So I am in the middle of a planning a wedding with my fiancée. We’re about two months into our engagement and we got off to a pretty quick start. Within a month of being engaged, we picked a wedding date, reception site, church, minister, our wedding party, and the color. Two months in and we are down to a choice between 2 DJs and we have a photographer, as well as picked out 90% of our dinner menu. So we’re doing pretty good.
However, one thing that we noticed very quickly is how varied the customer service levels are among independent companies. While nearly everyone (myself included) complains about customer service operators being outsourced to India and other places where someone named "Mary" (ha!) tries to help you with your inquiry, perhaps we should be glad that we’re at least getting a response.
Nearly every business "guru" out there will tell you that the key strategic advantages for small, independent operators to differentiate themselves from the big, giant monster corporations is quality and service. If that’s the case, the wedding industry is in deep trouble.
Maybe its because it isn’t something you do very often (hopefully only once….) and they know they can drag you along, but so far, customer service and just general response has been pretty bad. Our best experience has been with the Hard Rock Cafe (a big company), where we might have our rehearsal dinner. Even our photographer, who we love, left us hanging for a few days after the Thanksgiving holiday, leaving us to wonder if we were really meeting with them last weekend or not. Clearly the culture of "customer first" is far more alive in corporate America than in entrepreneurial ventures.
A perfect example happened today – from a bridal gown company. Here is the exchange between my fiancée and whoever was answering this email (click to see the screen capture). As you can see, clearly no one was actually READING the email. So I called – you know, just for shits and giggles – and spoke with a heavily accented woman who explained that customer service doesn’t read the emails… the OWNERS DO! That’s just what you want to hear from a company that you’re looking to spend a couple of thousand dollars with on your wedding dress.
I like supporting local merchants and have myself lamented the loss of local stores and chains. My parents had a small bakery that eventually fell victim to supermarket bakeries, so I know the pain that comes with losing the local flavor. While I know that we didn’t always provide perfect customer service, I’d like to think that we tried harder than a lot of people out there.
So that’s the first of what I am sure will be many other wedding observations in the coming year or so. I won’t bore you with details – just try to entertain you with the silly and interesting stuff.