Study Hall

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Mind Over Matter: Maybe The Client Isn’t Your Only Customer

What if we think about providing customer service to anyone who’s involved with the services we provide? A deeper dive into the idea of “internal customers."

Customer service is defined in the dictionary as “the assistance and advice provided by a company to those people who buy or use its products or services.” That definition works, but it’s broad. We tend to focus on the word “buy” when we think about customer service, thinking about the customer as the party who has hired us for an event.

But maybe it’s helpful to think beyond that. What if we think about providing customer service to anyone who’s involved with the services we provide?

Let’s dive deeper into the idea of “internal customers” – the people we work with who need something from us to get their jobs done. Live events thrive because of these internal customer relationships.Events purposefully create a team of individuals who rely on each other’s work to complete a task.

I work corporate gigs, so I don’t just rely on my AV team. They’re also not the only ones who depend on us to get our events done. I work with event planners, meeting managers, catering, banquet staff, rental companies, florists, security, and engineering. We can’t do the things we do without each other, so I treat them like my customers.

When I’m working with other departments, I try to respect the time and space that they need because we’re all trying to work towards the same goal. I need to get all of my gear pushed forward so I’m out of the way of riggers, so the riggers can quickly get lighting up to working height. I’m trying to do my work as swiftly and efficiently as possible so video can do their testing.

When the banquet staff needs to set up tables and seating arrangements, they need information from us – the technical people – about where our gear is going. I make sure they know what the technical schedule is and I try to be available in the space in case we need to discuss anything. Everyone is on the same page, the room is set correctly the first time, and we aren’t tripping over each other.

I’m sure many of us have dealt with the aftermath of poor communication in this regard: upset banquet staff, rooms being set up facing the wrong direction, and lots of stress. During load out, a well-meaning crew member from a different aspect of the production might pull up your cable and create a dreaded tape-cable octopus – the type of thing that makes us seriously evaluating sacrificing the cable to the garbage can at 3 am. We can avoid this by making sure the cable runs are out of the way of the crew coming to load out the tables.

Now, this doesn’t mean my approach is to let people run me over or to just “grin and bear it.” I’m talking more about being focused on situational awareness and some mindfulness of how my actions directly affect others.
Once, I forgot to call ahead and inform the security team that I would be bringing a truck through the checkpoint. As a result, I ended up pushing cases across a busy road after the security team opened and individually inspected every single case. We held up traffic. It was ugly.

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It probably would’ve been avoided or at least manageable had I been able to take a couple of extra minutes out of my time to call down that a truck was going to pull up in the next hour with “X” amount of gear and to expect the specific driver with an ID check. I probably wouldn’t have killed time with taking boxes through a metal detector. I really messed up. I caused 45 minutes of chaos and a lot of people a preventable headache.

Going forward, I purposefully built a positive relationship with them, so we have better communication and don’t get frustrated with each other. Maybe there’s a little voice in the back of our minds that can ask:

“What does the team need from me?”
“What problems might we be stumbling into?”
“How can I help?”

Then we can use customer service skills to save us some headaches. It seems so simple, but these things get people all the time. Practice being aware, practice your smile, practice helping others so they can help you. Bringing a customer service mindset with me is just as vital on my gigs as the gear I load in.

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