Self-service technology for events and conferences means getting all the distractions out of the way as quickly as possible so that everyone can get back to having great face-to-face interactions -- especially event attendees, sponsors and exhibitors.
As an event manager, you need to look into the future and design your next event with a self-service mindset from the very beginning. Adopting this mindset, investing in the right technology, and following through on the day of the event can result in more time spent enjoying the event and less time putting out proverbial fires.
Before you put tickets on sale, it’s important to remember how many questions and concerns come in through your event website, email, phone and social media. It can be overwhelming, especially if you’re juggling speakers and exhibitors in the weeks just before your event date.
Here are a few ways to manage these concerns before they impact someone’s impression of your event as a whole.
Drift bills itself as a conversational sales platform. In practice, it pops up on your website to help answer questions, collect email addresses, and give support to anyone who might get lost while trying to navigate your website. Its playbooks are conditional automated conversations that you can use to qualify leads or perform customer service without any input from a real person. Of course, if a person needs specialized help, it will alert your customer service team.
Help Scout is another chat-based platform with a focus more on customer support and follow-up. The platform attempts to answer questions directly using bot-like instant answers and can recommend articles and resources so that a customer can answer their own question before escalating. As you put more time into answering customers’ questions, you can develop a knowledge base for customers to use without leaving your website using a pop-up, lightbox, or sidebar.
We use Help Scout at PheedLoop and here are a few things our customer success team enjoys about the platform:
Great FAQs, like great cooks, can come from anywhere. If you’re listening to your customers, an event manager should know in both a broad and a specific sense what information needs to be made easier to find. The nature of FAQs and SEO is that all you have to do is write down the questions and corresponding answers, and after a few web crawls, your customers will actually be able to find the answer themselves simply by asking Google.
FAQs also help you develop your brand voice and can help you reiterate why your event or conference is so special and important to attend. In the events industry, you may want to address:
How to write great FAQs
Ticket Support and Help Desk Systems assist a company’s various customer service departments to keep track, prioritize, and answer user requests and queries. These usually include features like ticket management, automation suite, and reporting and optimization suggestions.
Many of these systems also help create a knowledge base so that you can direct people to the correct answers with minimal effort. For events, a ticket support system could be used to create and respond to custom ticket orders or manage concerns from exhibitors.
For a more comprehensive list of ticket support systems, see this list from Hubspot. Here are a few highlights from the most popular platforms:
All-in-one help desk ticketing system that provides faster and better support for your customers. Reduce chaos and bring order to your support process with a robust support ticket system, self-service knowledge base and community forums.
Unique feature: More Ticketing Options
“Perform ticketing actions like cloning, merging, relating and splitting to smoothen your ticket tracking process. Perform mass actions like reply, print, change status etc so that you never have to individually sit and update multiple tickets.”
Hubspot offers many of the standard ticket support system features with the added benefit of being integrated with the many other systems of Hubspot like CRM, automated emails, social media management and much more. Hubspot also offers the unique feature of turning your customer feedback into social proof for your marketing department:
“When you identify customers who are happy and eager to promote your business, turn their stories into social proof by asking them for the right type of marketable content. You can build workflows that make it easy to request their participation in advocacy campaigns or case studies.”
HubSpot - Service Hub Overview
Zendesk is another option that combines CRM and customer help desk services. In their marketing, Zendesk places a real emphasis on giving the best tools and support to customer service agents. It also offers an internal help desk for employees too .
One outstanding feature is ticket forms:
“Ask the right questions and gather all the information you need from your customers up-front. With ticket forms, you can create multiple support request forms that show a unique set of ticket fields, making it easy for your agents to know what kind of support your customers need.”
At your event, there are always a hundred basic questions and answers that need to be constantly repeated. For event or conference organizers, there’s rarely time to stop and repeat FAQs. Instead, common answers need to be readily available -- ideally, before the question even comes to mind.
There’s really no need for a check-in system with a staff of a dozen people for your event. With speedy printers and some planning, you can create a self-service check-in and badge printing system with only a few staff for troubleshooting.
Of course we have to mention that PheedLoop is an excellent check-in and badge printing system for conferences and other kinds of events.
SocialTables has a thorough examination of check-in apps. Here are a few of our favourites:
If you work in the events industry, you probably know Eventbrite already. It’s a fast and simple way to sell tickets for events, both free and paid. In most cases, Eventbrite only charges a fee on paid tickets sold. The Eventbrite for organizers app is a great option for paper-free check-in for a small conference or event. You can scan barcodes from another person’s phone or paper ticket, or just take their name and swipe them off the list.
Aventri is an event technology supplier with software that flows from registration, event apps and on-site support. Aventri emphasizes the self-serve nature of its check-in kiosks and ticket confirmations equipped with QR codes to eliminate lineups.
The data yielded from check-in is associated with the individual badge to create rich event data reports.
“Attendee badge scans can be added to each attendee's profile, helping you understand who and what your attendees are engaging with, along with where they go at your event.”
