Customer Service at CHA: Observations from Summer 2012

I thought I would share this post that I prepped last year after attending Summer 2012 CHA as a member of the press.

I am pretty much a nobody in the scrapbook industry. Sure, I studied scrapbookers for my dissertation research, I have appeared on The Paperclipping Roundtable a couple of times, and attended Summer 2012 CHA as a  contributing writer at Scrapbook Update, but I’m still mostly a nobody in the industry.

Being a nobody was perfect for attending CHA. I got to act like a secret shopper.

So how was I treated?

Each time I entered a booth and someone who worked in the booth approached me, I was sure to hand them my business card. Some looked at it, while most did not. Some looked at it, and were very excited that someone from Scrapbook Update was at there booth. Reactions ranged from, “we love Scrapbook Update,” to more detailed booth tours, to encouragement to take any photo I wanted even if I needed to move product around. Another gave me the contact information for the person at the company that I need to be in touch with about their new products. These reactions were rare and each happened exactly once.  I was mostly purposefully vague about why I was in their booths because I wanted to limit any special treatment as a member of the press. I handed off my business card and left it to them to take a second to see who I might be or ask me how they could help me (e.g., “what types of products are your customers looking for?”).

Mostly, I was ignored. I was rarely approached by anyone in a booth. Some booths were very busy, so this makes sense to some extent. I almost always had to ask for a catalog or had to seek out someone working the booth to get a catalog. True, most people who show up in the booth already will have a catalog or are already on your mailing list, but some are not.

I was completely unimpressed by how customer service worked in the majority of the booths at CHA. In contrast, I can remember the great customer service of all the companies that provided it.

Here are my six tips for customer service at CHA:

  1. Treat every person who enters your booth like a potential customer.
  2. Make sure the person is offered a catalog or that they already have a catalog. If a catalog is too spendy, then give them some sort of flyer or business card. Give them something so they remember you when they are going through their stack of catalogs.
  3. Get the potential customer’s business card. Every business card is a lead to a sale.
  4. If your company does not want to spend time handing out catalogs and collecting business cards at the show, then set-up catalogs and an area to drop off business cards of some sort in your booth.
  5. Ask the guest if they have any questions.
  6. Make sure that anyone who is working in your booth does these things regardless if the person is the owner, a designer, or someone hired just to work the booth. One company that takes up significant floor space had an indifferent designer who was obviously inconvenienced when I asked for a catalog.

Keep in mind, this was my first CHA show as a member of the press. I attended CHA about eight years ago as a store employee. It’s always possible that I just do not understand trade show etiquette.

For the record, I recieved no catalogs, samples, or swag in the mail despite handing out a business card everywhere. Of course, I was fired from Scrapbook Update a few days after CHA, so I suppose, this could have led to my exclusion from any mailing lists. Again, I don’t care about free stuff, but am curious as to how following-up on leads works in this environment.

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  • Hmmm… makes me wonder how the owner of my little local store is treated at the shows.

  • It would be interesting to find out the difference. I wonder what the response is when a person says “I’d like to place an order,” but the thing is, the person walking in the booth seems to have make that statement rather than being asked by the people working in the booth. I should do a follow-up comparing this experience to what happens among the book publishers at my professional conference. The experience is definitely different!