Events are important investments of your business’s time and resources. An excellent event can generate positive ROI through lead generation and deepening relationships with customers, partners, and supporters.
But an event that fails to generate engagement or anticipate attendee needs can have the opposite result—draining your resources and missing its targets. However, an unsuccessful event will hopefully still teach you some valuable lessons about how to improve and drive more revenue next time.
This idea, continuous improvement through systematically measuring your performance, is at the core of the concept of customer experience (CX).
While customer experience is typically thought of in terms of the business/customer relationship in transactional contexts, the tenets of CX can be applied to all kinds of activities your organization might conduct, including hosting events. In this quick guide, we’ll review the basics of CX and lay out a few ways that its fundamentals can be used to improve your events over time.
What is customer experience (CX)?
Customer experience is built on the idea that all of the touchpoints between a business and its customers will shape the customers’ feelings towards the business. These feelings and impressions then directly inform how likely the customers are to start, continue, or stop engaging with the business.
CX involves the entire customer journey, from the moment a potential customer first encounters your business up to their first purchase and beyond. Paying close attention to the experience you offer customers is especially helpful for uncovering the “moments of truth” or pain points in their journeys—the make-or-break steps and decisions that can significantly impact whether they engage with your business or abandon the relationship.
The process of intentionally managing your business’s CX is called customer experience management, and it’s accomplished through actively collecting feedback, analyzing trends, and making iterative improvements over time. The general process looks something like this:
- Create an intentional experience and/or determine what you want to learn more about.
- Measure your performance using customer surveys delivered at specific points in the journey.
- Manage your customer experience by analyzing your feedback and making changes to your approach, support processes, marketing messages, etc.
- Keep it all running in a continuous feedback loop and keep making improvements over time based on customer feedback.
Businesses use customer experience software to conduct surveys and compile data, although simpler customer satisfaction tools can also be an effective way to first get started with CX. Either way, CX management should be an ongoing, consistent process to maximize results.
How can the elements of CX be applied to events?
The underlying foundation of a CX strategy is the feedback loops set up to drive continuous, iterative improvements. This concept can be applied to all kinds of things your organization might be doing, and it’s especially worth exploring for high-cost, high-ROI activities like major events.
So how can the essential elements of CX be applied to events? Let’s break it down along the stages of a typical CX strategy.
1. Create intentional experiences.
Design your event experience intentionally with an eye toward gauging opinions on particular elements that you’d like to start improving. These might include:
- Registration processes
- Physical layouts of the event space
- The user experience and interface for virtual events
- Speakers and entertainment
- Types and numbers of vendors
If you’re just starting out, it’s ok if you don’t have a specific area of focus in mind just yet. CX is an iterative process, and areas that need closer attention will come into focus over time.
For now, it’s helpful to break your event experiences down into journeys that consist of touchpoints and “moments of truth.” Take some time to think through the journey at your event and identify a few crucial touchpoints that might make or break the quality of the experience, like these examples:
- Registering for the event
- Arriving at the event and checking in
- Set-up and direction for vendors
- Navigation and schedules for attendees
- Knowing where to find information or help
Choose one or more of these touchpoints, make intentional decisions around how you’ll handle them—for instance, using new registration software or training more onsite staff for check-in support—and then be prepared to measure how your changes perform.
2. Measure your performance.
Measuring the performance of the improvements you make to your event processes is done through collecting attendee feedback via surveys. This can occur in real-time and after the fact:
- Real-time surveys via email and mobile-optimized forms, text messages, in-person kiosks, etc.
- Post-event follow-up surveys via email
In your surveys, focus on what you want to learn. Overly-long questionnaires can tank your response rates, so participants need to know upfront that the surveys will be quick and easy. A handful of easily-answered questions focused on the specific improvements you’re looking to measure will be your best bet, although it’s still a good idea to ask a question about overall satisfaction and to provide the option to submit additional freeform feedback. Incentivizing completion with discounts or perks for your next event might be a smart choice, too.
And if you regularly host events that attract repeat attendees, consider creating a kind of standing committee or panel of loyal and/or high-impact attendees. These ready-made groups, similar to customer advisory boards or panels, can make it easier to consistently collect feedback from an intentionally-recruited subset of your audience.
3. Manage your event experience proactively.
As feedback begins rolling in from your event, study it and look for trends. What do they tell you about the performance of the specific improvements you’ve made and the quality of the experience you’re offering? What new changes can you make to keep building upon those improvements?
For multi-day events or surveys focused on pre-event elements, like the registration process or your event promotions, it might be possible to implement real-time changes based on feedback. In other cases, the process can be drawn out across all of the future events you host.
The key to identifying actionable CX improvements is feedback quantity—encourage lots of engagement with your surveys, and be diligent about collecting feedback during and after all your events. Before long, clear trends should emerge that will continually point you towards new ways to keep improving your experiences.
Most importantly, this process will also help you identify the specific pain points and moments of truth that occur for various types of events and attendees.
As you continue collecting feedback and making iterative improvements over time, you’ll learn more about the attendee journeys you’re offering and get an increasingly clear view of how to make them the best they can be.
4. Keep it all running.
Keep adjusting your approach over time by changing your questions based on your goals and trying out different delivery methods or times to maximize responses.
By collecting feedback during and after all your events, you’ll kickstart a feedback loop and open up new ways to measure the success of your events. Creating these collection channels is essential for effective, proactive CX management.
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It’s important to consider the logistics of building your CX strategy, as well. You’ll need an organized, standardized way to collect and analyze your feedback data over time. This is why companies use CX software to centralize the process and generate quick performance and trend reports. For events, you may need to develop your own custom approach, but surveys, text messaging capabilities, and an integrated CRM to organize the data will be essential.
Customer experience management is a powerful way to continually learn more about your business’s performance and drive improvements over time. It’s a flexible process, easily adapted for different contexts and goals, including events. Whether you’re looking to boost attendee retention, net promoter scores, or just overall satisfaction, CX can give you the solid framework you need to make changes and improve your event ROI.