IDDBA Practices Customer Service 101

Jul 01, 2003

Commentary by Al

Business is never so healthy as when, like a chicken, it must do a certain
amount of scratching around for what it gets.
- Henry Ford

The convention business is tough these days. A down economy, combined with
fear of travel due to terrorism and/or disease, have combined to bring reduced
attendance at many conventions, and we now find manufacturers and retailers
questioning the need for so many industry events.

With that it mind, it’s nearly astounding to read some of the statistics
on the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association’s (IDDBA) annual convention,
recently held in Las Vegas. Compared to 2002, overall attendance was up over
18 percent, to 8,122. Retail attendance was up over 33 percent, to 1,812. The
number of booths was up nearly 12 percent, to 1274, while the number of new
products displayed was up 33 percent, to an even 800.

Certainly, the fact that the convention was held in Las Vegas helped, but 2002
was also a record year — how many associations can say that after 9-11? Over
and over on the floor, I heard attendees complimenting the convention itself,
and its educational components, and IDDBA’s management.

Here’s my theory as to why IDDBA has done well, and has a great reputation:
they care. The convention ran in early June, and by late in the month, all registrants
received an overview of the show’s performance. More important than that,
there was an apology and an explanation as to why some attendees had to wait
to pick up their badges (most attendees picked up their badges later than usual).

What’s the point? IDDBA didn’t just analyze attendance or tout their
success. They felt many attendees had to wait too long for their badges, so
they analyzed why the situation occurred, explained it to their customers (attendees),
and apologized for the inconvenience. Customer Service 101.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been to hundreds of industry conventions
over the years, and stood in many long lines, but never do I remember receiving
such diligent follow up, and an explanation for delays. As IDDBA touted other
positive statistics, here’s what they said about the delay, “Waiting time
for badge pick-up in 2002 — 12 minutes at 11:30AM on Sunday. Waiting time for
badge pick up in 2003: ‘Too long'”.

What a breath of fresh air IDDBA is! Sure, they make mistakes, but like any
good organization, they acknowledge them and work on correcting them. And, they
communicate with their customers. Hats off to Carol Christison and her organization’s
great reputation for customer service.

Moderator’s Comment: What can associations do to make
their organizations and conventions more meaningful in a soft business environment?

Anderson – Moderator

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