4 Epic Event Customer Service Fails (and How You Can Learn from Them!)

Customer service is key in any industry, but in events it can make or break your reputation. Here are 4 fails from the world of events and what all event planners can learn from them.

When something goes wrong at an event, the way that you handle it with your customers will ultimately impact the view your attendees have of the entire experience. Good or bad, event customer service will be discussed among your participants and potential future attendees. Looking at these examples of what not to do can help us to learn more about the industry, the service we deliver and how we should treat our guests.

4 Epic Event Customer Service Fails (and How You Can Learn from Them!)

Be Prepared To Provide the Service People Expect…and Deal with it If it Goes Wrong

When your guests arrive at your event they bring along with them a certain level of expectation. From the customer service you provide to the all encompassing event experience, your guests are looking to get their money’s worth and you must to be sure to deliver.

Depending on your event, this might mean ensuring you have educational programs, interactive sessions or some type of event entertainment. It also means that you can provide the safety, security and proper crowd control.  

In 2015, TomorrowWorld a large scale music festival, was held outside of the city of Atlanta, Georgia. Due to some weather related challenges and vendor miscommunication they were left with massive transportation and safety issues.

This series of errors left many attendees stranded miles away from their homes and hotels. Many people ended up walking for miles to find transportation and others were forced to sleep on the ground in the rain. Unfortunately this lead the festival issuing refunds along with an apology statement, and it also led to many very unhappy customers.

Communication is key when it comes to all events, but especially when unexpected situations arise. If the festival had implemented a better system for keeping their staff and attendees informed, they would have been able to provide better solutions for the guests and avoided some of the chaos. This example can show all of us that consistent and constant communication should play a large role in all of your events.  


Take on Board Feedback and Constructive Criticism

When you find customers who are willing to give you feedback you should welcome this with open arms. Sometimes it might not be what you want to hear in the moment, but constructive criticism or negative feedback can be a wonderful tool that helps you to grow your business and improve your offering.

The worst thing you can do is to prevent people from providing feedback, or try to charge them for such criticism. The following examples from both New York, NY and Blackpool, UK provide great examples of what not to do when it comes to dealing with customer complaints.

Not everyone will always be happy with their experience, but everyone is entitled to their opinion. Never block this or it will spiral out of control. Always respond in a productive and positive manner, respond as promptly as you can and look critically at these areas to move on towards improving your events.

Personally, I’ve seen everything from small ideas to big event changes that have been implemented because of negative feedback. For example, I recently had an attendee who received a parking ticket at the event I was conducting because he failed to see the event signage. While this was unfortunate, there wasn’t much we could do for him in the moment. However, this did lead us to analyze the parking situation and we now have plans to implement additional signage and pre-event parking reminders.

Make Sure Your Technology is in Working Order and Have a Plan B

Every eventprof has had their fair share of battles with technology during their events. One thing you must be sure to do in your planning process is to test, test, and test again. The worst thing that can happen is when you tech goes down in front of your biggest audience. This can really cut into your ability to provide proper customer service. For example if your email or social channels fail, you may be missing out on the opportunity to connect and respond to your attendees. Poor technology can also limit or hinder certain aspects of the event that you plan to provide.

If you plan to have a live streaming or interactive session online, the last thing you need is your internet or website crashing. In 2014 the Academy Awards planned to have a live stream available during the awards show, but when the whole world was watching their stream suffered a nationwide outage. This left many viewers unhappy and unable to watch the awards.

This not only posed issues for the people trying to view the broadcast of the event, but also caused many issues for the network as they lost out on the opportunity to show advertising and many viewers ended up watching the live stream on a competing service. Unfortunately, the Oscars has continued to have issues year after year and has gained a reputation for their less than stellar live streaming capabilities.

When you decide to provide a service like this, you must also be sure to invest in the additional testing to be sure it will work as planned and have a backup plan. Take the time to practice and rehearse for how the event will play out. Unexpected challenges will always arise, but you should be sure your technology and your tech team can handle difficulties quickly and efficiently.

Don’t Forget Social Media Channels

Customer service today means much more than answering questions on site or sending out a post event survey. Most every event has to manage multiple inquiries and comments from a variety of different platforms, often times coming in during all hours of the day and during your busy event.

Twitter has really become a very popular option for sending in customer services complaints, comments and questions, and to be honest seems to get some of the most prompt responses. When the entire world can see the comments that are being broadcast about your event you should do your best to respond and to do so quickly.

The biggest mistake you can make is creating these social media channels for your event or business, but not implementing a plan to manage and respond properly to comments or questions. In this example below you will see a screenshot from a Twitter inquiry that was never even acknowledged by the event, let alone answered. This was a 2 week festival with a big budget and a super active live Twitter feed (not pre-scheduled content). Despite this they couldn’t respond to a simple question and this left a bad impression. This is a big customer service fail and one that everyone has the ability to see you making. Be sure you are always putting your best face forward both on and offline when it comes to customer service!


In Conclusion

Customer service should be something you take pride in during your events. Take the time to commit yourself and your team to properly preparing for the types of services issues you might encounter during your event. Always think of the worst and do your best to have multiple backup plans in place, not only for event logistics, but also for serving your customers and ensuring their safety and happiness.

By making your customers a priority it will give you a much better chance of developing loyal attendees and improve the message that is spread about your event and your business. Everyone will remember how your event made them feel and the customer service you provide is the key in making this connection with your guests. By investing in this area of your event you will leave your customers happy and prevent yourself from ending up on any future failure lists!


About The Author
Kelli White
Kelli White has 10 years experience in event management, creative marketing, volunteer coordination and non-profit fundraising. You can follow her at @kellimwhite.
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Julius Solaris
Editor, Julius Solaris

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