Trade shows and live events have requirements that are very different from other business products. Your participation in exhibitions and conferences involves creative visual design services, customized fabrication, logistical planning, repeated (often frequent) transportation and deployment, and hard deadlines for delivery. Service is an essential ingredient to stage your presentation.
Customer service is considered table stakes. That is, it’s the minimum effort required by companies to serve their clients. To quote from a tv ad campaign “just ok is not ok”. That’s because we, as consumers, expect better than just ok customer service. Every company claims to provide good, or even great, customer service. So what are your service expectations?
When you interview potential new employees you probably prepare questions that are designed to help you determine whether the candidate is qualified and potentially a good fit for your organization. In your interviews with potential exhibit houses you should have questions to uncover how they serve their clients.
1. Who will be your main point of contact when you begin working together? It is common practice with business products that the Account Executive is your main contact until the transaction is complete. After which you may be turned over to another contact, often an in-house Account Manager or Coordinator. To ensure a smooth transition you may want to be introduced to, and include, him/her in some of your discussions to begin building a working relationship.
2. What services does the exhibit company offer to support your trade shows and corporate events? Some exhibit houses offer an exhibit management program. Services include show service coordination, exhibit preview, shipping logistics and tracking, installation and dismantle, trade show display repairs and exhibit storage.
3. Can the exhibit house support your trade show marketing needs? You may not have an agency of record or internal design team. You may need design, production or sourcing of email or direct campaigns, premium giveaways, printed matter, etc. You may also want consultation on the selection of trade shows or event sponsorship opportunities. You may also want assistance with staff training or program performance measurement.
4. How or when will you receive updates on the preparation of your trade show exhibit? Ask if you can preview your exhibit set-up via web cam or schedule an in-person walk through inspection before it ships to your event.
5. Will you be given information to contact the exhibit house for service and support during non-business hours? Exhibit set-up and tear down often takes place on evenings and weekends. Murphy’s Law tells us that “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”.
6. What tools does the exhibit company offer for ongoing management of your trade show program? For example, a client website portal to view your inventory, approve artwork or submit a service ticket.
You’ll also want to check third party references from other clients, online reviews, industry associations, and local business bureaus. Ask about awards the exhibit company has earned too.