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A happy customer (attendee) is often a returning customer (repeat attendee). This post looks at how to create the WOW factor in event customer service. Ensure your event is memorable for all the right reasons and to keep your guests happy, loyal and most importantly coming back to your events!
Great First Impressions
You only have one chance to make a first impression. A customer’s first interaction with your company could be via one of many different mediums - through an email newsletter, on social media, over the phone or face to face. Ensure that your brand voice and company ethos shine through all of these communication channels and that every interaction is a positive one.
Think about what is important to you. What do you want people to feel or think or say following your event? Plan for this from the very first touch point.
The Customer Journey
Anticipate your attendees every need and ensure they have a positive experience from start to finish. It is often the simplest things that build lasting customer relationships for the long term. Don’t forget you are part of the hospitality industry and the care and attention that should naturally entail!
Your relationship with an event attendee may begin many months before the event - when they first make their online booking to attend. Ensure you stay in contact after the booking confirmation and provide all of the information they will need in a timely manner. For example directions, maps, public transport, parking information, taxi numbers, anticipated journey times, local hotels, where to go when you arrive at the venue, room names, etc are fairly standard items attendees will need to make the necessary arrangements to get to the event and feel at ease. Make it easy for people and minimise their stress levels by anticipating their frequently asked questions in advance.
When guests arrive reassure them they are in the right place by providing plenty of signage and if possible human “meeters and greeters” pointing them to registration desks.
Throughout the event ensure that the event host or chairperson is well briefed to provide information at the right times to keep attendees informed throughout the course of the day.
If delegates arrive late minimise their discomfort by discreetly finding them a seat at the back of the room rather than making them do a ‘walk of shame’ to find a seat at the front of the room.
In the middle of a busy event this isn’t easy but when you are talking to a guest, stop everything and ensure they have your full attention for that moment. Ask questions, take a real interest in the individual. Make sure they know they are valued. After all, without attendees there would be no event!
We take detail very seriously. If a delegate has advised us of their special dietary/access/disability request in advance we make arrangements with the venue and caterer to ensure these needs can be met and confirm back to the attendee exactly what these arrangements are.
Everyone attending your events should of course be valued but consider paying extra special attention to VIPs, speakers, performers and media. Circulate photos to help recognise key faces and ensure dedicated staff are there to greet them at the entrance, hand them their badge and event folder and efficiently bring them to the correct location (or at least provide a special fast check in point for them). Provide colour coded badges or special lanyards or passes so they are easily identifiable to all staff across the event.
Be constantly aware on site and try to pre-empt problems before they become an issue. For example if people’s body language suggest that they are too hot or cold, adjust the room temperature accordingly. If someone looks unhappy don’t ignore it, approach them, find out what is wrong and try to take immediate action to remedy the issue.
During breaks do you spot someone standing alone, rather than networking and joining in conversations? Strike up a conversation with them and/or look to see who you can introduce them to nearby to ensure they have a positive event experience rather than shrinking on the side-lines.
Don’t Keep People Waiting
I loathe waiting and so do your guests! Queues at the registration desk, catering stations and cloakroom can encourage feelings of frustration and unease. Plan to minimise waiting time as this is wasted time that attendees are not networking, engaging and enjoying your event experience.
Also don’t forget that even during the event people may communicate with you via social media and (as highlighted in the Social Media for Events eBook) they expect a fast response, even 30 minutes or an hour could be considered too long so make sure you plan for this.
Service with a Smile
I am a big believer in service with a smile. Open body language, good manners, tone, word choice; these are all little touches that cost nothing but can make all the difference to the event experience. Staff with people skills are a must as having a natural intuition and empathy is priceless.
Make sure your staff are easily identifiable so people know where to get help or ask questions. Staff badges or uniforms with “Happy to help” are warm touches too.
Do Something Differently
Analyse your competitors events aimed at similar audience profiles. What do they get wrong/do badly? Ensure you excel in these areas (and of course more besides!).
Things don’t have to be done the same, innovate and make sure your events take a different and unique approach which people will remember and want to share with others.
You want the event to be remembered and talked about for all the right reasons and a good way to do this is to provide an unusual talking point. What matters to your audience? What will wow them? What will they not have seen/experienced before?
Your team should be well trained to your exact standards of working and encouraged to bring their personality to their role – you don’t want robots! Staff need to have the 6 ‘P’s – be Passionate, Personal, Proactive, Productive, Professional and Punctual.
Try to remember details about your regular attendees from one event or point of contact to the next so you can strike up a conversation and they know they are valued. Read name badges and use attendees names when you can too to make it more personal.
If someone needs direction and you can spare the time escort them to the location they require rather than just pointing them in the right direction. This is a great time to find out more about what they are getting from the event and anything that could be improved.
The biggest reason people stop doing business with you or returning to your events is customer service, so it is vital that you get this right. It takes 12 positive service experiences to make up for one bad one and 91% of unhappy customers will never willingly return.
Always strive to surpass expectations or to “go beyond delight” to really wow your customers.
Do everything in your power to reduce the effort the attendee has to make. If customer needs to do something to resolve an issue try to do it for them. This could be calling them a taxi, sending a runner back to check a room where someone thinks they may have left something, or updating someone’s booking details for them over the phone rather than making them log back into the online booking system to update it themselves.
Great Last Impressions
Don’t relax for one second until every delegate has left the building. You may have been on your feet for ten plus hours but your farewell to the last guest should be as warm and your smile as bright as it was to the first arrival that morning.
If budget allows and you can go beyond this by handing out a gift or souvenir as people leave this helps the warm fuzzy feeling continue on the guests onward journey – everyone loves a well thought out freebie! For example if it is raining outside having a branded umbrella for guests to take as they leave the venue is a lovely touch.
Leave a Lasting Impression
It is 14 times easier to sell to an existing happy client than it is to secure a new customer so you must do everything in your power to keep your guests coming back.
Happy customers can also become event ambassadors with a 48% chance that they will spread positive word of mouth and help to market your event and drive new registrations.
The most successful events are when there is some behaviour change as a direct result of the event. The attendee may be determined to do something differently and inspired to connect further with new connections made at the event. The attendee should feel that they made a positive contribution to the event and perhaps even feel some kind of ownership or that they “made their mark.”
Don’t forget to follow up after the event. Send personalised messages after the event e.g. “Thank you for attending” or “we are sorry you didn’t make the event.” Share content from the event and prolong the excitement and experience. Keep your promises and provide all the presentations, video, pictures, reports, etc promptly.
Ride on the wave of the event and offer attendees a super early bird discount for next year. There are lots more tips in this post: 20 Attendee Retention Tactics to Keep Them Coming Back.
In researching and writing this post one thing that struck me is how important the little touches and small details are to the overall event experience. Hopefully as an Event Manager attention to detail will be your forte and so you have the best chance of delivering a flawless experience to WOW your customers!
This post focuses on the customer in terms of an attendee at one of your events and how to impress them for the right reasons. However never forget that an attendee at your event today could become a client of the future.
If you follow these ideas and think carefully about your customer service, hopefully customer dissatisfaction and complaints will be minimal. In a future post we will also look specifically at techniques for how to deal with customer complaints at your events.
Special thanks to members of the Event Planning and Event Management LinkedIn Community who shared their valuable insights for this post.
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