Cori Day, vice president of sales and services for Visit KC, understands the complex role that event service professionals play. Whether it’s an event, a venue or a destination, she is selling an experience—and everything revolves around customer service because you haven’t done a good job until they say you have. “Customer service has to be the number one priority of everything we do,” said Day, who has nearly 23 years of experience. This recognition and passion for service are what earned her the 2019 Executive Excellence award, which was presented at the Event Service Professionals Association’s recent annual conference. While in college studying to be a teacher, Day took a front desk job at a local hotel. She quickly rose through the ranks and transitioned to the CVB sector, joining the Columbia, Missouri, CVB. When she joined the organization, Day quickly learned how essential service professionals are to how clients experience a destination. The service professional also has the role of hospitality ambassador for the event location. The service and professionalism leave a lasting impression on the client and their guests. If they have a great event, they will view the destination favorably and possibly want to rebook or return for leisure travel in the future. She believed in the necessity of the service professional so much so that when she joined the Visit Independence CVB and they didn’t have a service professional, she quickly remedied the void by creating a convention services position. After leaving her mark as director at Independence, Day joined Visit KC three years ago. Visit KC was the first place where Day experienced working with an entire team of event service professionals. Once the salesperson completes the sale, it is not lost on Day that the service person serves that client until the event ends. “They’re the ones answering questions and making the client comfortable. They are often the faces of Visit KC,” said Day, who oversees a service and sales team of 20.In addition to generating revenue for their property or city, a service professional contributes to tourism revenues. Meetings generated $325 billion of direct spending and $845 billion in business sales in the United States in 2016, according to data from the Meetings Mean Business coalition. This means the meetings and events industry contributes $104 billion of federal, state and local taxes and $446 billion to the GDP for a total tax impact of $879 per U.S. household. In Kansas City, there was a $246 million economic impact from 334,083 attendees staying 325,874 room nights throughout 2016. “Service professionals are so important to everyone in their local business community,” said Day. “They have their finger on the pulse of the city. Our restaurants and attractions know our service team. The business owners know we are promoting them.” From a leadership perspective, Day constantly focuses on the services team. “It is very, very easy to let services be overshadowed. I am constantly talking to our director of services about the team members doing a better job of selling themselves,” said Day. “They have to do a better job of telling people what they do and why they do it. The beauty of a services person is they don’t seek recognition and that is why they are good at what they do because it’s all about the client. It’s my job to make sure these people are celebrated.” To achieve hand-in-hand sales and services, Day intentionally brought the two separate teams together, both in theory and location. “Sales and service have to co-exist,” said Day. “They cannot survive by themselves; they need each other. We now sit side-by-side on the third floor. You have to be intentional about recognizing the importance of what the services team does, that it all comes down to customer service.” The entire sales and service team meets once a month. “We also bring the services professionals in on the front end of the sales cycle,” said Day. “When that initial site visit happens, the client meets the person who will be their service manager. It’s very important for clients to know that they are going to be taken care of.” When event surveys come back, Day knows it’s the services professionals that clients are thinking about. “The services team has heart,” said Day. “You either love it or you don’t. It’s a very thankless, selfless job at times. That’s what makes them special—the love they have for it.” The service professionals are the hidden sales teams for their properties. “They are the ones who not only make sure this event goes well, they are the ones rebooking for the next time,” she said. ESPA membership and professional development are integral parts of being on Day’s team. “ESPA focuses on the services industry and it does a very good job of taking care of members,” said Day. “They know taking this time away from the office is very difficult because the job is so huge, so they make it worth it. We send almost our entire team every year because professional development is so important. The new leadership track that was offered at the conference this year was fantastic. It was an amazing addition.” _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ About ESPA: With more than 500 members, the Event Service Professionals Association is dedicated to elevating the event and convention services profession and to preparing members, through education and networking, for their pivotal role in innovative and successful event execution. For more information, visit espaonline.org. About the Author: Lynn McCullough is Event Service Professionals Association executive director.