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Raise the bar on customer satisfaction

By Barry Siskind


In Professor’s Pine and Gilmore’s book, The Experience Economy, the authors refer to the faulty method many organizations use to measure customer satisfaction., It is simply the numerical difference between what the customers wants less what they perceive they get. The problem with this equation is that in many cases the customer has come to expect less. So the gap between wants and perceived gets is narrow.

Here’s an example. When Home Depot first opened in my neighborhood the service was amazing. All my questions were answered, someone helped me carry bulky purchases to my car and cashiers seemed genuinely interested. What I wanted was that level of experience to remain – it didn’t. Over the years it has badly deteriorated and Home Depot has forced me to lower my standards. When I go to Home Depot now to buy a 2 X 4 I don’t expect much else. So by all accounts if I can purchase that 2 X 4 at a reasonable price I’m happy and Home Depot can pat itself on the back thinking I’m a satisfied customer.

Recently I went to another Home Depot where the woman who helped me knew about the product, relayed personal information about how she had successfully used it in her home, helped me understand the difference between one model and the next and thanked me for my business. I was amazed – but I shouldn’t have been. All she was doing was what Home Depot promised in the first place.

Now think about those thousands of visitors who come to your trade shows. They pay good money and invest lots of time to have an enjoyable and profitable experience. But, what do they get: long aisles, hard floors, harsh lights, inconveniently located washrooms and exhibitors displaying the same thing they had last year. Trade show visitors feel abused. It’s what they have come to expect. Neither the show organizer nor the exhibitor has done anything to make the experience memorable and inviting.

As an exhibitor we can work closely as part of a show advisory committee to encourage the show organizer to make the changes that would humanize the show for visitors, and that would be one important step. The problem is that change on this scale takes time. You wouldn’t want the organizer to revamp the show completely hoping that the change would work. The prudent approach would be to take smaller steps, testing them out and than taking more steps after. This way the change in the show is methodical, tested and appropriate.

As exhibitors we can make changes a bit faster. If we can change our display to include a visitor experience then while we are waiting for the rest of the show to catch up, we are miles ahead of everyone else.

There are many steps you can take to accomplish an experience focused display. Here are a few:

1. Let your customers expect the unexpected. Offering good service and friendly booth people becomes the baseline for superior customer satisfaction. Once that baseline of what is acceptable has been established then you need to find ways to improve. Little things often have great impact. For example if you have an appointment set at your booth then have the meeting area cleared, a sign welcoming the guest and a cup of their favorite brew waiting (you can learn their preferences by calling an assistant ahead of time.)

2.Booth attitude. Your booth people should forget about selling and adopt the attitude of a host. This shifts the focus away from “pitching” to welcoming.

3. Encourage interactivity. The experience is through one or more of the senses: sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. Think about your booth and establish experience points where the visitor can get involved. Perhaps it is hospitality, real products and services (yes, services) rather than photos, The sound of a well oiled machine working, the smell of fresh flowers or coffee brewing, and large show-stopper graphics.

4.Create an environment. Your physical space should be more than a showroom but a place where visitors feel comfortable enough with you to interact openly and honestly.

There are lots more that you can do, but at very least try these four. Remember it’s those companies and organizations that keep their customer’s expectations higher than their wants that will win.