Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Did a vendor hurt your feelings?

In the event planning industry, it’s common knowledge that, to survive, you must have a thick skin. However, it’s not common knowledge that this rule also applies to individuals delving into the industry for a short period of time. Yes, that’s right, couples, too, must have thick skin when planning their wedding.

The wedding planning industry is high-pressure. Professionals in it are under constant pressure to conjure up new ideas, make those ideas work no matter how revolutionary or unusual, and remain within budget while doing so. They are also required to interpret visions, fix problems, put out the “fires” of unexpected disasters, cater to the needs of 150+ guests at a wedding and make sure that every legally required step for a couple to marry is met prior to their walk down the aisle.

With all that on their plate (plus LOTS more not listed), it’s not surprising that some vendors say or do something and upset a couple. As planners, it’s our job to avoid this from affecting our clients; but, since we don’t work for every soon-to-be-married couple, we still feel it’s important to discuss why this happens and what to do after it occurs.

Why vendors lash out:
  1. They’re overworked. Vendors work for multiple couples at the same time. Although most make efforts to not overextend themselves, they sometimes have days where everyone seems to want everything at the same time. This means that they may lash out due to their being frustrated at what’s going on with another event.
  2. They’re embarrassed. Nobody is perfect, including vendors. Some people respond to having made a mistake better than others. Sometimes, a vendor can become embarrassed by their mistake and defend themselves unnecessarily.
  3. They’re worried about how to make something happen. Vendors are not miracle workers, and are limited by time and the laws of physics.
  4. They’ve got their eye on the bottom line. Vendors are excited about your day, but also need to make money. Constant demands for items that exceed their initial proposal and your budget can make them worried about their profit margins.
  5. They’re confused. Last minute changes can cause frustration and confusion – two things that rarely lead to a calm vendor.
None of these five reasons are excuses for lashing out at a couple, just explanations. Many times, understanding what emotion is causing the problem can help resolve it.  

How to handle an upset vendor:
  1. Count to five. Do you want to calm someone down ASAP? The best remedy for any upset person is to look them in the eye, remain absolutely quiet and count to five. You’ll likely only reach three before they apologize. Beware, though, this same trick often leads to being called “intimidating”.
  2. Clearly and succinctly state that the “behavior is unacceptable.” That simple sentence forces even the most irate individual to make a complete 180 attitude turn.
  3. Ask that the vendor state and explain the problem. This instruction usually causes the vendor to realize that the problem isn’t really one as large as they believe or even a problem at all. Many times, all a vendor needs to do is analyze what is going on to calm down.
  4. Direct that the vendor look for solutions and respond to you in 48-72 hours. By leaving the vendor alone for awhile you allow them to work out the problem on their own. At the end of the period, you’ll either receive a statement of the plan to implement precisely what you want or a nice explanation of why the laws of physics or your budget are prohibitive.
Essentially, when it comes to handling a vendor who hurt your feelings, less is more; less speaking and engaging with them while they are upset on your part puts you in control of the situation.

Now, none of this means that an abusive, neglectful or dismissive vendor is acceptable. You are paying a vendor for their service, which means that they should deliver as contractually obligated to. If you believe that the vendor’s lashing out at you is a threat to how they will deliver on your wedding day, seriously consider whether they are worth retaining. But firing a vendor, readers, is a topic for another day.