What role does Customer Experience play in exhibitions? A hot topic within the industry, the SEC wanted to get the view from industry experts.

In this Clan of Experts blog the SEC spoke with Greg Cherry (Managing Director of QD Events) and Mark Saunders (Director of Springboard Events) to tap into their knowledge of running both trade and consumer events, to get their thoughts on the matter.‚Äč 

Customer Experience is Intrinsic

Our Experts both agree that every event starts – and ends – with customer experience. A key point raised by Greg is the need to look at each customer individually to understand how best to deliver a positive experience for each. Greg commented, “exhibitors and visitors will have very different needs and it is critical to satisfy each as the experience of both groups can define a good or bad event”. Greg went on explain that the experience of both go in tandem with one another, for example if visitors are dissatisfied with the event it will impact on exhibitors.

Mark backed up this view and adds that Springboard’s customer experience is engrained into every single aspect of their shows. Mark emphasised the need to establish exactly who your customers are and then continually engage them pre, during and post event. For both exhibitors and visitors Mark said, “you have to help them make the decision to attend and maximise the return of their attendance at the event”. Mark further explained that both experiences are linked and suggested, “organisers need to offer a good experience to the attract the right audience and in turn build a visitor base that an exhibitor can benefit from”.

How do they get it right?

Our experts agree that research is crucial in understanding and evaluating the customer experience, however, both take a different approach in doing so.

Mark, who predominately runs trade shows, works with a core informal visitor group of around fifty people, whom he communicates with on an ad-hoc basis to gain general updates about their industries and identify aspects which will impact on show content. Mark explained, “this knowledge and understanding helps drive the content of the show and allows us to create an event which appeals to a visitor base”. In creating an event which appeals to the audience, it is the core to creating a beneficial experience for the visitor.

From a consumer show perspective, Greg implements structured focus groups after each event to gauge market insight, assess the visitor experience and to also understand why people came to the show. Greg further explained QD Events share these results with exhibitors and commented, “we like to keep as transparent a relationship as possible with exhibitors so that they can guide what we’re doing with the shows”. This engagement with both sets of groups is extremely valuable and is a conduit to driving a positive experience for all. 

The future of Customer Experience

As technology continues to push boundaries and impact nearly everything in our day to lives, we asked each experts view about the future of customer experience - do they think technology will change things?

Greg had a positive view on this and believes that learnings can be taken from different industries: “I really think we can learn from the airline and hotel industries. You can see how technology is working in their favour in terms of customer experience – in some hotels you don’t even need a room key anymore, you can just get in using your phone. It’s little things like that that can go a long way.”

Mark agrees technology can have a positive impact but feels that there is something to be said for the face-to-face aspect of customer engagement. “Technology is truly amazing, and I think we are only scratching the surface of what we can do with it in the events industry,” he says. “However, nothing can replace the value of face-to-face communication. Ultimately, when technology goes wrong, it’s only that personal touch that can fix the problem, so it should never be an afterthought.” 

Final Thoughts

A great customer experience can be summed up when when someone has a simple, effective and seamless time at an event and achieves what they want and more, whereby the organisers have exceeded expectations for both audiences.

From our experts we can see that customer experience is vital to both our trade and consumer experts and it plays a key part in every aspect of their show.  Understanding the audience and market, ensuring it is engrained in your strategy and always looking at areas of improvement are three key aspects to driving customer satisfaction.

We’d like to thank our experts for their help in discussing customer experience with us.  Our next Clan of Experts blog will feature two more experts, touching on the importance of regional marketing.  

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