Food & Drink Magazine

Why Does Party Industry Customer Service Suck?

By Carlo @CarloAtYourServ
Why Does Party Industry Customer Service Suck? It's Party Mad Monday and today's installment asks... Why does party industry Customer Service suck? Good question, huh?
Wouldn't you agree that this is basically a subject that all consumers (across that board) usually... at some point take issue with?
And don't you think that it's become an area of contention for practically every consumer; thinking what in the hell is wrong with these crazy party business owners (caterers, party planners, wedding planners, and special event planner); don't they want me as their customer and to come back and refer my friends?
Why aren't they more concerned with their reputation in the extremely competitive marketplace? Do they think they've got this aspect of their business mastered and that they're doing a great job?
Common sense should tell these party business owners, "It's the customer service, stupid!"
I mean really...c'mon, already! All kinds of business owners seem to think great Customer Service is important and claims that their goal is to conquer this mountain. And since that's the case, what seems to be the problem?
Let's look at what seems to happen to many independent catering companies and some party planners and wedding planners businesses, for example. When they began their businesses of course they were gung-ho and raring to go, and wanting to do well — with the primary focus and attitude that to climb to the top, the need to deliver great service will be paramount. Right?
Well... tell me something, what was the #1 customer service mantra (for years) that we all used to hear all the time, that we haven't heard in a long time?
You remember "back in the day" when successful business owners would proudly say..."The Customer Is Always Right", don't you? Well, what happened to that philosophy? 
That old Customer Service catch phrase, "The customer is always right ", at one time promoted an, "I care about you, so you come first", kind of (party) consumer confidence, now didn't it? But since that statement and mindset has been kicked to the curb, the current Customer Service statement of apathy advocates a "we don't care" about you attitude. Because doesn't it look like their goal isn't to milk every dollar out of you that they can? Which, in my opinion, makes their Customer Service forecast a piss-poor report.
It's pretty apparent this is where they've gone wrong. 
Every party company or party-related business out there is trying to sell you something  —  that by definition, every other party company — more than likely says has. They will try to tell you that they care about you as their customer but these days, let's face it  — you're not their primary focus which means that the catch phrase has changed to something more along the lines of; "The Customer Wants More Than We're Willing To Give & Is Therefore Wrong".
But thankfully, because of the Internet, the good news for the angry, annoyed party customer who is sick and tired of being asked to pay more than they have to spend (for something that isn't guaranteed to necessarily be of standard or good quality) is that your voice can definitely be heard. The days of waiting around to talk to (or complain to) someone at a brick and mortar party store location, where you deemed the infraction stems from or possibly even happened, is long gone (although yes, you can still take that route if you choose to). But hey, why do that when you can now tell the whole world? Global bitching on a large scale, as easy access, at your disposal. It doesn't get any better than that. Awesome.
You have to remember something, the deck is stacked in your favor which means you don't have to be compliant when you feel like you've been wronged. Because now, unlike in the "old days", you can take to the Net instead of being ticked off and taking your business to another party service provider down the road.
So with party customers holding this kind power, who do you think is important and should be considered the ones who are "right" right about now?
Are you disappointed with the performance of the caterer, wedding planner, or party planner you hired? I'm sorry you were let down. But never forget that there are more of you than there are of them (or us). And with that fact in mind, how stupid are they? What a stupid business move to make; losing sight of a "Customer Is Always Right".
If treating party customers well wasn't important, the Fiscal Cliff would have been a mole hill. - Carlo Powe-Crawford, Cater-Hater author
What I can't wrap my head around is why customer service is even an issue consumers deal with in the first place. Don't you feel like me? So when you ask yourself the simple question... Why does customer service suck? The answer is honestly quite easy: these idiots don't feel they have the incentive to do anything the opposite, to make it good, to make things right.
I mean, c'mon... you already know they don't care about you. So by the same token, what makes you think that they care that you'll complain? They'll just hire a really good SEO/reputation management company to squash your complaints and keep on going, doing business as usual. Trust me, I know. I have an online reputation management business that I never talk about here on CH., So, I know how exactly what that game is about and just how it's being played.
