Despite most of us spending our days glued to phones, tablets and PCs, many people are still curiously excited by the concept of live events.
Yes, we all love concerts, performances and fairs — but live events for brands extend beyond those lines. A mix of corporate and entertainment, they offer brands an opportunity to show a different side to their business, tie themselves to a particular community or celebrity and perhaps showcase an innovative new product.
Perhaps most importantly in this new digital world built on trust through a glass screen, they offer an exciting (often low-risk) opportunity to both test and switch up customer service practices.
If you’re planning to attend or run a live event for your brand in the near future you should use it as an opportunity to do just that — and for guidance on how to make the most of it, here are some key tips and tricks.
It’s almost hard to imagine in a COVID society, but live events were quickly becoming one of the best ways for even online brands to make a connection with their audience and experiment with alternative forms of retail.
Live events matter for so many reasons. They can make your brand feel that little bit more alive than it does behind a screen. They give you an opportunity to research what your consumers really want and tailor your output around first hand evidence and complaints. They can even get you out of the office and into the streets on a sunny summer’s day.
The scope for live events is great, serving as the perfect antithesis to colder, online shopping and brand building. If a business stays in the office and behind the screen for too long it’ll start to lose touch with what matters — no matter how much time they spent reading social media comments and emails.
Now let’s look into ways to use these live events to your advantage.
It’s easy to think effective customer service involves nothing more than processing orders and doing it with a smile.
That couldn’t be further from the truth though. In today’s modern marketplace, customer service has evolved into a highly attentive process that must either hold the user’s hand through the process or remain ever present for any queries that might pop up.
While the way brands and businesses interact with their followers and users online has developed throughout many industries, the majority of changes has their roots and greatest successes within ecommerce.
From interactive chatbots to social media comments to the presence of a centralized shared inbox that collates consumer queries — solving your consumer’s problems is easier than ever before, but your business is more exposed than ever before.
A business may use a shared inbox to answer queries faster or canvas opinions about their output, but this is largely because a negative rating or feedback can sink their reputation. The better you are at customer service, the more is expected of you (and your competitors). It’s a double edged sword.
Let’s look at some of the best ways to test and improve your customer service at live events.
As an ecommerce store coming from a digital customer service point of view into the live event world it can be a bit jarring, but it actually raises more opportunities than it does challenges.
Live events give you an opportunity to show off products in a way you never have before. Many stores suffer from bad product descriptions and imagery — perhaps through a lack of creative employees to work on such content or a reliance on what’s provided by the supplier. If you’re one of those stores, a live event gives you a chance to start fresh and show what’s really amazing about your products.
You can demonstrate how they work, feel and exist in the real world. In 2D, a product can look much less exciting than it actually is and perhaps even confuse the consumer as to its purpose. Putting that product in the customer’s hand or demonstrating its strengths right in front of them is a brilliant way to answer burning questions raised by bad imagery and descriptions, and impossible to explain over email.
That ability to give a consumer the opportunity to test a product out or even just feel it in their hands shouldn’t be underestimated. It’s a crucial part of the traditional shopping experience that ecommerce really misses out on.
Use this as an opportunity to learn what kind of questions people want answered through images and descriptions on your product pages. You may well be following sensible steps to give customers what they need, but this instant feedback may help point out things you’ve missed — things that aren’t inherently obvious to someone so invested in the product.
This exposure can even help guide your content direction. If a customer has a question about your products or services in general, then maybe it’s worth writing a blog or creating a dedicated web page to answer those questions. This is a market, product and customer research opportunity like no other, so don’t waste it.
One of the best things about live events for online brands is it gives them the opportunity to pick up sales they may not have otherwise been able to make.
That doesn’t just mean attracting internet-illiterate audiences who prefer public events to personal computers, but giving people who are perhaps more wary of shopping online or eager to speak to a retailer before committing to a product a chance to buy.
In-person retail systems give ecommerce stores and online platforms the opportunity to put through customers purchases then and there. This cuts out significant complications (in the past you may have had to take cards details down by hand) and shows your ease of service in the flesh.
This also presents a brilliant opportunity for upselling. A consumer may not buy an add-on for their main purchase if the store imagery is bad and the price a little too much on top of the delivery charge. But when they see it in person? They’ll realise they couldn’t enjoy the product to the fullest without it and walk away with it then and there.
This gives you an opportunity to improve your upselling (useful for over-the-phone purchases) and find the faults in your payment process. Maybe your delivery costs are too high, or your presentation of upselling products weak and unclear.
