What Sets Event Tech Companies Apart in an Ever-Competitive, Ever-Crowded World?

If you listen to the sales people at any of hundreds of event tech companies out there today, they will all tell you their software is the “world’s leading” or “best in class” or use a multitude of other largely unqualified statements to try and make you purchase their product. And they’ll give you a litany of features and functionality that according to them will make your job easier and less stressful for you to do.

I’m not saying there’s no truth in all of this, but I think we have all been buying or subscribing to software long enough now to realize that we’re not purely buying based on a slick presentation and a feature/function set, right?

So what really does set companies apart, given that event technology has evolved so much in the past 20 years, and that feature vs. feature, many applications are very similar? If I have to say there’s one thing I’ve found after being in this space for the past 23 years, the single-most important factor is not the functionality of the software, it’s the customer service that backs it up.

I look back at my own experiences when making this statement, as I have witnessed first-hand very good and also very poor customer service. It doesn’t matter how great your software is with all its “bells and whistles” – if a client has a question or an issue, and can’t get a resolution or assistance as they need it and when they need it (and we all know in the event industry this could be any time of the day or night), then they very quickly get a negative feeling toward the company providing the software. And conversely, if they call and are pleasantly surprised with exceptional customer service then of course their feelings towards that software is going to be much more positive.

So I know you’re thinking – “well there’s no secret sauce there, we all know that customer service is important” and you are right, however I would challenge you to take a moment to think about your own event technology customer service experiences, and I bet you have all had some negative experiences that probably had some impact on your feelings towards that supplier and product whether you still use it or not. And again, every tech company will tell you they have “excellent” customer service and support, but is their definition of “excellent” the same as yours? And if it’s not, why would that be the case?

Well, after over 3 decades of being involved in the Meetings and Hospitality industry, I think I can provide some insight into this. The first 10 years of my career I spent working in Hospitality, providing service to people seeking a memorable vacation or event experience.  This taught me some valuable lessons in dealing with people and their service expectations – and led me to coin a phrase that I have tried to adhere to in every business I’ve been involved in, and that is “the customer is not always right, but the customer is always the customer”.

And I believe that as Event Professionals we have a similar mantra and focus on making the client’s event a truly memorable experience no matter what it takes – we are after all, providing a service.

So this is where I see the “breakdown” start to happen between a software company’s way of thinking and an Event Professional’s way of thinking. Most event software companies were started by people from a technology background, looking to fill a need in an industry (and to emphasize again, a service industry) that they had little or no experience in working in. Sure, they might have consulted with people who had worked in the industry, and even employed a few people with that background, but by and large most event tech companies have their foundation firmly rooted and focused in technology. And typically, people who come from a development and tech focused background are not thinking in the same terms of customer service as people who run events for a living. People with a tech background tend to be more black and white, given that programming and solving problems in this environment is a very true/false world. We all know that is not the case in the event world, where we live in various shades of grey depending on the client’s needs!

This often translates into an event tech company having a help desk or customer service reps who are very well versed in their products and have a great technical skillset, but not having the same “service oriented” focus as an Event Manager, since the two have inherently different backgrounds and opinions on what service means. To illustrate this with an example, imagine this (and this is something I have witnessed):

Event Manager: “I can’t access my system”

Support Desk: “Can you access the internet?”

Event Manager: “No, nothing is working”

Support Desk: “That’s not a problem with our software, you need to have your local IT person get you back on the internet. Is there anything else I can help you with?”

Event Manager (feeling a little frustrated): “Ok, thanks, goodbye.”

In this scenario, the Support Desk person feels they have completed their job, since the problem wasn’t specifically to do with their software. However, the Event Manager gets off the phone feeling frustrated and still not able to access their software, they don’t care why they can’t access it, the technical details are not their forte. So what could the Support Desk person do differently to make the Event Manager feel like they received “amazing” customer service? How about this example:

Event Manager: “I can’t access my system”

Support Desk: “Can you access the internet?”

Event Manager: “No, nothing is working”

Support Desk: “Oh, it sounds like your internet access is down, can you check if any of your colleagues are having the same issue, or are they able to get into the system?”

Event Manager: “Let me check (pause) – yes, my colleague is working in the system no problem at all”.

Support Desk: “Ok great, in that case, let’s try restarting your computer.”

Event Manager (after restarting and attempting to log back into their event software): “Great, this looks like it fixed it, thank you!”

So while this is a kind of basic example, it illustrates that the Support Desk person just has to think a little outside of their tech background “true/false” mentality to make a massive difference to the perception of the customer service they are offering. Unfortunately, in my experience very few Support Desk people who don’t come from a service background will actually do this. And in fact, some companies even discourage it.

So what is the point of emphasizing this difference? It is simply to say that I firmly believe the companies that “get” the concept of excellent service are the ones who will ultimately win out in the event tech space. They will invest in making sure their people are service focused, and will see that a purely technical approach doesn’t work in the event industry. Because they are the ones who understand that we are not in fact in the software business, but in the service business. Because that’s the business our clients are in.

Steve Mackenzie is President at EventBooking, an innovative cloud-based venue management solution that has over 700 clients around the globe, and with regular polling of its clients has an unprecedented 99% customer satisfaction level.

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Jim Alkon says:

    Well said, Steve. It’s so easy to talk about customer service, it’s another thing to live it. I was moderator of a hotel industry panel many years ago, and, anticipating how each panel member was going to claim that his/her brand had the best customer service, I started the session by telling the panelists that all their chains had great customer service and I didn’t want to hear them mention it again for the rest of the hour. After some troubled looks, they all made it through the session unscathed.

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