Why Does Party Industry Customer Service Suck? These days, bad service can be a lot like a sex tape; the thing to catapult your name further out into the Cybersphere making you popular, getting you higher rankings in Google Search — setting your webpages on fire, boosting XYZ Party Company to become known and by some people, even hired.
But let's face it guys, due to bad press about rip-off party service providers in the first place, people assume that most party businesses (that they don't personally know something about) are run by sketchy people and shysters trying to make a fast buck.
One could surmise by party business owners lack of actions to make many changes, that it's been pretty easy for them to forget about their angry customers that go on and on about how upset they are and how mistreated they feel. 
Because there's more truth than a lie to the fact that most party services related companies aren't looking to come up with something new, that's not a product anyway. So, is the question that party business owners aren't capable of offering better customer service to their customers (which doesn't make any sense) — or, is it that they're stuck on stupid in their venality* and don't want to because they've adapted the apparent new practice that bad party customer service is good business? Don't you think that's pretty damn tragic if that's the case?
Some would figure that a party caterer in the middle of nowhere that has essentially no competition won't suffer too much for issuing out crappy customer service, so doing much to correct it would, in their eyes, be a waste of time and money.
Sadly and repeatedly, we see that in the business world, when you've got a monopoly on something, you tend to act indifferent toward consumer opinions and enjoy it because you have "the run of the place". The customers, the party consumers in this case, are left choice-less. It's very similar to a business with an almost "Martha Stewart" party or wedding type brand; a valued brand with a loyal customer base who would rather die than to jump ship to use a substitute brand. Not. Smart.
It's pretty darn unfortunate, but when a company has something that is perceived to be "exclusive" or "unique", the "powers that be" at the helm of it can choose to operate it from the perspective, first, that they know that they're "all that", offering it's customer base minimal, if any, truly helpful customer service options. And honestly, I hate to say it (because as much as I love the company I'm about to mention... ) it's kind of like Google. Have you ever tried to reach their customer service department? What customer service department? Good luck. Google customer service is fulfilled with something more like customer "user forums". Not. The. Same.Thing. But how do you navigate the Internet without using some product that's not brought to you by beloved Google? You kinda don't.
The biggest catering companies, party planners and wedding planners located in your area that have "held you hostage" with their mini-monopolies, because again, under certain circumstances you have no choice but to hire them (for events and special occasion with large guest counts - for sure, for example), aren't concerned with you. And here's the thing... if one has lousy customer service, they can all essentially have lousy customer service, because when they all have lousy customer service, they're equally awful and cancel each others awfulness out. It's called "adapting to having a bad reputation".
Low-price party business purveyors, outside of Party City (which some would say are "average" or "mid-range" priced) offer little in the way of customer service, but then their customers don't expect it. Or rather, their conceive of their customer service in a different way.
A company devoting itself to making sure it's retail merchandise is available at the lowest price possible is providing a form of customer service that is clearly popular to a large group of consumers who refuse to consider anything else, even against good advice, that would have allowed them to become wealthy. So honestly, just as as long as they (consumers) can receive the lowest prices on the things that they want the most, they... for some unfounded reason, consumers will consider themselves well taken care of in spite of receiving no one-on-one specialized customer service or any chance to receive what they're buying through home delivery. Don't you think that's kind of crazy? Maybe not (some would say), if you consider the overall popularity of Party City stores, party supply stores for which the basic principle of the serve-yourself concept is fundamental.
So when is enough poor customer service... enough? 
When you have the market cornered; that's not the main reason why a party business will dare offer you poor customer service and think nothing about it. At times when they do it, they don't possess enough of the marketplace — yet, which is the m.o. (Modus operandi) of party businesses positioning themselves to make big waves in the party business sector that will increase their sales and allow them to have a rapid growth.
It looks to me like a lot of party business owners approach is, "Just get their business now and worry about whether or not we can deliver later", so they can use their best resources and not treat you fairly and not have to provide decent customer service. It's kind of like this... there's a thin line between love and hate, and between being a party business owner complete hard head and a thick-skulled party business entrepreneur.
