Operations

How To Help Clients With Vendors At The Ready

Jim Luff
Posted on August 20, 2012

Murphy’s Law says, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” Chauffeurs are often the first to learn of problems a corporate passenger might experience. From projection systems that fail to copies of proposals mistakenly left behind at the home office, we hear it all. Many corporate event planners, travel planners and administrative assistants ask about amenities that may be needed by your arriving passenger because they know a chauffeur is usually the first person seen in an arriving city and generally will know the area well.

Being prepared
From needing 20 copies of a proposal in a hurry to a larger meeting location, there are many things your passenger may call upon you to fulfill. Being “prepared” doesn’t mean knowing where to obtain and procure services. It means having an account established in advance. It means developing relationships with the people you call upon, so that when you call, they understand the importance of getting a rush job done. You can’t simply open an account with an equipment rental company and expect them to jump through hoops for you if you don’t know the name of a single employee.

JoRonco Party Rentals in Bakersfield, Calif., provides tables, chairs, podiums, staging, sound systems and nearly any items needed for an event or party.
JoRonco Party Rentals in Bakersfield, Calif., provides tables, chairs, podiums, staging, sound systems and nearly any items needed for an event or party.

Find a dedicated representative and stop by and visit on occasion or call just to keep communication open. Make sure you know all they have to offer. Refer business to the company as often as possible and tell your contacts when you refer them. Make sure your representative knows exactly what your company offers as well and provide them with brochures to give to their clients. You are both in the business of working events so a marketing partnership is easy to forge and you are targeting the same clients.

Increase profits with pass-thru billing
It is possible to increase your profit by marking up the goods and services provided to your client by using “pass-thru” billing. That is, you procure the services directly from the third party vendor and add it to your final charges to the client. Most businesses enjoy paying one vendor for everything.

Most people also enjoy making one phone call to get many things accomplished. Clients will appreciate it if you can take care of such things during the initial reservation or an emergency. Many operators seek and obtain additional services to please the client without charging. We are in the service business and you should charge for anything that consumes your time.

Ask your vendors in advance if they are willing to provide a discount to you for mark up to your client or pay you a commission. In some cases, they may provide you with two invoices. One invoice will be to present to your client with the retail value and the other will show the discounted amount actually paid by you.

Depending on the discount you receive from the vendor, a fair and reasonable mark up for most things passed thru on your invoice is 15-25%. If you are not able to make a profit from your involvement, you should consider a direct referral between the buyer and seller and save your time.

We can help
No one will ever ask you for additional assistance if they don’t know you are capable of providing it. This means you need to make sure all of your employees know what’s in the back pocket of the company. Chauffeurs especially need to know so at the appropriate times they might offer additional services based on situations presented during service.

You also will want your reservations staff to be well informed and convey this information during the reservation process. Print a list of all associated vendors and a summary of the services or products offered along with any billing arrangements set up in advance and a contact name. Be ready to say, “We can help with that.”


The Back Pocket Vendor Checklist

  • Audio/visual rental company
    Your basic rental podium as shamelessly stolen off a public board.
    Your basic rental podium as shamelessly stolen off a public board.
  • Computer equipment rentals
  • Sound system/podium rentals
  • Party/equipment rental company
  • Electrical power generators
  • Portable lighting rentals
  • Tailor/dry cleaner
  • Express printer/signage
  • Meeting space/hotel
  • Caterer
  • Private security
  • Massage therapist
  • Hair stylist
  • Temporary work force
  • Photographer
  • Temporary fencing
  • Portable restrooms
  • Bar/bartender rentals
  • Chiropractor
  • Medical doctor
  • Dentist
  • Travel agent
  • Video conferencing specialist
  • Walkie-talkie rentals
  • Postal/shipping services

Get advance word out
Once you have assembled an arsenal of providers, tell this to clients and prospective clients by stating it on your website, in brochures, and maybe even on business cards. You can easily add a line that says, “event planning services.” Corporate meeting planners seek out companies called Destination Management Companies or “DMCs” that can help them with just about any need in the destination city.

Once you develop these contacts, you can serve as a DMC or event planner. You also could consider the phrase, “Concierge services available” or a statement such as, “Ask how we can assist corporate travelers.” If you want to get clever, you might say, “We can provide much more than just a red carpet. Just ask.”

From tables and chairs to place settings and fine china, operators can provide a spread like this and increase profit margins using pass-thru billing.
From tables and chairs to place settings and fine china, operators can provide a spread like this and increase profit margins using pass-thru billing.

Save the day
Given the general rule that a chauffeur is not to speak unless spoken to, you need to train your chauffeurs on how and when to step in and offer assistance. You certainly don’t want to give the impression that the chauffeur is eavesdropping or snooping on passenger details, but yet you don’t want to miss the opportunity to help out in a crisis.

If your chauffeur should overhear a phone call or conversation and believes he and/or the company may have the resources to help with a problem, the passenger would probably welcome a subtle comment such as, “I’m sorry, I overheard you may need to have something printed quickly. Our company has an arrangement with a printer if you need any assistance.” This brief statement is better than repeating details of the call such as, “I heard you forgot the proposals for your presentation at your office.”

The conversation should be as brief as possible and any follow-up needed must be started immediately as the client will have placed a lot of faith and trust in your company to get the job done. Get a price from the vendor for the job or equipment and determine the mark up and how billing will be handled between you and the vendor.

Provide the client with the total price and an agreement on how the bill will be paid. In many emergency situations, the client will emphasize getting the job done instead of the price — to save the day.
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Related Topics: emergency preparedness, How To, meetings and conventions, special events

Jim Luff Contributing Editor
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