The CX of Event Planning During the Coronavirus
22 May 2020 By: Jessica Wise
Concert tickets are expensive, and the price of music festival passes can be downright offensive.
Not to mention, all the planning and spending that comes along with attending a multi-day event – transportation, accommodations, and time off from work.
It’s a hassle and a big investment. But, in the end, millions of people just like me feel that the sacrifices they make to attend a show of this magnitude are worth it.
If things go just right, it can be the experience of a lifetime. I know this for a fact.
Every year I attend Sea.Hear.Now Music Festival on the beach in Asbury Park, NJ. And crazy, amazing things have happened to me there. Like the time the Lumineers popped up in the middle of a crowd of thousands and played my favorite song right next to me.
This year the Avett Brothers and Pearl Jam are set to headline (two of my bucket list bands). As the event has drawn closer, I have become more and more excited.
Then, the coronavirus came along.
My enthusiasm was quickly replaced with uncertainty, worry and questions. I watched my email like a hawk. I scoured the festival’s Facebook page with a fine-toothed comb looking for updates.
It was quickly discovered that other fans were just as uneasy.
Shockingly, Sea.Hear.Now hadn’t posted any updates or sent out any emails to keep ticket holders informed.
So, I texted my girlfriend to see if she’d received any updates about the event in her inbox. We’re on a layaway plan and pay off the tickets via automatic monthly withdrawals.
Then, it struck me. Sea.Hear.Now is continuing to take money from fans without proactively providing updates during a pandemic — a global crisis that’s causing millions to go without work and/or fall ill.
This bothered me. No, actually, it peeved me.
It also got me thinking about my favorite topic…customer experience, and its importance.
Even if the event is still a go, wouldn’t the right course of action be to explain how organizers plan to move forward? Thousands of fans that have invested copious amounts of time and money just to attend the festival, and inquiring minds want to know!
Thus far, this event is starting to feel like a less than stellar experience.
Sure, Sea.Hear.Now. can’t control the fact there’s a pandemic, but they can control how they react to it. Even during a global crisis, the CX of event planning still matters!
The Event Industry Forecast
Sadly, the chances of any large scale event being held anytime in the near future is infinitesimally small.
It’s not looking too good for Sea.Hear.Now. in September, and it looks like a lot of other cancellations are also on the horizon.
So, as an event manager or organizer, if you haven’t already come up with a contingency plan and been in communication with your clients, vendors, and attendees, you best get moving.
Regardless of the industry, here’s how you can improve the CX of event planning during the coronavirus.
CX of Event Planning for B2C Customers During the Outbreak
Make Attendees Feel Safe
Eventually coronavirus restrictions will be lifted, but the virus will still be adrift. There will be word of sporadic cases and questions over whether it’s too soon to gather en masse.
Event goers will be hesitant and vendors and clients will be wary.
The number one thing you can do to improve the customer experience for all parties involved is to come up with out-of-the-box ideas to make everyone feel safer.
“Hotels can put hand cleaners everywhere, screen guests with thermometers, and wipe down elevator buttons, door handles and knobs, handrails and gym equipment on a frequent, set schedule. Convention centers can take a similar approach and work with show producers to bar attendees who recently visited or came from infected areas. Event organizers can also use thermal screening or signage, humor and illustrated examples to discourage handshaking and hugging, and switch to waving and bowing,” says Shapiro. (Northstar Meetings Group)
Of course, the modifications you make for your event may differ. But, you get the idea.
Some businesses have already started getting creative. For example, a popular event venue and bar in Ocean City, MD recently unveiled social distancing tubes in order to give its guests peace of mind.
Not only will special accommodations like this help jump start your attendance upon reopening, but it will show attendees that you generally care about their well-being.
According to Strategic Advisor, Jamie Gutfreund, “The majority [79%] of consumers said that brands have to actually demonstrate that they understand and care about [them] before they are going to consider purchasing.” (CMO)
The bottom line is that making people feel safer is just good business.
Make It As Painless As Possible
When the time comes to host an event, make the process as painless as possible for everyone involved.
87% of consumers think brands need to do more to provide a seamless experience. (Zendesk)87% of consumers think brands need to do more to provide a seamless experience. (Zendesk) Click To Tweet
So, don’t make vendors and attendees jump through hoops to be a part of your event (or to back out if they feel uncomfortable).