But we all know what the real deal is. You can only get away with this stuff for so long. Don't treat party consumers right.... start counting down. You're sitting on a freaking time-bomb.
Why Does Party Industry Customer Service Suck? I heard about an established party catering company that "got it's face blown off", when their customers started complaining and literally sending back trays of food they didn't like, demanding that they re-do it the right way actually while their party was going on.
They claim the caterer's staff, for the most part, I heard, were an uppity bunch of people who had become conditioned to think that there was no way anything that they served could possibly ever have tainted or wrong, so there had to be something wrong with the customers taste buds. So it's "six one way and half a dozen the other (way)"? Party catering and party planning businesses that are treading water and surviving this economic tsunami we find ourselves in, that feel like they can afford to screw their customers, are the same party catering and party planning businesses that can't afford not to satisfy them.
Sadly, because we find ourselves in an environment of non-stop cost-cutting, people seem to reason that even though party business owners still think of themselves as "do-gooder's", when it comes to dealing with you guys (the consumer), finding a party business owner with this type of virtue is a luxury akin to something you'd get from a party business owner like Preston Bailey or Colin Cowie - people who cater to celebrities and the unknown wealthy elite. So according to how most things that go, this is - again, only partially true. There are some pretty sharp cookies out there, like you and me, who think it's time that it's true of more party companies than it is, because we know that keeping all of your customers is shouldn't be looked at as something that is too high of a cost. I hate to break it to you about why they don't try harder... but the thing is, and the little dirty secret of how marketing goes, is; that just few consumer/customers are the ones who make all the money or most party company's profits. Same thing.
Dude, all you need is some software or an analytic program to tell you who these people are and to find out what they like — and then you can throw all of your perks at them, adding a little better service than typically offered to the "we see you on less occasions" customer and less self-indulgent customers who hire them. Even though, some people who work in management positions at some party businesses question whether or not improved service, intended to make the best customers loyal, has anything at all to do with the bottom line or not. Pretty sad way to see it, if you ask me.
It's been said to get customer loyalty — which we all know is their ultimate goal  — isn't worth it because it's not the big rake in cash moneymaker that it is made out to be. Bottom line: they think what they get from giving you better service is small compared to other areas of their business that they focus on. What did you just say? Uh huh, right. I thought I made a mistake and didn't hear that "right" too.
When they look at customer service in dollars and cents, questions come up like, "How much spending on customer service is enough?" and "How high should the budget go? Here's the question I want you to think about. Why are these people posing, asking questions that they don't care about the answer to, when they have basically told us they don't care about the answer because they're not trying to improve customer service in the first place?
The few party business companies out there that do put an emphasis on customer service or do at least are thinking about focusing on it realize their budget of perfection for customer service is pretty much only the sum that would help to maximize making a profit, and not a dime or penny more. You're. Still. Screwed.
Rule of Thumb: the more a party industry business is concerned with their bottom line, the more often they just might be likely to think, "We probably shouldn't invest too much money in our customer service." How tragic. And check this out. They want to be stupid about it and think this way? Cool. Then know this, loser party industry people who dish you crappy customer service, your clocks are ticking. So understand... there's a certain level of dissatisfaction you're going to have to live with, know that.
So do you guys think you get bad service by accident? Or what? Because if you do get bad service, especially when you try to get them to make things right and instead it's followed with poor customer service, write email and go to Epinions reviews and speak your mind. Don't let the stupid dirty-birds get away with not giving you top-level service.
If they wanted you to know there was a possibility they might screw up, they should have placed a sign in their business that said something like, "Doing this crap isn't easy... we're trying", so you would have doubted their abilities, picked yourself up, saved yourself the money and heartache and walked out their door faster than you walked in.
Okay. I'd have to say that customer service is tricky to do and to do well. I see two areas of contention:
  1. Fix the general management mistakes that affect all company operations; ones that have particularly crippling effects on service operations. 
