Any event organizer who’s been in the business for more than a hot minute has undoubtedly faced unhappy attendees. The reasons for (and severity of) dissatisfaction can range, from conference-goers upset about a change of format, to festival-goers peeved over—well, in the case of the Fyre Festival implosion, everything.
What’s more, today’s events are growing in terms of scope, attendance and technological sophistication. As a result, planners face higher levels of production complexity, and therefore increased opportunities for drawing the ire of their audiences. Come on, even Gwyneth Paltrow had egg on her well-moisturized face when a function she hosted earlier this summer failed to deliver. The struggle is real.
There’s no doubt about it: In the world of event planning, the attendee is the customer. In fact, more than 91 percent of event managers measure the success of their events by attendee satisfaction. Savvy planners know that owning a documented strategy for addressing concerns is key to running successful events, and the most seasoned pros actively alleviate issues before they escalate.
Here’s a thought: Why not borrow a best practice of modern customer service teams and create internal tenets for how your attendees should be treated? If you need help getting started, here are three core service values the Success Team at Attendify puts into practice daily to make sure our clients feel valued and heard.
Value #1: We listen, we care
What customer success experts say: According to customer experience (CX) gurus, every customer interaction is meaningful because it’s an opportunity to build a long-lasting relationship between the individual and the brand. Fruitful customer conversations are driven by the ability of service team members to actively listen to challenges and come up with meaningful solutions.
How this applies to the attendee experience: In order to represent a brand, cause or idea well, event planners must listen to attendees and understand what they want/need to successfully navigate an event. Whether it’s the desire for specific session content, better venue wifi, engaging event technology or even special dietary considerations, attendee input is invaluable.
Tools and tips: Gathering and analyzing attendee feedback can be overwhelming; luckily a number of innovative event tech tools are making it easier. Pre- and post-event survey solutions are built to capture a wealth of insights. Event apps with real-time polling capabilities allow you to gather opinions in the moment, and those with machine-learning-based sentiment analysis tools can help you suss out how attendees are feeling from their in-app comments. Mainstream social media channels are another important source of information.
Value #2: We make it easy
What customer success experts say: “Want a powerful customer experience?” asks customer experience futurist Blake Morgan in Forbes. “Simply ask yourself how you can make life easier for your customers.” While there are more customer contact channels out there than ever before, Morgan stresses the value of simplicity: “The less effort it takes for consumers to accomplish their goal when they contact you,” she says, “the more loyal they become.”
How this applies to the attendee experience: While face-to-face interactions are at the crux of the events industry, organizers are increasingly leveraging technology to increase productivity and optimize interactions. Therefore, it’s critical to give serious consideration to the integration of both online and offline tools, and make sure attendees are receiving clear, concise and consistent messaging throughout their event journey. For instance, if they have a question or complaint, they should be able to receive the same quality of support via any channel you have in play, be it phone, email, your event app or social media feeds. Even better? Having a truly omni-channel experience empowers attendees to easily move their communications between different channels without explaining themselves all over again.
Tools and tips: In order to sync your event team and prevent communication silos that negatively affect the attendee experience, consider:
- Mapping out your event tech stack. Diagram all the apps and platforms you use throughout the event journey. Are they optimized to seamlessly integrate? How does the data flow and where is it stored? Who “owns” the various solutions?
- Hosting in-depth training for all event staff. Make sure anyone interacting with attendees (online or offline) stays on brand and provides consistent messaging by doing a “dry run” of their responsibilities well in advance of the event. While not every team member has to be an expert on every facet of the event, they all should have a good grasp of the FAQs and know how to use the systems available to your guests.
- Embracing event tech with syncing power. When choosing an event tech provider, give serious consideration to one that offers a seamless sync between their registration system, event app and backend data platform.
Value #3: We know time is of the essence
What customer success experts say: CX pros know that timeliness is often at the heart of customer frustrations. Waiting on hold in a phone queue can mean the difference between account renewal and churn; a consumer’s inability to find the answers they want quickly online could very well end their desire to buy. In fact, a Forrester study showed that “73% say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good online customer service.”
How this applies to the attendee experience: On average, attendees spend more than $1500 to attend an event. They’re losing time at work and with their families to come to your function. Not to mention, the event can become hectic and confusing when they’re getting registered, navigating a large venue and networking with new colleagues is involved. You owe it to your guests to respond to feedback quickly and competently. It’s not just polite—your brand reputation and event ROI may depend on it.
Tools and tips:
- Don’t be late…automate! There are a host of tools that can help you automate simple event messaging, such as registration confirmations and session reminders. And automating rote communications leaves you with more time to handle bigger attendee issues.
- There’s an app for that. The most comprehensive event apps come with built-in private social networks, where attendees can reach out to event organizers or other attendees for help and get answers in a matter of minutes. Many apps also have built-in FAQ sections and help centers where folks can go for a quick fix. Finally, event organizers often rave about in-app push notifications, which they use to send out schedule updates, remind attendees of breaks and start times or proactively deal with other concerns.
- Be honest and manage expectations. It’s easy to avoid dealing with a complaint by telling an attendee “I’ll get right back to you,” and then moving on to more pleasant matters. But doing so is just delaying—and potentially exacerbating—the problem. If you don’t immediately have a solution to the attendee’s issue, be honest about it. Then tell them what your next steps will be to get them the help they need, as well as how and when they can expect to hear back from you.