This particular conference I attended as a business development opportunity. While I know well in advance, and based on past experiences, that attending this I will be treated differently right from the outset, the following became very noticeable for me this year:
- I was driving to this out of town conference, and during one of my stops, I called the hotel to inquire about parking. The hotel asked me if I was coming in with a particular group, and when I mentioned the conference, they told me that it was complimentary valet parking. FANTASTIC, right? Nope. Upon check out, I had to fight with the hotel to remove the $70 charge to my hotel room. Why? Because while I was attending the conference, I was not the right kind of attendee. They removed it, but it took some effort on my end. Perhaps they should have educated their team about the different attendee types for these kind of inquiries.
In this situation, I was hired to be temporary staff of an association who was holding a conference in Toronto. My role was to cover their social media networks for the weeks leading up to and for the duration of the conference. This particular conference would be considered a hotel/convention centre's typical "bread and butter":
- Upon check in at the hotel, they had not added my room to the master account. It took three days to rectify this between the front desk, the association and the Sales Manager. Not that I minded charging this to my credit card, but they were provided the list of rooms to be charged to the master account weeks in advance - and when you check in, are tired, and have a hundred things to do to prepare, do you really want to be dealing with something that should be SO simple?
- While customer service at the hotel was "OK" in many other areas, nothing really stood out. There were no extras, and no thank you's.
My final conference was fantastic; well staffed hotel, exceptional customer service, sponsored events that didn't include any restrictions for the "wrong" attendee:
- There was a wide-variety of food & beverage options; essentially entirely complimentary to each participant;
- There were no issues at check in or check out;
- Hotel staff were consistently friendly & helpful;
- You were made to feel that you belonged, no matter who you were.
My question to the industry is: While I understand that you are trying to put your best foot forward to increase future business, why would you set restrictions in so many cases on what you do and for who?
Example #1 is a very similar conference to example #3. And yet, I was treated with a significantly different mindset.
And, under example #2, if this business was won based on someone attending a conference similar to #1 & #3; would it not make more sense to continue the same level of customer service that the planner experienced in the first place?
What are your thoughts on conference equality?
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