This stuff is pretty basic. For example, for starters... recognize what is broken, and know how well you're doing stupid party business owner people, when it comes to service. And really know, not kinda/sorta know. Seek out the experts. Learn how to measure customer service, even though the accuracy might not be 100%. But understanding something about the people you are privileged and should be honored to serve is worth something.

Don't be preachy toward your clientele and never lose sight of the fact that your customer is No.1!
If you can't deliver an excellent customer service program, then get out of the game. And, if you're going to run surveys for example, don't allow your the information you seek to be tainted by adding incentives. Honestly speaking, the surveys would have to be "blind" to have any measure of truth and accuracy to them. And don't ask your staff doodly-squat, party industry business folks. If you don't know then you should know that your outcome focus should be based on how to create happy customers. Nothing. Else. Got it?
Area number two of contention is:
  1. Same as above...
  2. Backward accounting... I understand that it's best to translate customer service into financial terms. And now that I we think of it, this should work beautifully for you. If you're not going to wise up and be driven by the customer is No.1 philosophy, then go ahead and make money what drives you to succeed in customer service.

It appears that too many party business owners seem to know less about how much good customer service might earn for them than they do about how much poor service is costing them. And really folks, that's tragic. They need to stop seeing service from the point of view of the company rather from that of the customer.
You want to understand where the problems lie in your customer service, party industry business owners? Become your customer. Look at your business as it would be experienced by ordinary customers. If your operation is small, ask a friend or family member that your employees don't know to play the "customer role" and to report back to you about the experience. Give a damn and work at it hard enough and your party business might just become respected enough to be considered the customer's favorite. Spend your time playing a role other than "customer" and you just might find yourself locking the doors for good one day, due to lousy service and even lousier customer service. And remember to care equally about all of your customers, not just your repeat customers who actually keep your business afloat.
These suckers better remember to treat you guys (consumers/customers) right and to treat their employees right too. Short-term staffers risk damage to your customer service plan; too new... they don't know the customers. Hey party consumers... don't let them take you into the Dark Side of Inefficiency. They look for ways to cut them out. Don't spend less on service, invest more.
Spending time with customers isn't costing them money, more so than it is providing them an opportunity. 
It's not a mistake. Go out of your way to fix a customer complaint and you can turn a problem into a relationship. Instead of squawking about money (or the lack thereof), you'd think they shut up and invest in building a well-paid and well-trained human service. Sure it takes money, time, and attention but believe me, you do it and you'll soon realize you can't afford to not do it.
Don't you think if they wanted to improve their relationships with you, they should wake up and get away from (stop relying on) so-called customer service automation? You know what I'm talking about; gadgets, as in... telephone and online systems that are supposed to provide faster service — and better service, that don't. Mind you — these fools think that machines will cut labor costs. Give us a break. Everyone hates automated "fake people" systems, even you... remember? Besides, these "systems" may attempt to anticipate every customer's needs, but they end up pissing people off and not taking care of people's needs. Wake up stupid sleeping party caterers, party planners, event planners, and wedding planners. Wake up! Obviously, all customer-service problems are not going to be repaired with a doggone stupid machine. They're human customers, you dumbos. Not automated robots.
You're crazy in the first place, for thinking Customer A and Customer B would both be thrilled to use the exact same automated. We're not "cookie cutter cute customer" people. I mean, we really do vary from person-to-person. Oh and don't even get me started talking about old folks. Now you're fixin' to really have a problem. Don't you dare dismiss them. Older people don't want to deal with all that techno-stuff — all those numbers on a telephone dial pad! Sorry, reality check... machines don't feel, humans do. The money you think you're saving on the employee end of it this thing is only going to be lost on the customer end. It's just that simple.
People have had it, they're at wit's end, and feel like what you're putting down is the last straw. Enough with the "fake human being" systems, already. Hell yeah, we're "over" it. The problem you have is that we've reached our limit, we're down to the wire, and this is essentially our last straw. No sweetie, we don't have another half hour to waste trying to locate information on your company's website (or on anywhere else). Party consumers are pissed off and enraged because stupid automated systems don't always work the way they're supposed to. They're a hell of an annoyance because once you're trapped in one of the things, you catch hell trying to escape.
