Ian PriestmanStansted5OmniServ app 2

How technology is changing the face of customer service

By Ian Priestman, Head of Experiential, Blackjack Promotions

However much Experiential, Travel Retail, Customer Service and Logistics have changed over the years, they all still require the same thing to succeed: the human element. This has always been the way and will long continue to be so. What has developed at a particularly rapid rate in our sector is the technology and processes behind these face-to-face services, enabling shorter delivery times, lower costs and live measurement; all of which are key to ROI.

We can now turn those fantastic creative ideas and mechanics into reality with real world budgets. For example, digitally create a walk through in a virtual world of a given campaign to ensure all is as expected and make those last few changes before going live as required. The creative structures can be printed on 3D printers and once signed off, sent straight to production on CNC machines, all in days rather than the weeks required in the past. The costs for complicated bespoke modelling as result has now become accessible to all, rather than being reserved for the multi-million pound TV ad.

Campaigns can now be planned and executed in a fraction of the time with fewer ‘hands on deck’ thanks to complex Project Management software. Once fully understood and integrated across stakeholders, this ensures all assets will run as efficiently as possible and that all elements, personnel and timings are constantly monitored and the knock-on effects of any changes are fully understood and compensated for. These processes save time and money, as well as minimising any costly errors. Furthermore, they provide constant real-time reporting as and when required.

Planning the who, what, where and why

In the travel retail space, today’s planning tools can tell you exactly what demographic of consumer will be where and when, enabling you to plan by the hour to ensure that you not only know how many people, where and when they will be but also the specific nationalities that will be there. This allows you to understand potential customers’ cultures and therefore their purchasing decisions, how they like to interact and what products they like to buy. You can even plan right down to matching language requirements with brand ambassadors to ensure perfect service and help as well as sales.

Putting the customer first

It’s now fully understood that Customer Service needs to be at the forefront of all that we do. This applies not only to agencies and clients, but also in the training given to brand ambassadors who ultimately become representatives of clients’ brands during campaigns. Time and time again, we see that excellent customer service is the start to all interactions, whether you want to sell, demo or ‘sign up’ a consumer.

This is a key strength to Experiential as it is a two-way communication. Again, applying the latest technology allows staffing databases to become more than simple lists of potential ‘staff’. Instead, modern databases allow us to manage recruitment and training, as well as the expected selection and deployment of Brand Ambassadors. In our case, this means that we have been able to select the 8,000 brand ambassadors on our database from online ‘real time’ interviews. A task previously impossible given we receive around 24,000 applications a year.

Using the same technology, agencies can ensure their brand ambassadors have access to all the correct continuous training, specific campaign briefs and constant feedback. They can also preselect shortlists for all campaigns, minimising back of house resource where required and ensuring that staffing teams can focus on the important matters, selecting the staff from shortlists and ensuring correct training. Previously you would need a number of office admin assistants just to check availability.

Avoiding a logistical nightmare

The logistics of a national roadshow can be hugely complex. We’ve run numerous UK, pan-European and global campaigns, all requiring POS, stands and brand ambassadors and have learnt many things over the years location by location. You can have the best ambassadors on site, your stand and tech all set to go but your sampling stock or demo product is a day away in a distribution centre because someone misread a label.

However, through meticulous planning using the latest technologies, budgets can be maximised, consumers accurately targeted and all the data constantly recorded and analysed ensuring maximum ROI. Having the relevant skills and systems in place, means that we can now deliver great stand out, creative campaigns with real wow factor and memorability, ideal to share across all our personal social channels and really embed the brand message or experience in the consumer. Ultimately this means that cost per contact can now start to make sense.

A key point to remember, value is all important as there are always ways of doing things cheaper, but often these outweigh the risks and undermine your real ROI.