Managing the Service Component of Event Experience

Introduction

An event can be said to be remarkable when it occurs ones or regularly in a short time duration creating a lasting impression. Such event could involve celebrations or performances, presentations, and rituals. Most events are organized to mark cultural, political, or cooperate objectives.

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In recent times, significant growth has been witnessed in the event packaging industry. As a result of the growth, the attention of the government has been drawn to the contribution of this industry to the economy of several nations. Units aimed at the development of events sponsored by the state governments have been created. The aim of which is to link the outcomes of this events to the success of tourism. Some scholars have opined that, the success recorded by events has a relationship that is positive, first of all to the visiting tourist and, secondly, as an approach of managing business. Important to the satisfaction of visitors is the feeling that the experience delivered is nothing but authentic; providing quality beverage and food services, and the authenticity that is perceived are agreed to be determinants of the satisfaction of visitors to an event.

In today’s economy that is driven by service, in order to sell goods and services better, companies package their offerings with an experience. To benefit fully from experience staging, however, experience engaging design that will be fee commanding must be adopted by businesses. The Service of marketing or selling an experience transition has not been very easy for companies that are established to perform.

The progress made by economic history, can be recalled from the different evolutional processes undergone by cake presented at birthdays. As evidence of the economy of the agrarian-age, cakes presented at birthday occasions were made by mothers from the first step. Mixing commodities gotten from the farm.eg sugar, butter, eggs and flour. All these put together cost little or nothing. At the advancement of the economy of the industrial age, ingredients premixed were paid for by mothers at Betty Croker, costing them a dollar or more. At the inception of this economy that is driven by service, cakes were ordered by parents that were busy from bakery shops, which, if bought at $15 or $ 20 dollars, cost far more than the ingredient that had been packaged. In the 1990s, neither cakes nor parties were thrown at birthdays by parents. Instead, large sums of monies were paid to outsource an event entirely. From discovery zone, to chuck E. cheeses, other show promoting company that staged events was memorable for kids. Recently, most of the times, the cakes at events are free. This is thus an entrance in to an economy of experience. Services have been lumped with experience by economist, experience can be authoritatively said to be a separate economic gift- And dissimilar from such services as services to goods. This economic gift today is recognized and expressed because experience is what customers desire unquestionably, and more companies are taking to this by planning and implementation. Henceforth, front line companies will discover that the next competitive ground will be in experience staging.

Literature Review

Service design and delivery

There is a line of distinction that exists between experience and service, in order to appreciate this difference, recall an episode in Taxi, an old show on television. In it Iggy, a terrible and funny driver , took a decision of being the best cab driver this plannet has ever seen. He offered his passengers drinks and sandwiches, conducting city tours. Often times he sang tunes by Frank Sinatra. He converted a cab ride that was ordinary into an event that his passengers lived to remember. Iggy offered an entirely new economic gift. Riding in Iggys cab was an experience, that was by far more importance to his passengers than, the service of taking them round the city. The response was bigger monies been paid to him by his customers. One of his patrons had to pay far more than the required fee, for poor service to lengthen the time of his experience. Iggy provided services – Cab driving- this was a stage to sell an experience, which was what he was actually doing. They will be an occurrence of experience, if services are used as a stage by businesses, and the goods used as props, to connect customers individually, creating an event that is memorable. Commodities can thus be said to be fungible, while goods are said to be tangible, services are described as intangible, and memorable is what experiences are said to be. Experiences buyers, following Walt Disney, the pioneer of this experience economy, we shall call them guest. This guest tends to value revelations by businesses over a time duration. While initial economic gift, e.g. services and gifts, are secondary to the guest. Experiences are personal, residing in an individual’s mind, having being involved in an emotional, intellectual and physical level. Thus the experience of two persons will always differ. This is because an experience is the basic interactions that exist between the state of mind of the individual and the stage display. Experience is the core of show business, Walt Disney and his companies have exploited this fact creatively. Today marketing experience is finding its place in business distant from parks and theaters. The evolution of new technologies has changed the face of experience. New genres of experience have been created, from internet chat rooms to interactive games. New schools of thought have opined that, business is more than the creation and selling of new products, but information delivery, and interactive life link experiences.

