Let me ask you a question. Do you know what your event customer journey (from interested party to satisfied delegate) is really like? In other words what’s it like being on the receiving end of your attempts to ‘sign them up’ and then give them a great event experience?
I was listening to a marketer speak about customer touch points the other day, which got me thinking about the world of events and in particular what are the customer touch points at an event. In other words where does the customer (delegate, guest, and participant) come into contact and interact with event organisers.
As businesses we are always taught about the importance of being ‘customer centric’ and in our case: let’s call it ‘audience centric’. Interestingly, when I was doing my research for this article I found very little related information on the web. I am assuming that’s not because event professionals don’t care about such things, it’s just nobody has written about it from an events perspective. The following are therefore my thoughts on what the audience ‘touch points’ are during the process of planning, promoting and delivering events.
12 customer touch points you need to get right
So why should event planners care about such things? Well if you know where audiences (actual and potential) are coming into contact with your attempts to plan, promote and deliver events, then you will be better placed to ensure the ‘audience journey’ from interested party to fully satisfied event attendee: ready to give us a great 5* review…will always be a good one.
I am going to assume you have completed your pre-event market research and designed an event with a clear focus and even clearer target audience in mind. You and your event team will now of cause be busying themselves planning the event. It is however not really until you start to promote an event do your potential customers interact with your attempts to woo them!
So here is my attempt to order the process for which I do accept that some things will clearly need to run in tandem with each other. This might be foolhardy but, as is often said, somebody needs to start the discussion: others can then come along, refine it and offer their version of things.
- Email marketing
The business of enthusiastically and regularly promoting an event to your list.
The process needs to be targeted with content written specifically for that audience, have great subject headlines, be timely, have working links, calls to action and an unsubscribe button. It is generally our most used promotional tool so needs to be responsive to the reader’s needs. You therefore need to actively monitor customer comments, observations, suggestions and sign up rates and reply and or take note!
- Direct sales call.
The process may start as follows. “I noted that you read our recent email: clicked a link…so wondered what you thought about our event. Is there anything I can do to help? Do you require any further information or have any queries about the event”…you know how the rest of the call goes. This call comes as a surprise to the unsuspecting ‘possibly interested’ party. It can be a good thing or a bad experience when an overly ‘pushy’ sales person irritates us to the point of no return.
- Event website.
You will be directing potential audience members to the event web site via your social and email marketing activities: so it really needs to deliver an excellent experience. In fact, your event web site needs to be a ‘one stop sales and conversion factory’ with clear ‘calls to action’ and everything a prospective attendee would need to make an informed decision. It goes without saying that the experience of finding and interacting with your event web site needs to be simple to navigate and looks good and is fast to load. Many of us will recall giving up on purchases simply because the web site didn’t work properly. It has of course to be optimised for mobile devices.
- Social media updates.
Being ‘social’ (Facebook, Twitter, Linked In etc.) is a great way to drive interest and traffic to your website. Your updates need to be interesting, relevant, targeted and contain ‘working links’ to your event web site. The key thing here is that your response to every social enquiry, comment or feedback needs to be quick, appropriate and accurate.
- Customer event enquiries process.
You will receive event enquiries in person, via a call centre, by phone, email or through your web site. These enquiries need to be dealt with quickly, efficiently and accurately. It is again time to shine!
- Ticketing / registration and or sign up process.
They want to come to your event. The ‘buy now’ button has been pressed. The method you use to capture their data (single page ideally or have a progress bar at the top), register their interest, invoice them and provide them with a ticket needs to work – simply, accurately and efficiently. There is now a wide range of proprietary event registration software available to the event planner so choose wisely. Get this element wrong or fail to check that it is indeed working as intended and you will lose people who have actually decided to attend but have fallen foul of your system.
7. Joining instructions.
They have agreed to come to your event, so the timeliness, accuracy and brevity of these instructions is crucial in ensuring your guests arrive safely; in good time and ready to enjoy your event. Key to this part of the process is to resend them a few days before the event and remind them why they signed up to attend your event in the first place….as they will forget and or have made other plans. Joining instructions matter. They are part of the audience experience – the part that means they arrive into your front of house operation in a good frame of mind. And not as happened to me recently when the joining instructions can only be best described as sketchy and inaccurate!
- Front of house operation.
This may actually be the first time those attending your event come into contact with your event team. First impressions are often lasting impressions. The reception they receive needs to be warm and friendly and any ticketing or badge collection handled quickly and accurately. This area also needs to be well signed, nicely branded and adequately staffed to avoid unwelcome queues. There is also a variety of tech that can be used to speed up check-in.
- Event day delivery team.
On event day you will have a team of people helping you to deliver it. Your team really do need to be ‘up’ for your event and ready to deliver a great audience experience. There is also what I call the ‘on show’ contractors. The ‘on show’ contractors are those such as your Caterers, Security, Front of House and Audio Visual people – who can come into direct contact with your audience. This touch point matters too: so good pre-event contractor briefings are essential. The same applies to your event team too. Pick your event team wisely.
- The venue.
For larger events there is often a venue events team working alongside your event team. Again this touch point needs to work well, with venue requests and or event based enquiries being dealt with quickly, professionally and or redirected to your team.
- Event day evaluation process.
The style of evaluation system you use needs to be fit for purpose, easy to use and complete. I also recommend you make a number of requests to provide feedback at the end of the event and explain why you would like their help. Completing end of show evaluation forms is not something most of us actually want to do so make it quick and simple.
Within the venue there needs to a lot of signage and ort people available so audiences know exactly where to register / enter and can find their way around the event easily and without assistance. Digital signing can help here displaying upcoming programme items or changes. Cashless payment systems are also great for reducing queues and increasingly popular. These little things so to speak, all add to a great audience experience.
- Post event follow up.
Your event is over….well not quite. The post event touch points include how you deal with complaints, refunds and the timeliness and accuracy of sending out requested information such as presentation notes. Do this well and audience experiences remain positive ones?
Does it really matter…it’s just the web site having a moment!
So while this is not quite as long a list as you would expect to see in a traditional sales process…the list is nonetheless impressive. It is therefore easy to see where things can go wrong and where event planners unwittingly lose potential audiences and therefore sales on the way!
If you fail to put in place robust systems and processes you will end up putting off potential customers, in some cases for good. But if they are kind enough to tell us their experiences you might get a chance to rectify the situation. Please note that many of us have given up on purchases simply because the system is not working in tandem with us. Could this be happening at your events?
As you can see there are a lot of opportunities to get the audience journey from interested party to super satisfied delegate …right …alas many get it wrong by not paying enough attention to these audience ‘touch’ points.
What do you think? Do you have any experiences of when these event touch points haven’t worked or worked really well? Please do tell?
The author: Chris Powell, The Event Expert
Author Chris Powell, Director The Event Expert
I run an event management training and consultancy company delivering in-house and on-line bespoke event training courses and consultancy services to accidental, occasional and professional event managers. My objective: to give them the confidence and ‘how to’ skills to design, plan and deliver their own successful and rewarding events.