Sarah Halfpenny Events

Is a great event built on exceptional customer service?

by Sarah Halfpenny

Events that offer exceptional customer service are thriving. In a crowded and competitive live events market it’s more important than ever to ensure each delegate’s needs are not only met, but also exceeded. By focusing on providing a great event customer experience, you will be building an audience who will become advocates of your brand and become loyal members of your community.

The reason why I thought I would write about customer service in the events industry, is that unfortunately in recent weeks, I have had a couple of experiences whereby my satisfaction and enjoyment of an event has been tainted by receiving poor customer service. The events looked great, the content was relevant and engaging. The networking opportunities were good and the food was delicious, but ultimately I still came away feeling like I was not valued, important, appreciated I suppose. This saddened me as actually a good event should be built upon receiving good customer service. This should be the one thing that is always present, the one thing that all events can provide and at no particular additional costs.

To avoid disappointed event guests, it’s so important to anticipate their needs. For most events this boils down to providing clear pre event information. The where they need to go, key timings, what they need to bring, how they participate etc. I have written before about the benefits of producing delegate joining instructions. This document is a great tool to adopt, as it outlines these key pieces of information and will assist the delegate to plan their time with you before they arrive.

Today, I wanted to go beyond the joining instructions document and delve into others areas that can be considered to ensure the on-site customer experience is first class.

1) Supplier briefing
Some may wonder why this is included. Suppliers are often associated with an event build and do not have direct contact with event delegates. From experience though, I believe a great customer service experience should start with the suppliers. By spending time with all suppliers at the start, explaining the event objectives, the audience and programme, they become a part of the event who work towards delivering on those event objectives. It is also worth introducing suppliers to each other if they are dependent upon one another or influence the service they provide. In addition, I always send supplier joining instructions, again an opportunity to communicate the event brief, the programme, key timings, access etc.

2) Event staff briefing
Well briefed event staff can make or break an event. From a delegate’s perspective, they want to arrive at the venue and be guided to where they need to go. They want to be greeted with a smile and feel welcomed and valued. They need to know where to leave their coats, their bags, where they can get a coffee. For this to be the case, you need event staff to know every detail of the event both from the logistical perspective but also the programme. You need your staff to understand the event objectives, what’s at stake and their role in achieving those objectives. You need their buy-in, their commitment, their cooperation and their enthusiasm to deliver a first class event.

A staff briefing on-site is a great way to reaffirm these messages and how important they are to the success of the event. A venue tour, run through of the final programme, schedule and roles and responsibilities is a great way to ensure your on-site team are positive and proactive.

3) Signage, signage, signage….
Can’t locate the event room? This is often a frustration of many delegates resulting in late arrivals to seminar room and disruption to the presentations. This can easily be avoided if three things are in place.
1) Good directional signage
2) A clear onsite map
3) Fully briefed event staff on the ground to act as human signage

4) The first 7 seconds!
Providing a warm welcome upon arrival to all delegates is crucial. A positive welcome with eye contact is the best way to welcome anyone into your event. If there is a quee forming then don’t rush through these meet and greets as your attendee won’t feel valued. Spend time with each delegate, provide them with the information they need and then calmly greet the next delegate. People won’t moan about a quee if when they get to you they receive great customer service.

5) Always have a help point

Another thing I have noted recently is that often the registration area is packed away once delegate registration has finished. The problem with this is that you have then removed the only point of contact they know. If there are any issues it is much better to have someone on hand to help than a lost delegate becoming frustrated because they cannot ask the question they need answering.

So is a great event built on exceptional customer service? Yes, I think it is. Regardless of the event budget, format, style, event venue, catering provision or programme. You will often be remembered for the help you offered, the clarity of information you gave, your patience, understanding and above all positive can do attitude.