Hybrid event formats birth new service standards

The pandemic has blown open a wide window for event businesses to re-examine and overhaul their services, in order to exceed the evolving demands of customers.

In a session at the Virtual IT&CM China and CTW 2020 on Monday, industry experts from China shared that the rise of hybrid events has caused the usual customer satisfaction yardsticks to be outdated.

Clockwise from top left: CCPIT Commercial Sub-council’s Alicia Yao moderated the session that fielded speakers Marriott International’s Becky Cao, CCPIT Commercial Sub-council’s Jack Yao and Sourcing China’s Catty Yun

To guide companies and their staff towards the new standards of operations, the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) Commercial Sub-council has espoused Surviving/Service, Preparation and Actualisation (SPA), a plan to enable MICE enterprises to survive and find opportunities in the current crisis.

Jack Yao, secretary general, elaborated that under this initiative, the Sub-council is urging businesses to “reconsider the services (they) provide in the MICE ecosystem” within two quarters of a year, before moving on to Preparation by the third quarter, and actualisation in the fourth quarter.

“In a pyramid of service excellence, most companies can currently reach levels one and two to achieve basic customer satisfaction. But how can they reach level three ­– individual service – and level four – surprising service? If they are able to achieve customer delight, it can translate into customer loyalty, and generate higher financial as well as non-financial results,” Yao stressed.

A company should not only launch a new product or service, but also seek to make it an industry standard, opined Yao.

Citing an example, he said the Sub-council had pushed for new industry standards due to the rise of contactless delivery services in the region. Within 26 days, it launched a set of association standards, and in some 100 days, it achieved global standardisation by the International Organization for Standardization.

China-based PCO 31 Events has adopted new structures and leaned into “forced innovation” to test a new model of hybrid events. These involve a “small but smart offline” mixed with “strong online presence”, described Tony Wan, its CEO and co-founder.

One event that used this model was the 2020 World AI Conference in Shanghai, which featured speakers in a physical panel on stage and no more than 300 people in the audience. While the offline scene was greatly downsized, the online programme was abuzz with strong participatory content, good channel design, and wide social media spread, said Wan.

“We need to consider the attendees’ patience since they can leave the online session at any time. We can no longer expect participants to sit and watch videos for two days. Instead, the content can be better spread out over three, five or even 10 days. We also have to create a more high-tech and fashionable environment with live-streaming to attract different decision makers,” he shared.

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