Damn. If Kafka were to write the story of Joseph K. today, his hero wouldn't be caught in a surreal court trial but in a quest to find the doggone party caterer or party planner receptionist to get her to explain why his check bounced. You're not saving money by using all these automated customer service systems, you're losing money. You mean to tell me you're that dumb, deaf, or blind; that you can't see this, too, is one of the reasons why your business is failing?
As sure as I'm alive, I'm waiting to call one of their ridiculous phone numbers to hear, "To complain about how much you hated your food, press 5" — "To complain about how much you hated your flowers, press 6" — "To complain about how much you hated the waitstaff and/or bartenders, press 7" — "To complain about how late they arrived, press 8" — "To complain that they didn't cook the food but instead ordered it from somewhere else, press 9" — "To ask to receive your money back, press 10"... I mean, why not?
Sorry, "customer service" is not the customer serving the needs of the company. It's the other way around, silly. And, by the way... your online "help" sites don't do much but to make it easier for us to switch to a different tab, to only then go to Google Search to search for a different catering or party planning company.
Bad service... a misconception? Hell no!
If you don't "get" what service is all about, in the first place, then for sure your customer service is gonna suck. Right? And when you've misread how to properly position your product in front of your customers, you've misread your customer as well as the role of the service rep (which is everybody who works for you), that your customer comes in contact with.
Nine times out of ten, you as a party consumer are confused about the party business product.
But think about this confusion. For most party-related companies, making a product and selling a product are what business is all about; the more customers who buy/own their product than buy/own the product of their competitors, the more party business owners will be happy. But here's the thing... using a product, not simply owning it, is what most customers are after -which is typically what a sale consists of in the party business.
A lot of things can prevent you from happily buying and using what they sell. From poor design or assembly and quality to your party service starting late, many party- related companies fundamentally misconceive how their customers perceive product quality. For instance, a typical catering company breaks down the different processes that lead to the sale — product creation, manufacturing (making it, of course), and the rest — into discrete operations for purposes of budget and management. But the party consumer doesn't (break down the processes), and they see anything that detracts from their experience of using a product as a defect. And they're right.
Service isn't an aspect of the sale, but rather it's an aspect of the product itself. 
The problem with customer service is in the "upstream"... in other words, it's the result of failing to make product improvements that in the long term might make after-the-sale fixes and product error less necessary. Finally, a lot of party related business owners fundamentally fail to correctly understand the nature of the transaction between company and customer. They seem to think that good service comes from the outcome of a competent company, based on accuracy, promptness, and reliability. But most customers believe that they this is an absolute "given" or their right and an "expectation". Party customers, like you guys, believe that what makes service special your ability to trust, to be listened to, and to be cared about — none of which conventional management is typically thinking about.
If the customer has a closed mind, party customer service reps won't be understood. One of the biggest mistakes that caterers and planners make is thinking that tending to a customer's problems — excuse me, "resolving customer issues" rather— is the same as adding more floral decor options to a party. It's important not to think like a "suit" when you're attempting to assess what's going on with party consumers/party customers - when you're the party business owner, because emotions can get the best of both sides judgment.
***But of course, that's exactly what most party companies do. They apply classic measures of performance — trying to respond to calls within X seconds or settling Y complaints withing a timely fashion (as if that's the answer to how to fix everything concerning customer service) — and still treat you and the business itself as if it were a moving that are better suited to the assembly line.
While such data supplies the number cruncher's need for numbers to crunch, it doesn't necessarily supply the customer's need for service. 
The company will likely see the customer service rep as a clog that clogs the pipe, but the customer is more likely to think of her as the plumber. Customers love to tell their stories (good and bad), have their hands held, have things explained — and usually need it done more than once. None of that is easy to do well when you're worried about watching the time clock.
