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Updating Your Policies and Procedures as a Venue Amid COVID-19

A lot has changed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and more changes coming our way. We have entered unprecedented times, and, as a result, we have had to adjust our businesses accordingly. We’ve carried on with our typical operations as best we can through virtual means, but even post-pandemic life will be different than what we’ve known in the past.

For venues, this could look like increased sanitation procedures, temperature checks, shorter guest lists, and floorplans spaced out enough to adhere to social distancing guidelines. In most cases, these changes will be permanent in the ‘new normal’ — as an industry; we must anticipate these changes will be continued moving forward.

It’s challenging to make big decisions when the future seems so uncertain. The first place you’ll want to start is by identifying the changes you need to make in your existing policies and procedures. Let’s take a look at how to navigate this and communicate the changes to your clients.

Start with your contract

Your contract is the single most important document that you use because it legally binds you and your clients to the same terms and agreements. As you consider the changes to your contract, speak with an attorney who can help protect your business interests. You may hear about what colleagues are doing and be tempted to hop on the bandwagon without consulting legal counsel, don’t make that mistake. Ensure your attorney works in your state and even your locality—as COVID-19 restrictions vary from state to state and county to county.

Updating your contract will be easy for future clients who have not yet booked, but adjusting terms for currently booked clients can be challenging. Again, lean on your attorney to understand the clauses that you can use to back up your claims, like force majeure or acts outside of a venue’s control. Make sure you understand how these terms relate to the new policies and procedures you are putting into place.

Decide what needs to change

In the aftermath of COVID-19, there will be two main funnels that will have to change: internal and external processes. Internal processes that impact you and your team. An example of an internal process is the method and frequency of cleaning your venue due to the nature of the virus. This is something you’ll have to adhere to and be sure your clients are aware of the actions being taken for their health and safety.

On the other hand, external processes are those that are client-facing such as the changes you’ll need to make surrounding cancellations, postponements, and rescheduling. Client expectations have changed due to the pandemic, and they will understandably be more hesitant in their decision-making processes. A change to your cancellation or rescheduling policies may make them feel more comfortable moving forward, even when the future is unclear.

Communicate with your clients

When it comes to existing clients, you will need to communicate the changes to them in a timely and respectful manner. To ensure you have everything in writing, it’s okay to send an email communication to all clients. Then, you’ll likely want to schedule a phone call or Zoom appointment to discuss the changes and respond to their questions and concerns.

After you’ve spoken with your clients, send an email recap as a receipt of when and what you discussed regarding the changes. In this case, over-communicating is the name of the game — make sure that your clients fully grasp the changes to your policies and procedures and that you’ve cleared up any confusion.

As you start to book new clients with your updated contract, expect people to ask tough questions, and be prepared to answer them. Not everybody reads a contract thoroughly and, even then, they may not understand everything. That’s why it’s our job to help them navigate the document. Consider pulling out specific sections to highlight in a meeting or to automate emails to send relevant information at certain milestones, like a friendly reminder that catering decisions need to be made by assigned date.

As we continue to navigate this evolving situation, we will see couples and event hosts expecting more transparency than ever before. As event professionals, we must show up for them and do everything we can to ease their fears and provide them with the best service possible.

 

Kinsey Roberts is wedding venue educator, marketer, co-owner of Vista View Events, as well as a Certified Wedding Planner through The Bridal Society. She’s dedicated to helping women dominate their market and diversify their revenue streams through, She Creates Business, a  podcast and online shop for wedding professionals. You can also catch her as a co-host on The Venue Podcast which helps venue owners navigate trials and tribulations within the event industry.

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