At the Planet Hollywood, and Hard Rock café, food is used as a prop for the main thing which is entertainment. Cabalas’, Nike town, attract customers by presenting them with activities that are funny, and displays that are fascinating. Often times labeled entertailing. But experiences cannot be said to be exclusively entertainment. Experiences are staged by businesses when they intend to involve their customers in a personal way that will be remembered time immemorial. In the world of business travel, the former chairman of British Airways Sir Collin Marshal noted that, the commodity mind set is to think that a business is merely performing a function in our case, transporting people from point A to point B on time, and at the lowest possible price. What the airways does is to move a step beyond function and contend with others at the level of providing experience. Experiences are not only for businesses that produce consumer goods.

The characteristics of experiences

Before charging an admission fee, a company must design and implement an experience that is worth the price, by the judgment of the customers. As it is for goods or services, a perfect plan from the designing to marketing and delivery, will be essential for experiences. Inventiveness and originality will at all times precede increase in revenue. Just as goods or services, experiences have distinctive traits and present certain challenges during the design process. One angle of thinking of experiences, is to look at it in a two dimensional way.

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The participation of the guest

At one extreme of the range lies inactive participation, in which performance is not affected by customers at all. Symphony goers are a good example of this form of participants. They get their experience through observation and listening at an event. On the other end are participants who are active. Here the customers have a part in the creation of the experience. A good example of this form of participants is skiers. Even ski race watchers cannot be said to be completely inactive participants. By attending the ski race they add to the visual effect experienced by others at the event.

The connection of the guest

This can also be referred to as the ability of the customer or guest at an event to relate effectively with the environment. Connection unites the customer or guest with the performance at the event. At one angle of connection range is absorption and on the other immersion. Guest sitting at the grandstand and watching the Kentucky Derby, tend to absorb the performance going on beneath and directly before them. While those right infield, get immersed in sounds, sights and smells around them. Frantically scribbling notes on a writing pad while in physics class can be far more absorbing compared to reading a book. But watching a movie in the theater with others, with stereophonic sounds, and on a large screen, is immersing compared to viewing the same film at home on a video player.

Categorization of experiences

Experiences that people describe as entertainment; attending a live concert, watching of television, are the ones in which the involvement or the participation of customers or guest is more passive than active. The connection at the event in this case is that of absorption, more of than that of immersion. Events that are educational; taking a ski lesson, attending a class, involve participants actively. But the students tend to be outside the event, than they are immersed in it. Experiences termed escapist can educate just the same way educational ones do or can be amusing as entertainment, but with a greater immersion involvement of the customer. Taking part in an orchestra or acting a play, involve participation in the experience that is active and immersive. If guest participation that is active is reduced, an escapist experience becomes ecstatic, which is the fourth kind of experience. Here the guests get immersed in the environment, but they have no effect, for example, a visitor to a photo gallery. All rich experiences such as visiting the Disney World encompass all the aspects of experience. The most important question those in authority should direct to themselves is, how unique and specific is the experience my company offering? The quality of the experience offered will go a long way in defining the company’s business. Experience will have to meet the need or anticipation of the customer, just as goods or services do. Services result from a process of careful study, blueprint development and improvements, experiences are from a process of examination, scripting and performance.

Designing an outstanding experience

It is expected that in time to come designing an experience will be a business as product and process design are. Undeniably principles of design are apparent from practices and results gotten by companies that are already in the business. Below are the principles of experience design

The experience should be themed

Hearing the names of entertainment oriented restaurants, an ideal of what to get from such an establishment is built within one’s mind. For example, the rain forest café, or the Hard Rock café, naming just a few. The first most important step taken by the owners in an attempt at experience staging, is carving out a striking theme. A poorly carved out theme, leaves a prospective client with no imagination as regards what to expect. And the experiences from such spots often times are not lasting. An example of such is Gertrude Stein’s Oakland. Often times the principles are offended by retailers. They blow trumpets of shopping experience, but the theme created does not connect with the experience that is to be staged. Home appliances retailers particularly display poor imagination when it comes to theme creating. Considering a Las Vegas, based mall, having on display a theme that is distinctive “an ancient Roman marketplace”, in every sense this motif has been fulfilled through the effects of architecture. These include stark white pillars, marble floors, outdoor café, flowing fountains, living trees and complete during thunder storm.