To eliminate confusion, make the sign-up, purchase, and cancelation process clear from the start.
In addition, post event rules and safety guidelines in visible locations on your website along with answers to FAQs.
Lastly, be outspoken about the steps you have taken to modify your event and provide frequent updates on social media.
73% of customers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations. (Salesforce)
And, right now, consistent communication and guidance are qualities that everyone needs to see from an event planner.
CX of Event Planning for B2B Customers During the Outbreak
The customer experience you give the companies you partner with (i.e. vendors, security, entertainment, logistics, etc.) is also critical.
86% of B2B CMOs report that they consider customer experiences to be very important. (Accenture)
This is what you can do to make the CX of event planning better for your partners.
Be Flexible and Accommodating
It’s a given that any client or partner that’s forced to cancel or postpone a major event is already stressed and overwhelmed. Their minds are jumping from disappointed customers to lost profits.
Now isn’t the time to be a stickler for contracts and deadlines. After all, we’re in the middle of a pandemic. Your B2B customers need a partner that’s understanding and willing to listen.
If you take a stricter approach, you could lose their business altogether. 68% of B2B customers are lost because of indifference or perceived apathy. (Blender)68% of B2B customers are lost because of indifference or perceived apathy. Click To Tweet
So, do your best to be flexible and accommodating by developing an alternate course of action.
Consumer Technology Association’s Gary Shapiro offers more insightful advice.
“If a client has alternate events planned for later in the calendar year, it’d be a good idea to work with exhibitors, sponsors and attendees, checking to see who would be willing to switch travel plans to remain loyal and participate in the future event, even if at a reduced cost,” suggests Shapiro. (Northstar Meetings Group)
If All Else Fails Offer a Refund
No one knows what’s going to happen next. The coronavirus could be gone in 6 months or it could linger for years.
It’s difficult to commit to rescheduling a large scale event when there’s questions over whether it will be morally acceptable, or even legal, to host a gathering of over 10 to 25 people.
So, if there seems to be no other solution, offer your B2B partners a refund on any deposits or payments they’ve made.
When dealing with a B2B customer, offering refunds could mean major revenue loss, but B2B customers should be treated no differently than B2C customers (i.e. ticket holders, attendees).
At least 80% of B2B buyers are not only looking for but expect a buying experience like that of a B2C customer. (Lumoa)
Plus, when this is all over, your partners will remember what you did for them, and you will be the event planner they turn to once restrictions lift.
CX of Event Planning for ALL Event Customers
Keep Them in the Know
Whether you’re serving B2B or B2C customers, consistent communication is imperative. Actually, you should be borderline annoying.
51% of US consumers stay loyal to businesses that offer timely suggestions about the latest updates or new products and/or services. (Lucidpress)51% of US consumers stay loyal to businesses that offer timely suggestions about the latest updates or new products and/or services. Click To Tweet
So, fire up the email campaigns, release weekly statements on your blog, and check-in with your clients on social media.
The best thing you can do is be there to offer them advice, support, and your predictions and timelines for resuming event planning.
Offer Online Support
You may not be able to meet with your customers in-person, but you can still provide them with a stellar customer experience online.
The demand for alternative support channels has been building for some time. However, since the outbreak, customers have been seeking out self-service options in record numbers.
In a Benchmark Snapshot study by Zendesk, researchers found that customers have been turning to messaging and live chat.
Customers’ live chat requests have risen by 34% and text messaging requests have increased by 30%.
So, if you want satisfied customers, now is the perfect time to implement 24/7 live chat agents to handle your business’s website and text message inquiries.
Not only can live chat teams of this caliber field chats from your website. But, they also have the capability to answer your customers’ text messages via your existing business phone number.
Even once the pandemic is over, omnichannel support will continue to positively impact your CX. Live chat has the highest consumer satisfaction rate at 92%. (99firms)
It’s a win-win!
Don’t Worry We’ll Get There
We’re all ready to bust down these coronavirus doors.
Everyone is eager to attend concerts, parties, rallies, benefits, fundraisers, restaurant re-openings, art exhibits, and festivals. Hell, we’d even take a silent auction at this point.
Until that day comes, stay connected with your customers and focus on your business’s CX.
Don’t worry we’ll get there.
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