When we talk about the most popular event platform features, we typically think of registration and ticketing, integrations, gamification, and analytics reporting, for example. But what good are any of those if event planners are not taught how to use them or if they stop working mid-event? Will and Brandt think that the #1 event tech feature should therefore be customer support. Event planners should have somebody available to them 24/7. The success of their event depends on it!
In today’s Event Tech Podcast episode, Will and Brandt will talk about the importance of customer service and what planners can do to choose the right platform when doing research. It’s all about the onboarding process and transparent implementation. And finally, software companies should see event planners as long-term partners rather than one-time customers.
Customer Support Should Be The Standard
Brandt introduces today’s topic. “When you look at event apps and event platforms, 80% of them have the same basic features. You can see your schedule, maps, maybe there’s some audience engagement and networking. And then, there’s that 20% of some unique features that make each one a little different. One of those 80% features should be good customer support. This should be the standard.”
“Event tech companies are usually heavy on the software and light on the support,” he adds. “When I first started consulting, I had this grand idea that I was going to be doing a ton of consulting for event tech companies. So not just on the planner and design side, but for actual companies. The mentality of the first few clients blew me away. They told me they have this brand new software, they’ll promote it, sit back, and watch the money roll in. But how are they going to support it, how are they going to hold people’s hands? Who will enter the data?”
Because they have so much on their plates, event planners are usually more than willing to pay extra to have someone do that for them. “Planners have to worry about their sponsors, stakeholders, executives, and attendees. There are so many things on their plate,” Brandt explains.
Customer Support Spotlight: Hubspot
Will wants to give a positive example of customer support done right. To be unbiased, he mentions a non-event software he uses every day – Hubspot. “When I first signed up, we were a small customer. If you look at how much I’m spending on HubSpot, it’s the equivalent of a lot of these event platforms. In fact, most event platforms and event apps cost more than what I pay for HubSpot for a whole year.”
What makes him stay is the outstanding customer support. Not only do they reply whenever he needs them, but they also have an incredible Academy. “I can direct my employees to their Academy because they have videos, courses, quizzes, and certificates. That limits the amount of customer support that they need.”
So, what are some questions that event planners should be asking event platforms when in the RFP phase? How can they know whether an event technology solution will be well-supported?
Brandt recommends being mindful of the onboarding process. “Here’s what they should say. As soon as you sign the contract, we arrange a private Zoom for you and your staff. We’ll do a walkthrough, We’ll be there for you 24/7 if you ever need anything beyond the demo. If somebody else joins the team, we can do another demo again.”
A huge problem he’s seeing is the inability to get a hold of someone in sales. “No matter how big the company or how successful – if you’re struggling to get a hold of them during the sales process, the point where they’re trying to get your business, I would be very skeptical of how they’re going to be in the post-sale process,” says Brandt.
“On the flip side, you also need to be careful about the smaller companies,” says Will. “They’re so in need of sales that they have to get their revenue in. They might do amazing customer services, but then, they won’t have 24/7 access support teams, ticketing software. You won’t get a dedicated account rep.”
Customer Support During Implementation
Next up, the event tech duet talks about customer support in relation to implementation and setting up the event platform.
“Ask yourself: how much will I have to do? How much are they going to help me? Some companies will leave you on your own after that initial onboarding. Other companies implement tiers. It costs a little more to get full access and 24/7 phone support. Pay attention to the day-to-day support after the onboarding and at the event itself.”
Will emphasizes that it’s important to understand what your event timeline will look like. “If you want to give your exhibitors or staff early access, you need to let them know in advance. If you’re not confident, don’t hesitate to ask to bring your own ops person on board. Also, it’s helpful to get as much stuff as possible in writing. Have a well-defined scope.”
Having a clear communication system can also do wonders for the implementation process. “Hopefully, you’re not communicating back and forth via email. Make sure you have clear deadlines and have a task system to use. Build a Basecamp for your event, put them on deadlines. It’s a place where they can ask you quick questions and don’t have to go through the formalities of email. You can also do weekly Zoom calls or join a group Slack with your employees.”
Post-event follow-up is another important aspect of great customer support in event technology. “Especially with online events, we’re generating a tremendous amount of data on event platforms. But then afterward, you’re just left with a dashboard and some report generators. But event planners don’t know what to do with all this data,” says Brandt.
“Event technology companies should step you through creating custom reports and educate you about event data. They can be your partner and hold your hand through the process. That is going to be enormously helpful rather than just giving you the data.”
“Also, I want them to tell me what to do better,” adds Will. “They’re the experts in this event platform. They understand how to use it. How didn’t we utilize it, what feature didn’t get used? I expect them to do it. If they don’t and they just tell you that your event was great, is that going to help you create the next best event? Are you pushing to evolve as an event planner in the future? Are you actually learning? Do they ultimately care about the long-term success of your event or are they just happy it’s over?”
“The deeper into this universe that we get, the more event technology is intertwined with other aspects of event planning,” concludes Brandt. “On the surface, it might seem a little weird for your production team to be talking about catering. But so frequently, there are times where not only have we seen this cool thing that worked at another event, but also here’s the technology tie-ins, and here’s what we can do with your event app to make something better. Wouldn’t it be great if you took advantage of these features that allow the attendees to put in their meal references right into the app that spits it out into a spreadsheet that then lets you give it to catering? That way, it’s all organized and not done on post-it notes or flip cards. There are opportunities afterward to have conversations about how else can technology be used to help your event.
Will lets us know that using an event platform gets easier with time. “Event platforms are here to stay. The more that you use your chosen event platform, the more seamless things will become. Nobody wants to go through the sales process again with a new platform. Good customer support helps build relationships between planners and platforms for the long term, so it’s important platforms address customer’s needs early on.”