Complementing impression with optimistic cues

While the foundation is formed by the theme, rendering the experience with an impression that is indelible should be considered a most. The impression is what the guest takes home from an experience, indicating that the theme is fulfilled. In order to create an impression that is desired, cues must be introduced by companies that will affirm to the customer or guest the experience nature. The theme must be supported by each cue. Harob George, a Washington based coffee franchise founder, created the theme of the company as (the marriage of Old world Italian espresso bars with fast paced American living). The decoration of the interior represents the old world in the theme, and carefully pattern designs of the floor and the counters, make the customers form ques without signage that would have shifted from the themes ideal. The impression here is fast service in a nice setting. Furthermore the owner of the franchise encourages his workers to remember the faces of regular patrons, so as to serve them without prior asking. The cue no matter how small, contributes to creating a memorable experience. When a host in a restaurant tells you your table is ready, he or she has given you no cue. But the declaration by a host in Rainforest Café to her guest to watch out for an adventure that will soon begin, tend to create an impression of a special experience. Cues make impressions, and impressions create experiences, which last in the minds of the customers. An unpleasant experience might occur because, maybe an architectural element, has been under appreciated, overlooked, or uncoordinated. A customer might be left confused as a result of unplanned visual cue. Difficulty could be experienced in trying to locate ones hotel room, after been provided with details as regards the direction. Better and clear cues on the walk way would provide the client with a better and improved experience.

Remove unenthusiastic cues

In order to maintain the integrity of the guest or client experience, there is more to be done than the layering of cues that are positive. Anything that contradicts the theme must be removed. This should be doggedly followed by stagers of experience. Trivial massages are seen in offices, malls, or airplanes. While instructions are sometimes needed by customers, often time’s providers of services use massage forms that are inappropriate. Trash cans for example, at fast foods joints displaying a sign that reads “thank you”. Stagers of experience might instead; convert the trash can to garbage eating, talking character, and announcing its appreciation when the cover opens. A good massage is communicated to the customer, without a cue that is negative. The quickest way to convert service to an experience is by the provision of bad services. Thus an encounter is created that is memorable, but of an unpleasant kind. Over servicing can wreck an experience.

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The five senses should be engaged

The sensory motivators that go with an experience must carry its theme along. The more the number of senses involved in an experience, the more memorable is the experience. Operators of Shoeshine outlets that are smart, boost the scent of polish using brittle snaps of the material. Aroma and sounds that add nothing to the shoe but tend to enhance the experience. Grocery shops, channel bakery smells the passageway, others use sound and light to imitate thunderstorm, during the mixing of produce. The Rainforest Café mist appeals to the five senses. First it comes as sound, then the mist is seen rising out of the rocks, it is then felt cool and soft on the skin. Finally the tropical essence is perceived, and you imagine the taste of its freshness. A guest can’t help been affected by the mist. Some cues intensify an experience via just one sense organ that is affected by an arresting simplicity.

Blend in Memorabilia

Some goods are bought as a result of the experience gotten from the purchase of such goods or the conveyed memories. People on vacation purchase post cards, to bring to mind cherished sights. Golfers buy shirts caring logos to remember a round. And T-shirts are bought by teenagers at concerts just for the memory. This memorabilia’s are purchased to recall physically an experience. Large sums of money are spent yearly on memorabilia’s. These items are sold at amounts greater than that of similar goods that represent no experience. T shirts caring the date, city where a concert is staged, are paid for by concert goers. This is because, cost points have a role that is less of the price of the goods, than the importance allocated to the remembrance of an experience by customers.

If businesses that are service oriented like, insurance companies, Banks, grocery stores, do not insist on memorabilia, this will be as a result of their non engaging experience staging. But if these businesses have experiences that are well themed, with positive and no negative cue, guest will be willing to sacrifice some amount for memorabilia’s, just to commensurate the experience. If guest don’t pay for them, then, the experience was far from great. Truly if air line companies, were businesses that stage experience, mementos that are appropriate would be shopped for by passengers in catalogs found in seat pockets. Even the framing of insurance certificates would be seen as suitable.