This is the perfect testing ground for how quick and effective your service can be. While much of it in your online domain is down to the customer and the automation of your systems it helps your business in two ways. It tells physical customers you’re concerned about their experience and tells you where potential bumps in the road might be.
Need to personalize a product or add your own USP to it? How can that be done in a smoother way? By that same token, seeing that done in front of them in quick fashion could impress your customer further.
Online businesses need to be great community builders these days.
Social media has made it that every brand and business in the world needs a personality. They need to connect with their consumers and send them off to eulogize about the brilliance of this great company they’ve found. They need to make friends and build relationships through these brands.
While much of this work is done online, a live event gives you a great opportunity to approach this uniquely modern form of customer service from another perspective.
It also gives you a chance to build a community away from social media and forums — one that will reach out to a different kind of consumer via word of mouth.
Customer service with a focus on retaining the consumer and making them feel welcomed can be refined through how you interact with a consumer prior, during and after a sale.
Use this chance as a testing ground for particular messages and tones. See how talking about certain topics or giving more time to discuss particular product types or services could enhance your customer service. If a lot of people are particularly drawn to the technicalities of a product, consider making that your focal point. If they want to know more about some of the brands you might be selling as a licensed seller, consider working their history into your demonstrations. It’s about finding out what appeals to your community.
Once again, this can be used to shape content. As we discussed, content is like a continuous form of customer service — always offering advice and direction for the consumer. How your community building conversations with customers at live events go can help shape future community focused content, giving you a brilliant perception of what they react to and what might entice someone exposed to your brand for the first time.
So, to round off, what kind of live events should you be looking to run in order to improve your customer service?
Pop-up shops have emerged as one of the most popular types of events for both brands and passionate fans in recent years.
The idea is simple — hire out a temporary store (these are common in most major cities) and turn it into a physical bricks-and-mortar edition of your website or online store.
These temporary stores are popular for a number of reasons. They offer consumers the chance to pick up products in person they’d previously only seen online. They offer an experience operating alongside a brand they enjoy — such as a special appearance from an influencer or live event. And, finally, these stores tend to offer unique exclusives that can’t be picked up anywhere else — making them an enticing option for committed advocates of fashion brands in particular.
Alternatively, you can always hire a stall at an existing event. By running a stall at a brand relevant event, you can publicize your business and website to an entirely new audience. While there is natural crossover it is unlikely that everyone there will be aware of your brand, so this offers you the opportunity to make a great first impression and drive more traffic to your site.
It’s crucial you pick a relevant event however. These spaces can be an expensive investment for a growing business — so you will need to pick an event in which people are likely to spend or commit to a service right then and there rather than just browse around. It’s important to flesh out your service at these events with extensive marketing materials such as exclusive discount codes which bring slightly less interested parties back to your store.
Local community events are also a brilliant way to experiment with customer service and bring in new consumers in equal measure — just on a more local level. As you’ll have a reduced exposure, it can be a proving ground for customer service techniques without the risk of appearing amateurish to your core audience.
Don’t let all this positivity fool you — live events come with substantial challenges.
If you’re not prepared to become a customer facing business for the day you can end up providing the kind of customer service that harms your reputation in the long run — marking you as a business with little concern for the consumer and inept at their job.
Before you attend a live event and start imagining your stall in your mind, make sure you have a few things finalised fully.
Knowing your products and services inside out is essential. To enhance customer service you need to know the basics of it. What are you going to learn about how you serve both loyal and new consumers if you can’t even provide simple answers to questions? Make sure everyone attending knows the answers to typical questions or has unique, specialist knowledge that can paint your business as one full of experts.
Having marketing material to hand is essential for not just boosting awareness of your business, but putting people on the path to better customer service. There’s no point refining these skills if this whole experience doesn’t bring new eyes to your website. Exclusive offers and discount code cards are a great customer service tool that makes the attendee feel special.
Prior to the event use social media and other marketing avenues as a testing ground. Looking to try out new deals? Why not include it as a limited time offer in a marketing email to a select group of subscribers. This can help indicate where you might not be ready to meet customers face to face or be lacking in something enticing, and throw up some great data to compare against your live event findings.
We can’t stress enough the importance of at least trying your hand at a live event — as long as you’re fully prepared for one. They can be invaluable testing grounds for new customer service techniques and expose you to issues you may never have otherwise known you had. While ecommerce is a wholly different entity to traditional retail in so many ways, it pays to take a step back and meet your customers the old fashioned way.
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