Campus conferencing is a true test of “doing the details.” There are lots of folks out there who handle the big picture stuff quite well, but they’re not so good at the details. Not us conference people. We thrive on the details. Detailing out plans and agendas and schedules and whatnot is what we do best. And the skills we possess to be able to handle those details make us an ideal “one-stop-shop.”
For those of you whose conference operations are already managing as one-stop-shops, congratulations. You are truly serving the needs of your clients (your external customers) and your campus (your internal customers). For those of you who are not managing one-stop-shops, those who require their conference clients to call around to facilities and service providers across campus to make their events happen, consider expanding what you do. Let’s look first at the benefit that you can provide to those external clients.
Many one-stop-shops on campuses handle the following details:
• Meeting Room Arrangements
• Overnight Accommodations
• Meal Ticket Requests
• Parking Services
• Recreational Needs
• Special Events On-Site
• Special Events Off-Site
• Linen Service
• Campus Signage
• Catering Services
• Accessibility Arrangements for Disabled Guests
• Floral Arrangements
• Registration Set-Up/Assistance
If your clients are required to call separate departments around campus to handle all of these services, you can imagine the frustration that they experience. Even on a campus with access to E-mail, voicemail, cell phones, and faxes, it can be difficult to make contact with colleagues.
The often unseen benefit of a one-stop-shop is the assistance that you can provide to campus departments, your internal clients. Those service-providing areas that we work with, whether it’s catering, housekeeping, or the campus recreational facility, are running full-throttle during the academic year (I know—so are we!). But while we stay in focus and in a planning mode for summer, other departments may be more focused on that day or that week’s events. If we can save them some time by gathering schedules, contact information, and a list of specific needs from our conference groups, we can turn the information over to them in the summer to carry through with the commitments that have been made. Of course this requires knowing something about the business of your colleagues so that you can be sure not to over-commit space or services. Your ability to operate a one-stop-shop and handle (at least initial) arrangements for other departments will be seriously hampered if you misquote pricing, hours, availability, or service levels.
One-stop-shops certainly look different on all of our campuses. As varied as our residential facilities are, so are our structures for providing conferences on campus in the summer. Think of one-stop-shops on a continuum. On one end of the continuum is the office that takes the phone call and books the client. They then direct the client to a myriad of offices and departments across campus to arrange for services for their event. On the other end of the continuum is the epitome of the one-stop-shop. The staff books the event, and handles every aspect of their conference from registration to meals to special events and billing. They assign a staff person to be the liaison to the conference group, and to coordinate all aspects of their program. Depending upon your staffing and the level of collaboration and cooperation that exists on your campus, you might fall somewhere in between these two extremes. Take some time this summer to survey your clients to find out where you fall on the continuum. Find out what services your clients contract through you, and what services they wish that they could contract through you. Work on increasing the services that you can directly provide, while not taking on a charge that is better left handled by other experts on campus. Enhance the service to both your external and internal clients by continuing to develop your department into a one-stop-shop.
Submitted by Amy D. Lopez, Director of Kennedy Union & Conference Services, University of Dayton