The holiday season can be very busy and stressful for those working in customer service. I should know—I worked in retail for many years throughout high school and college and had to put up with my fair share of disgruntled holiday shoppers while trying my hardest to maintain a smile on my face.
Despite those not so wonderful memories, I found that obtaining customer service skills during that time became an asset later in life, as it was a top priority when I worked behind the scenes of my first conference. In fact, I found that manning a registration desk or moderating a speaker session room wasn’t all that different from helping customers with their purchases from behind a cash register.
After a couple years working the same conferences and events, positive interactions with our staff became a common theme in attendee feedback and we believed that our great customer service was one of the many things that separated us from the competition. If you’re headed to work your first conference, meeting or trade show, or are training staff for an upcoming event, here are some key things to keep in mind in order to deliver the best customer service for your attendees.
Be present and available
It goes beyond having someone man the registration desk at all times. Make sure staff all are clearly represented through clearly labeled badges or name tags. During high traffic periods, like in between speaker sessions, have staff line the hallways or stand in designated areas with signs. That way attendees always know when and where to find you to get any questions or concerns addressed.
Educate yourself and your staff
From memorizing event schedules and floor maps, to knowing the wifi password and even what direction the bathrooms are, take the time to educate yourself and the staff on all important event details prior to the event itself. Having a knowledgeable staff that can answer frequently asked questions at a moment’s notice will create a better attendee experience.
Offer more technology, but also more help
Technology can certainly enhance the efficiency of an event, but if attendees don’t know how to use it they won’t be reaping the benefits. For example, event mobile apps are not only trending, they are also becoming essential to attendee experience, i.e. creating event agendas, finding important information, networking and more. Even if you have the best mobile app on the market, many attendees will have questions and may require some guidance. Make sure to train your entire staff on how to use the app and/or designate one person to man a technology assistance table in a clear location, like near the registration desk.
Don’t hide from conflict
Attendees at your conference or event are just like customers that have made a purchase from a store. If they’re not happy with the product, or in this case their event experience, they’re going to let you know, or worse—vent their feelings on social media. Listen to these attendees calmly, be transparent about the situation and work together with fellow staff to come up with a solution immediately. When something goes wrong, it may seem like the end of the world, but see it as a time to showcase your event’s professionalism. That can make all the difference in getting those agitated or angry attendees to return to the event in the future, despite something going wrong.
Receive and share feedback
If you’re not already, make sure customer service and/or staff interactions is a part of your attendee surveys. Making little changes based on constructive criticism can ensure an even better event in years to come. Also, take positive feedback and share them with staff and important event stakeholders. It’s always nice to learn that going the extra mile actually makes a difference.
Smile and be friendly
Obvious, I know, but always a good reminder and perhaps the most important tip. If many of your attendees are traveling long distances and are coming for business related reasons, events can be stressful. Whether it’s a delayed flight or the beginnings of a busy conference day, a simple, friendly greeting from a staff member can make their day just a bit better.
Bottom line, there are so many things to keep in mind when organizing an event that customer service can sometimes be left on the back burner. In my experience, making it a priority can make your event memorable, as well as a differentiator. Having been both the customer and the staff member, I can tell you that the moments that stand out from these events are either the really negative ones or the extremely positive ones. By providing excellent customer service, you ensure that attendees remember the latter, and that they continue to choose to attend your event over others year after year.
Written by: Lauren Williams