A Smile Is Sadly Not the Expression Placed on the Face of the Company
You have to figure, that when some of the party providers mistake the nature of the work, there's a high probability that some of them will risk mistaking the nature of the people they need to do the work. Demands that can get placed on customer service staff — such as, listening to customers complain and vent, being capable of seeing another persons situation, and exuding patience beyond measure  —  can be daunting to say the least. I understand that being a customer service agent is mentally demanding work, which would stand to reason why this would make service hard at the personnel level. So when you think about it, that would probably mean that customer service is hard pressed to find people capable of doing the work and doing it well, training them properly is hard, and keeping them is the hardest part of all. To get it right, to have the right customer service reps interact with you, it is imperative that party businesses hire and train good people, with chosen by temperament and experience working well with others.
What party business owners have to always remember, and contend with, is that their frontline employees are the face of the company — and when that face is attached to a person who feels undervalued, it usually has a face that doesn't smile.
How do these companies end up with lower customer-satisfaction levels, that they think don't necessarily mean that service has gotten lousy? How does this happen? Well, you can credit — or blame — the Internet. There is indeed a sucker born every minute; the problem, from the point of view of the seller of goods or services, is that the suckers don't stay suckers very long.
Bad news about bad catering or wedding planning or party planning service gets around these days as fast as a blog post can go viral (that's lickety-split), which sometimes leaves the savvy party consumer better informed as most party managers. There was a time when a party business owner could get buy with service that was no worse than that offered by the shop across the street, but if a shop across town did better — well, who would know?
Today, the word on the street that stretches businesses around the world is called going "global". If expectations of excellent service are exaggerated by the magnifying lens of the Internet, so are examples of poor service. Angry mobs don't gather in the streets anymore, they congregate online, and several websites —,, — provide people a place to post complaints about customer service, by company and industry.
What the Internet does for poor service, TV news does for violence.
Why Does Party Industry Customer Service Suck? The stormy clouds of poor customer service shall arise... and the strong winds of angry party customers may threaten to grow... but at the end of the day, when it comes to customer service, party consumers still aren't satisfied  with your expectations — which almost doesn't matter at this point, to a certain extent. Because if you think about it, this rings true... the economy is tanked and you aren't calling them to plan or cater your party anyway. You're doing it yourself, remember?
Do this. Name one party rental company, party supply company, caterer, event planner, wedding planner, for example that you've known to have become famous (or is almost famous) for their excellent level of service, similar to Ritz-Carlton, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and Southwest Airlines — which are all famous for the wonderful service they give (Even though the service you get at the Ritz is not the same as you get at a Wal-Mart). Can you name one? Because I can't. That's right, you're like me... you can't name one either. So tell me something. What does that tell you?
To keep you guys (consumers) satisfied party business owners need to meet the expectations of service they promise... at least. Hey status quo... promise more than you can deliver and . . . well, now, aren't you common? You're certainly not unique. You're just doing what a bunch of other customers do.
Marketing hype — that's what ticks you off. I don't blame you. Unrealistic statements about a their products and services can be so annoying. What a great beginning to an.
Wake up fellas. Time to get this thing right.
* - prostitution of talents or offices or services for reward.

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I do this... I write to help to create to opportunities for all who choose to pursue their passion to have parties almost irregardless regard to economic constraints.
I think if we keep talking about the cost of parties (I write blog posts, you write comments), together, maybe we can break down some of the party industry's price barriers and shame some of the people who've taken your money and delivered a poor quality product right into growing a conscious and treating you right (nice thought, huh?).
Opportunities to be inspired about parties are everywhere. Yet, people looking out for your wallet are few and far between. My goal is to inspire you, causing you to question the way things are that have been the status quo for too long. When we stand together and speak up, we can be a powerful force.
Let's keep the conversation of change going. Because in the sea of everyone talking, one voice is a whisper... several voices are a scream.
Leave a comment and share your thoughts, ideas and suggestions below. Remember to be as specific as possible because what you have to say helps us all.
Always... be encouraged and encourage others too,
    Why Does Party Industry Customer Service Suck?
“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” - Steve Jobs
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