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Customer service – time for a reboot?

Stephanie Selesnick says the current Covid-19 crisis provides the perfect opportunity to rethink how you offer customer service.

When was the last time you experienced outstanding customer service? The kind that made you stop and say, ‘WOW, that was amazing!’

You couldn’t wait to share with friends, family, colleagues, and even strangers how wonderful the experience was. You gave glowing reviews and ‘5 out of 5’ scores everywhere you could possibly post.

Now think about the opposite type of customer experience. The kind where you’re on interminable hold (with bad music or droning ads), voicemail hell and after about an hour get a company representative on the line who has a poor attitude, provides no information, and won’t help work out a solution to your problem. Said representative insists it’s your fault, you signed a contract (or bought an item or service), and that it is ‘company policy’. Being undervalued is upsetting.

Unfortunately, exceptional customer service experience is an area the exhibition business is lacking. In fact, according to the latest UFI/Explori Exhibitor Insights study, exhibitors give us a -17 NPS Score – equal to banks!

Once sold, the only subsequent contact many exhibitors have with show management is receiving generic emails containing sponsorship sales materials and show rules with links to the exhibitor manual. Some other examples of bad customer service include:

• Charging exhibitors for an extra worker badge over the allotment with no exceptions.

• Your financial team being intractable, rather than flexible, towards small business owners who may require a little flexibility with the payment schedule (not prices!).

• The international attendee looking for recommendations on restaurants or shopping in your show’s city being told to look at an ‘international visitor page’ that consists solely of visa support letter information.

Current exhibition postponements and cancellations present unique opportunities to reboot your customer service. Why not throw out the ‘rules and regulations book’ and tangibly improve the ways your team interacts with paying clients?

Here are some suggestions for amazing customer service:

1. Emphasise within your organisation that the exhibitors and visitors are not the enemy. An ‘us versus them’ attitude is not helpful. Your clients are the people who allow you to put a roof over your family’s heads, provide food on the table as well as have fabulous holidays! Treat clients with respect and gratitude.

2. Focus on helping your customer service team move from providing transactional answers to a relationship-based consultative approach. With new exhibitors, encourage your representatives to make appointments, pick up the phone and call to review the exhibitor manual.

a. Remember it costs a lot more to bring in a new client than retain an old one.

b. Small and medium sized companies are where your show’s growth will come from.

c. Phones these days may be used for more than texting, email and social media posting. They may also be used to speaking to another person. Strange, but true.

3. End communications with clients with a genuine ‘Thank you for your business’, or ‘We appreciate your business’. Seems simple enough – but when was the last time anyone in your organization did so?

Take the time now to figure out how your organisation may surprise and delight clients more, and let transactional rule enforcement take a back seat. Bring the ‘service’ back to customer service.