience Columbus, in a press release.

Visit Baltimore and Visit San Antonio are two other CVBs making the CTA program a priority. “The rich history and vibrant culture in San Antonio guarantees to provide an authentic experience that convention and meeting attendees are sure to remember, but it is the people of San Antonio that really make a difference in delivering that experience. The CTA program is designed to build on our already high customer-service level throughout the city,” said San Antonio CVB Executive Director Casandra Matej in a press release.

The goal is that by training these individuals, attendees will get a one-of-a-kind, top-notch customer-service experience that will make them want to return in the future, whether as a tourist or attendee, or even better, as a meeting planner who chose that venue or destination for their own association’s event.

Since association meetings often rely on local venue staff, whether at convention centers, hotels, or other locations, to help them deliver a first-rate experience to their attendees—and since meeting attendees expect top-notch customer service—programs like CTA may prove to be a selling point to meeting planners both inside and outside of the association world.

As a meeting planner, how do you ensure that offsite venue staff lives up to your customer-service expectations? And for the venue and CVB readers, how do you ensure your team is prepared and knowledge about an association’s meeting and its attendees? Let us know in the comments.


Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!