Successfully Working with Clients During a Crisis
By Oleta Collins, Flourishing Art
Natural disasters are unpredictable, yet inevitable. It’s less about if and more about when, so event professionals must always be prepared with a backup plan. As a company based in central California, we are no stranger to crises — earthquakes, wildfires, mudslides, flooding and, now, a global pandemic.
These types of major crisis situations can devastate communities and, in the events industry, it can leave a lot of people lost and confused about where to go next. It’s important to recognize that this feeling is natural, but we do have the power to overcome and continue pushing forward as a business and as a source of positivity in your community.
It’s in these times of crisis that humanity shines and we recognize that we’re all in this together, so we might as well help each other out. Yet, as much support as your community provides, your company’s response to a disaster is representative only of you and your brand, so you need to be careful as you navigate the unpredictability of a crisis event.
Here are some strategies for keeping afloat while ensuring your clients’ needs are always met.
Always have a contingency plan.
When disaster strikes, shock is a normal human reaction. However, it often means people end up scrambling to pick up the pieces in the immediate days and weeks afterwards. The best way to prevent this is simply to be prepared.
Although you may not know what or when a situation will arise, having a general backup plan will help you to stay calm and collected in the immediate aftermath. Part of your contingency plan should be investing in disaster insurance to cover yourself, the vendors you’ve hired, and your clients in case of emergency cancellations.
Create an open communication line.
In the case of emergency, your communication lines must always remain open. If you’ll be stuck at home or away from the office, give out your mobile or home phone numbers. Safety is your first priority and your clients should be your second — you are a professional with a commitment.
A crisis situation will leave people feeling emotional and uncertain about moving forward, so they’ll look to you to be a guiding light. Keep them calm and walk them through their options, then let them take their time to make a decision.
In addition, be mindful that your communication extends far beyond your emails. Continue to update your voicemail with relevant information, as well as be mindful of the information you’re sharing on your preferred social media channels.
Respect their choices.
If a client wants to move on with an event directly after a crisis event, it’s your responsibility to go forward with it unless the safety of you, your team, or anyone involved in the event will be jeopardized. Look to your team to back you up and collaborate to pull together the best event you possible can.
On the other hand, if they want to postpone or cancel, ensure them it is an entirely acceptable choice and that you’ll be supporting them every step of the way.
Get involved in the recovery.
When the dust starts to settle after a disaster, things may feel unsettling and strange. Depending on the situation, it could be difficult for people to go back to the excitement of planning an event. There might be irreversible damage to the community in the way of destruction and loss of life; but make it a point to be the one that reminds everyone that we can prevail.
For the most part, you will have to roll with the punches to a degree when it comes to working through a natural disaster or crisis situation. Clients may postpone events, venues may be destroyed, permits may be hard to get, and other challenges may arise. The key is to be adaptable.
Be prepared to take it one step at a time and remain positive throughout the experience. At the end of the day, people are kind. Lean on your community and do what you can to keep the positive momentum going despite the situation.
Oleta Collins is the owner of Flourishing Art Design Studio, a premier florist and design studio in Bakersfield, California, that specializes in luxury weddings and events. She is also a Certified Floral Designer and an accredited member of the American Institute of Floral Designers.