Venturing into the economy of experience

Making use of the five principles of design is not a success guarantor. The laws of demand and supply have never been repealed by any one. Companies that seem to fail in providing experiences that are engaging consistently, over price the experiences compared to the perceived valued. Or capacity is over built to stage the experience, which mount pressure on pricing, demand or both. One John Tondu, of Kids Zone had rough years as a result of inconsistency in the staging of experience, poor maintenance of featured games, and little or no payment of attention to adult experience, who are the financers of the events. Other companies have had problems as a result of their failure in refreshing the experiences they stage. Nothing new is gotten from repeated visitation. Disney by addition of fresh attractions avoids been stale. The unfolding of the experience economy, will see a lot of companies in the business of experience staging leaving the trade. It is difficult to imagine, that theme-based fast foods outlets in operation today, are capable of being there till the next millennium. It was observed that before now, there were up to a hundred automakers residing in Eastern Michigan and about 40 makers of cereal in the west. Presently on the big three of the automakers are still in business. The industrial economy growth, and that of the service economy, was ushered in with an explosion of offerings. Services and goods that were not in existence prior to the emergence of imaginative designers were invented. The experience economy will surely grow in the same manner, through a destruction that will be creative.

Service Failure and Recovery

It can be observed that despite the fact that most businesses or companies make attempts at experience staging. Services are still been charged for by most of them. In the early days of IBM, they had a slogan, and the key word in this slogan was service. And these computer giants were good at offering free services to any company that bought its goods. This gift of free services weighed down competition. Sooner or later customers were made to pay for what the company was offering as free. When the hard and soft ware were to be unbundled as a requirement of a suite delivered by the department of justice. Notwithstanding the order by the government, the demand for services by customers could not be met by IBM, without a fee been charged. As it was later seen the most important gift of the company was services. Presently with the commoditization of its mainframe systems, IBMs unit for global services is growing rapidly every year. Services are no longer given in order to sell goods by the company; in fact there is a reversal of the whole deal. The hard ware of the client could be bought by the company, if the client chooses to contract its service unit for the management of its information’s system. Computers are still been manufactured by IBM, but now IBM provides services as a business. This indicates maturity of the economy driven by service; bigger profits are now made by IBM and other companies in the business of service provision. And not from the goods they provide. The capital division of GE (General Electric) and the financial wing of the three biggest automakers are good case points. Likewise, the immaturity of the economy driven by experience, indicates while experience providing companies like the Geek Squad or the Hard Rock Café, are not charging for events staged. Unless guest is charged for admission, a company will not be described as selling experience as an economic gift or offering. If an event is staged to increase clients preference for goods and services commoditized, it cannot be described as an offering economically. If customers are not asked to pay for events that are staged by companies at present, those in authority should think of what they will do or offer if admission fees were to be charged. A critical look at this will propel the company in the right direction towards the economy driven by experience. An approach of this nature demands designing an experience that is richer than previous offerings. Fees are already been charged by theaters, for the viewing of films that are featured. Jim Loeks, co-owner, of an A Class theater in Michigan, in an interview with the Forbes Magazine, stated that, a movie should be worth the price that is paid for it. The theater complex charges millions of customers, an admission fee that is 25% higher for one movie, than its competitors, because of the experience provided n the house.