Aventri - Onsite Solutions | Check-In & Badging
Like Eventbrite, Showpass offers to get registration sites and ticket sales up and running quickly. Focusing on concerts and other events with designated seats, showpass emphasizes the ease of selling tickets on-site including an integration with Square for payments. To speed through the check-in process and validate tickets, Showpass has developed a QR code-scanning kiosk they playfully named Steve.
Showpass - Showpass vs Ticketmaster
Imagine an airport where every question from every traveler had to be answered verbally. Line-ups would circle the airport and arguments would break out every few minutes. Instead, airports anticipate that you’ll need flight information and delay notifications, and put that information on screen that you’ll naturally pass as you walk through the terminal.
At your conference or event, this kind of active transmission of information can be as easy as television stands and dedicated laptops, or more sophisticated like a video loop or integrated information feed.
Human-machine interaction is still in its infancy. Only in the past few years have we seen truly useful voice recognition features built into phones, smart home and speaker hardware. In the 2020s, we should expect voice and face recognition technology to play a larger part in the greeting and entertainment of guests across many industries -- especially conferences and events.
Pepper is a robot from Softbank that is designed to be unintimidating and easy to talk to. It’s easy to imagine Pepper at a large conference or tradeshow answering common questions about the schedule or location of booths using both voice recognition and its touch screen.
“Designed to draw people in, Pepper adds new life to your business by attracting new customers, sparking real curiosity – and leaving a lasting impression. Outgoing and charming, Pepper reaches out to people the moment they walk in the door and starts making conversation – and friends.”
Softbank - Pepper Robot
Developed in Toronto, Teabot allows users to create a custom tea blend using a touchscreen. The system is also wifi enabled for reporting purposes. Imagine offering to create a custom blend for each person who arrives at your event based on their flavour preferences -- or even job title!
Though chat bots don’t seem to have the industry-changing hype around them that they once had, these helpful little features have come to define fast and effective customer service and issue resolution. According to Landbot.io (h/t to Zendesk), 60% of consumers have used bots to communicate with a business in the last year, and 48% say they’re willing to chat with a bot for customer service.
Freeman Chat (also known as Fluent) offers to help convert more people into event attendees by answering common questions and giving a fluid Q&A-based registration process. It also answers common on-site questions such as directions and session schedules. It even has in-chat sponsorship opportunities. At least two events industry players, Freeman and Cvent, have released their own events-focused chat solutions:
“Deciding whether to attend an event, conference or other live experience can be a painful customer journey. With Fluent chatbot, turn potential customers into engaged participants through natural conversations by guiding them through the registration or purchasing process.”
With everyone at your conference or event using the same app, there’s a tremendous opportunity for convenient transactions, payments and immediate delivery.
PheedLoop takes a direct approach to purchases at events; they can be done right in the app. An attendee can enter their credit card information to purchase anything they might need or want from the event organizers. That might include tickets for additional activities at the show, drink tickets for a particular networking event, or swag like t-shirts and promotional items.
Another approach that many events are taking is the RFID wallet and bracelet payment system. Eventbrite has an excellent blog to determine if RFID is right for your event. While simplicity and cashless uniformity of payments are certainly advantages, attendees might not enjoy being coerced into using yet another form of payment to buy basics at your event. Additional customer service hours will also have to be allocated in order to help attendees get on the platform, process refund requests, and explain how the system works. Intellix is one supplier known for RFID.
Anyone who has looked at the response rate of survey emails knows you can’t count on every event attendee to provide feedback for your event. And that’s a shame because learning about and improving the attendee experience should be a high priority for any event or conference organizer. The self-serve kiosk gives attendees the opportunity to quickly rate and comment on your event while their impressions are still fresh in their minds.
As they say on the Touchworks blog, unlike email surveys or event staff asking rapid-fire questions, the kiosks are a low pressure and optional way to capture feedback:
“Depending on the nature of your business, and the relationship you want to have with your customers, it is not always a good idea to interrupt people as they go about their day to ask them for their feedback. People are generally more inclined to speak the truth if they don’t feel like they are being watched or inconvenienced.”
QuickTap surveys is an iPad-based system that’s designed to quickly collect user feedback using either a kiosk or staff to prompt users to begin the survey.
The interface appears to be designed for fast and intuitive with a happy face rating system. In a case study at Toronto’s Pearson airport, a survey kiosk collected 55,000 survey responses within the first year.
QuickTap Surveys - Customer Feedback Kiosk Best Practices
There are many ways to empower your attendees and stakeholders before, during and after an event or conference. Thanks to some intuitive technology, anyone can find answers to their questions quickly and easily with minimal input from the event organizer.
Approaching your event with a self-service mindset for registering attendees, anticipating and addressing their questions and concerns, checking them in to the event with a fast and intuitive system and collecting their feedback can result in a smoother event experience and more time to focus on putting on a more immersive event to achieve your goals.