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Survey reveals how customer satisfaction affects the value of meetings & events


Sep 25, 2013 | Feature

People deliver satisfaction: that’s the leading conclusion from a new independent study, commissioned by Warwick Conferences, into the factors that affect customer satisfaction in the events, meetings and conference market.

The Value of Satisfaction report has been acknowledged by both the Meetings Industry Association (MIA) and Hotel Booking Agents Association (HBAA). Delegates, their managers, and event bookers were interviewed on a range of topics relating to their use of third-party venues for meetings, conferences, training sessions and events.

The results found that food is a source of conflict between delegates and event bookers, and highlights a worrying volume of meetings affected by disruptions. Cost is also examined in the report, with the research revealing that almost half of invoices received are higher than anticipated, and swathes of delegates are dipping into their own pockets to cover expenses such as parking, wi-fi, meals and refreshments.

Rachael Bartlett, Warwick Conferences head of sales and marketing, comments: “We commissioned this independent report to try and find out what it is that leads the key stakeholders engaged in the meetings and events business to feel satisfied about their venue choices. There is an industry preoccupation with ‘cutting edge’ facilities, but what are the other, maybe less tangible, factors at play?

“The report highlights several key themes, but it’s people power that shines through as being the one thing all stakeholders agree can make – or break – a positive venue experience. The study also shows how people caring for the experience they facilitate goes beyond creating positivity front of house. Issues with the quality of catering, inflated invoices and disruption are apparently commonplace, and stakeholders don’t always share the same viewpoint, making delivering satisfaction across the board a balancing act.”

The report reveals that 62% of delegates, managers and event bookers think knowledgeable or helpful on-site staff is the leading factor that results in satisfaction, outranking venue practicalities such as parking, catering and even the effectiveness of the venue itself.

However, the report also shows the price of poor interactions, with a staggering 52% of event attendees saying it takes just a single member of staff to ruin a good customer service experience during an event. More than two-fifths (43%) of the delegates interviewed reported that an off-site meeting they have attended in the last 12 months has been let down by the poor quality of the venue’s staff.

Cost is the number one motivator for event bookers, with 86% saying it's their primary concern when evaluating venue options. But inflated invoices are troubling managers and event bookers alike, according to the study, while delegates are racking up expenses bills that only half of ROI calculations capture.

Almost three-quarters (74%) of delegates have had to pay for extra items – including lunch, dinner, parking and wi-fi access – at venues attended in the last 12 months.

Incredibly, 55% of managers and 24% of event bookers say they have received an invoice for an event held in the last 12 months that exceeds the price quoted, and on average, this has amounted to 25% of the original quote.

Three-quarters of delegates report that they have experienced disruption to their productivity when attending events in the last 12 months. A third of these have been linked to technology, while 32% were noise-related. Over a quarter have had their attention diverted by non-business guests.

Chris Parnham, chairman of the HBAA, the trade association for the hotel booking agency, apartment and venue community, comments: “I am delighted to see that this survey reminds us that the surest way for a venue to be distinctive, is to make sure they have the basics right – service, food, accuracy and smooth running – all of which can only be delivered by great people who have had relevant industry-specific training.”

Jane Longhurst, MIA chief executive comments: “The report presents some fascinating findings which will be of great value to venues, delegates and bookers alike. As revealed by the research findings, people are hugely important in the generation of a feeling of satisfaction at a venue. I feel the report confirms the point of view that if the industry is to achieve sustainable business levels into the future, it needs to embrace a people-focused customer service orientated approach to delivering satisfaction to its clients.”

Rachael Bartlett concludes: “The value of satisfaction cannot be attributed to a single thing. What does come across loud and clear is the link between quality human interaction and higher levels of satisfaction. In other words, encountering staff who care when attending an event at a third-party venue makes a tangible difference to how that event is perceived.

“People caring about the experience they facilitate goes beyond creating front of house positivity however. A true culture of client care wouldn’t permit inappropriate catering, an environment not consistent with concentration and engagement, and a pricing structure that deliberately conceals the truth - all factors cited as leading to dissatisfaction.

“But the issue of ‘cost’ remains a constant – directly and indirectly, it’s surely the biggest influence of all the factors explored in this study.”

Click here to download the Value of Satisfaction report.

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