Customer service can make or break a show, warns Media 10 event director Nathan Garnett.
The UK delivers some of the best events in the world – no question.
We are widely recognised as market leaders in producing event content; we spend more time, money and resources on it than anywhere else in the world.
This is a direct result of an incredibly competitive, vibrant and rich event landscape in the UK. It is not unusual to find three or four events competing in a small marketplace, all vying for the same visitors. Competitiveness provides our target visitors with a rich choice of events that deliver real value to them, whether it’s a day out at the Ideal Home Show or a day spent by an architect at 100% Design. They are both Media 10 exhibitions, but this applies to all of the industry’s market leading events, whether consumer or B2B.
Our visitors in the UK are undoubtedly getting fantastic experiences and rich content from our events; but are our exhibitors, our lifeblood, receiving this same level of service? Do they pack up after an exhibition and feel satisfied? If they have had a barnstorming show, then yes, hopefully they will. However, as every organiser in the industry will know, this is not always guaranteed.
As organisers, we can create the most sophisticated and effective marketing campaigns, deliver 20 per cent more visitors, get their dwell time up and entice consumers to buy, but if your exhibitor has a rough and bumpy road getting there, it can jeopardise how they feel about it all.
The entire industry, from Media 10 as an organiser to our main shell scheme provider, from AV suppliers to stand contractors, from electrical contractor to venue services, all aim to achieve excellence in our customer service, and on the whole, we do deliver to a high standard. But spare a thought for our exhibitors and how hard it actually is to exhibit.
Once you’ve signed for your stand, the bombardment begins. For the average exhibitor, the marketing contact who committed to doing the show is confronted with risk assessments, electrical power requirements, forms galore, spam emails, chasing emails, pleas for marketing and sales calls. Spare a thought for the person who put their faith in your event!
As an industry, we must make this process smoother or we will lose those people who support and believe in us. Even when the event delivers fantastic results, we risk losing their faith as they recall the hardship of just getting to the show.
Once they are there, friendly, happy contractors and helpful people can put our industry into the premier league of customer service. It’s the part of the cycle we all love, going on-site and dealing with everyone face-to-face.
But one misplaced comment from a tired chippy or a negative answer from a traffic steward can change all that, and undo months of relationship building. Somehow, even when you’ve had a terrible day, been shouted at or just not had things go your way on a build-up, you need to put on that brave customer service face and greet the next exhibitor just as you would expect to be treated if you were a client.
There’s so much we can learn from retail in this respect – another industry we lead the world in. Loyalty is built once the customer feels truly welcomed and valued. I’ve always admired John Lewis for this, for their knowledgeable and friendly staff who seem happy to help.
It means you don’t mind asking what you might feel are stupid questions, because they will answer you politely and concisely. We need to maintain this standard from the moment our clients sign their contract to the moment they drive away from the venue.
We must look at every step along the way for our valued exhibitors, making the whole process an enjoyable one. Exhibition workshops are a great tool, as are webinars and courtesy phone calls and emails.
A simple email or call to ask, ‘How are your plans coming along?’; ‘Are you worried about anything?’; ‘Is there anything I can help you with?’ can go a long way. It’s free, and immensely appreciated by our clients.
We know it works. We have implemented this for UK Construction Week, in which we had more than 100 companies who committed to a large show for the first time in years, as well as hundreds who did four or more shows last autumn.
Both groups have a critically important need for our help, although for different reasons. It’s no surprise that retention considerably increases when we engage and are accessible in this way.
I think we just need to get the basics right, go the extra mile and allow our exhibitors the space and freedom to lean on us more. I know we might not be able to make it easy, but we should be able to make it enjoyable, surely?
It is for us, otherwise we wouldn’t be doing it.