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3 Essential Traits of Exhibition Portals in Times of Self-Service

3 Essential Traits of Exhibition Portals in Times of Self-Service

How do you feel about customer help desks and hotlines? While I understand they are indispensable in a variety of industries, I typically feel very restricted in the availability of service hours and days. I don’t think that dialing a customer service number (usually requiring multiple attempts) and waiting to be directed to an available employee- all while enduring terrible hold music- reflects a strong message of customer service values.

I made a rather provocative statement in my last blog post about the exhibition and event industry falling behind in technology usage. This is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it is a strong opportunity for trade show organizers and exhibition centers to take their sales and services to the next level. There are countless ways of incorporating technology in their businesses to help them increase revenue and save costs within their organizations.

Let me explain how this relates to the idea of self-service in the exhibition industry.

The Three Pillars of Service

There is a lot of research about Generation Y and how young professionals look at working hours, offices and the concept of a job in general. When looking at their values and expectations, it is notable that the following three aspects play a vital role in their decision making:

  • Flexibility
  • Autonomy
  • Technology Usage

So how can these ideas be applied to the service industry and, more importantly, to exhibitions and trade shows?

The concepts mentioned above can be applied to (any) organization in the service industry, but the important question is: How should we treat exhibitors when they want to be autonomous in their decisions and time usage? Personal service on the phone? That leads us back to my horror scenario on the phone. Printed catalogues and order sheets? Paperwork? Apart from the fact that this is old-fashioned, it is not sustainable in any way.

Giving the customer the possibility to order ANYTIME and ANYWHERE with fast, state-of-the-art technology is what I call good customer (self-) service.

Let's take a closer look at that idea.

Three Essential Traits of Exhibition Portals

As an exhibition organizer, you want to sell in an efficient way making the entire process as easy as possible for your customers. At the same time, you need to keep an eye on the costs within your team and the time your sales people dedicate to administrative tasks. This is why I am a big supporter of the idea of high quality "self-service" portals. They allow you to provide an excellent service experience towards your customers and move away from having your salespeople take care of administrative tasks.

Make your exhibition a success and improve your client retention by selling efficiently and creating an excellent service experience for your exhibitors:

1) Make it easy: Create a clear and beautifully designed online portal, making relevant information visible at a glance. Work with images and icons that make sense and that are easy to navigate. No one wants to read a manual before using your portal so make the experience as intuitive as possible.

2) Make it fast & easily accessible: Customers may use the portal from their tablets or from their computers at home. In any case, the user experience should be great on any device. Avoid large images or any other content that is large and takes too long to load. People may access your portal while travelling so fast loading times are essential.

3) Create a one-stop-shop: Customers want to login once and be able to get everything done as quickly as possible. They do not want to login to different portals to order plants for their exhibition booth and then log into yet another exhibitor zone to order electricity. What they want is a time-saving, fast and easy way of preparing their trade show participation – a one-stop-shop.

A well-crafted online exhibition portal creates a win-win situation for both you and your customers. Putting effort into a one-stop-shop for your exhibition gives you a valuable tool to improve your customer retention and secure future show success.

Despite agreeing to some of the statements above you might still think: “Nothing beats human interaction, even on the phone!” Though this has been true for a long time, look at it like this: A personal interaction with a (sales or service) call center can even create a higher level of frustration. If you have to explain multiple times what you really want – on the phone or also through email – the interaction can quickly take a negative turn. While listening to our prospects and clients, I learned a lot about their challenges with customer service. Each time I helped them find a better solution they were able to significantly reduce the administrative work within their teams and/or increase customer satisfaction during sales.

What do you think about customer self-service in the exhibition industry? Feel free to leave a comment below or contact me at Holger.Friesz@ungerboeck.com. I am very interested to hear your thoughts on this topic!