Authenticity at exceptional events through Experience offered by food service

Offering quality food and the authenticity that is perceived are generally accepted as key determinants of guest satisfaction at exceptional events. Food or beverage service at exceptional occasions aid differentiation; they can be said to enhance the authenticity of the event via association, they can also be exploited as a means for good management. These are of great importance especially for brand management. In tourism or events context, various contributions to literature, on authenticity or dependability have been made. Interconnections exist between the experience of a tourist and that by a visitor or guest to an event. Consensus is yet to be met on what authenticity stands for in the context under discussion. As explored by Urry, the gaze of the tourist is examined further the view point of the host, and that of the population of the guest. Further works into events authenticity; have acknowledged the roles played by the tourist as well as that by the event stagers, in searching for a meaning that is authentic. Crang (1996) presented it as ‘quixotic quest for the quintessential’. A distinction must be established between theoretical meaning of authenticity as applied in empirical and conceptual tourism, and literatures on events, and authenticity perceived by events consumers. This paper adopts fluid positions of authenticity that relates to experiential interpretation rather than the assigned objectives of authenticity. As Reisinger and Steiner (2005) assert that it is salient, as it allows the consumer of an experience a valid perception of what is authentic, free of the stated authenticity of experts. No event has an authenticity that is inherent, but that which is attached to it or from the consumers prior knowledge of the experience. While theorist are concerned with justifiable authenticity represented by an event or its manifestations. The explicit relevance of the event is what the consumer gets captured by.

The worth of an event is thus dependent on the consumer’s experience. This is shaped by the satisfaction of the expected outcome. The argument in this work is that taking tourism as a spare time pursuit; events should be organized such that the guests immerse themselves in it completely. Thus interpreting liberally authenticity instead of doing that critically. This underpins the distinction that exist between authenticity that is conceptual and that which is grounded. There is thus an alignment that exists between Wang’s (1997) existential authenticity and Crangs (1996) ‘reflexivity’ endorsements. There is an emergence of literatures that bother on authenticity in events context.

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Authenticity and events

Authenticity is produced by various stakeholders in event creation, event production, as well as consumption. The making, presentation, and offering of beverages and food at events, is a representation of the stakeholders and this has the ability to enhance authenticity at the event. The role played by beverages and food in events production is comprehensive, and it ranges from, conceiving the event and creating the theme around beverage and food, to enduring the inconvenience that might arise as a result of poor quality service and high cost of the beverage and food. The authenticity resulting from beverage and food service is multilayered and established in different ways. Beverage and food served at an event play a lot of roles. It is historic creation, entertainment, education and community representation. Food and beverage can go as far as developing and defining culture, ethnicity, religious identity, heritage, enhancement of the lifestyle of locals just to mention but a few. The authenticity of an event can be enhanced or minimized by beverage and food service.

The tailoring of events need to be carried out in such a manner that market segments are defined. This should be done for commercial reasons, as it tends to maximize the capacity of an event to attract customers. Selling to the characteristics of the segments manipulates the event produced authenticity. The community’s identity and the region where the event is staged, and the marketing of the image of the offered beverage and food, form a part in the manipulation of authenticity. Food and beverage services can augment authenticity by establishing identity as a derivative of the region. Authenticity can be enhanced by:

  • Associating a dish with a particular region
  • The use of local terminology
  • Associations with real or fictional personalities
  • Use of ingredients that are naturalized
  • Referencing miscellaneous events.

Conclusion

A relationship exists between beverages, food, and tourism, and the social, cultural and economic and physical impacts. The manifestation of this can be viewed in context of beverage and food offered at events. Beverage and food offered act as a peripheral service, to the experience of the tourist. Literatures have been synthesized from various fields and presented in the context of special events in this work. The Cases presented, have demonstrated that beverages and food, are expressive of a culture, region and community. It can thus be used successfully to thwart effects created by homogenization by differentiation building, for a community or destination. Differentiation gives the opportunity for original or unique product development and offer, aiding the building of authenticity of an event. Beverage and food can enhance the authenticity of an event through association. Creating an image and identity management that reaches effectively the target audience for an event tends to extend authenticity. Finally, promoting authentic beverage and food offering at events is an effective method for quality management. Consumer’s cultural capital exists in different levels, and they tend to search for cues differently as authenticity signal and connotations of the shift of authenticity over time. Considering this propensity of the customer, practitioners in the events business should take their tasks as that of managers of brands. The maintenance of brands image, and its relevance is the inherent concern of brand managers. Essentially, managers of events and beverage and food providers enhance the creation and ensure the delivery of experience that is authentic via brand management.

By deliberate creation and management of authenticity at different levels through agents of authenticity, the relevance of events can be maintained over time. These can be achieved without total reinvention. Thus, attendees will be drawn to events continually and profit maximized, through the manipulation different types and degrees of the perceptions of authenticity and experience exposures.

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