Strategies employed to manage wedding clients’ unrealistic, fuzzy and implicit expectations

Authors: Adams, K. and Moital, M.

Start date: 6 September 2015

Expectations are widely regarded as the main reference point used by consumers to measure satisfaction and evaluate the performance of a service. Understanding what a consumer expects is considered one of the most vital steps in providing quality services and a manager’s ability to successfully manage client expectations has a direct impact on customer satisfaction. Although expectation management has been studied in a professional service context, it has not been applied to events. This research aims to examine the techniques employed by managers when facing three different types of expectation; unrealistic, fuzzy and implicit. These types of expectations can become extreme and create problems if they aren’t dealt with effectively. The study focuses specifically on wedding planners and their clients’ expectations. The higher the level of customer involvement in a service, the more intense and extreme expectations can become, and so the ability to manage wedding clients expectations effectively is vital for a wedding planner. A qualitative approach using semi-structured interviews was used, interviewing eight wedding planners at several different UK venues. The process focused on the critical incident technique, which allowed the researcher to explore specific incidents in which managers faced extreme instances of unrealistic, fuzzy or implicit expectations, the behaviours they adopted and the outcomes. Coding was based on critical behaviours identified in the transcription process, and a list of techniques used by managers with each type of expectation was produced.

Findings stressed the importance of constant, clear communication and a strong relationship between client and manager in order to influence and manage expectations when planning a wedding. It was found that wedding coordinators adopt different expectation management techniques throughout all stages of the planning process; preventative strategies, reactive strategies and recovery strategies. The purpose of the strategies is to prevent unrealistic, fuzzy or implicit strategies from developing, to influence them to become realistic, focused or explicit if they become apparent, and to minimise the damage caused by them if they are not met by the wedding service offered. This research fills a gap in the existing knowledge of expectation management, particularly in the events industry. It offers a clear framework of management techniques based on the real life experiences of wedding planners. As unrealistic, fuzzy and implicit expectations can occur in any service, the findings can provide a useful tool to all managers, not just those in the wedding industry, to understand how to effectively manage client expectations and ensure that customer satisfaction is being achieved.

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