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August 15th, 2011

A look into conferences: How do they impact your ROI?

One of the consequences of the financial crisis is an increased focus on how the companies spend their resources on training and conferences. This has created a renewed debate on the real value of attending conferences.. The investment is often quite substantial since you have to add transportation and accommodation to the often quite high entrance fees the Conference Providers charge for their products. On top of this you have to take the time factor into account. The participants will be away from the office during the event and more time will be needed in preparation before and evaluating the content/findings after the event. When you add it all up it’s a big investment – so it’s a fair challenge to ask if it is a sound investment or not.

In this interview – we challenge Jens Severinsen from the independent Danish Conference Provider MBCE.

Jens is among other products responsible for the annual Contact Centre Conference targeted towards the Danish Call Centre industry and as such an outspoken voice supporting the wisdom of attending conferences as a sound investment.

Are Conferences a social meeting place, where the same people get together every year?

Jens: In all honesty we consider our repeat customers as a sign of the quality of our events. The competition in this area is high, so if our product is lacking – we know there will be a lot of other options out there.

But the networking aspect of a conference is an important part of the event. Lots of contacts are made and renewed and it’s a great place to build a professional network which can become very useful throughout your business life. It’s definitely part of the concept – but the attendees expect a lot more than just a good lunch.

The concept of meeting colleagues from different industries working on similar challenges is a great framework for adding new contacts to your network. I personally know of several examples where these informal contacts have resulted in business deals and have enhanced individual’s careers. Another benefit is the chance to get an informal type of benchmarking, where you can match your own standard against others in a rather informal way.

Conferences are often described as a marketplace where you will be “under attack” from consultants and sponsors and you will end up paying for a sophisticated sales pitch?

Jens: Our annual Contact Centre Conference is a 2 day event – focusing on “the good idea”. If the attendees during the conference can walk away with just one good idea, the investment will be worthwhile. The conference concept gives people a chance to listen and learn from others experiences. The scope is not to copy others, but to gain inspiration and take useful fragments and implement them into your own organisation. Sometimes even small changes has a big impact – and we know that some of the presentations being held at the Contact Centre Conference has made a difference… we love to get that type of feedback!

Where the good ideas originate from is a highly individual thing. What is a brand new idea for some is old trusted knowledge for others. We strive to have a mix of speakers at our event where there will be a lot of cases from hands-on practical experienced speakers. We will also to a certain degree leave room for more theoretical type of speakers commenting on new trends and findings, relevant to the Call Centre Industry.

We are aware of the fact that nobody likes to hear an outright sales pitch at a Conference you have paid to attend. At the same time we know that a lot of people still like the idea of getting information about relevant products. At our events the coffee breaks are the prime time for this aspect. The delegates have a chance to chat with consultants/sponsors and get the information they need/want. This way you only get “attacked” from companies you have initiated contact to. Conferences is a good way to learn more about providers informally as you get a better feel for the people and their product before you invite them into your company for a more formal talk.

Are annual conferences ”old wine on new bottles” where the same message is repeated every year?

Jens: A competent Conference Provider needs to know what is the most important topics for the majority of the companies in the target audience. We know that not all companies are at the same level and certain topics evolve over a period of time. So a few selected topics could be on the agenda again in next year’s conference, but the presentations should be new and exciting. Some challenges never change and new and interesting approaches are most welcome.

Our concept is to address 7 - 8 different topics relevant to the Call Centre Industry and we know up front that not every lecture will have the same level of relevance to all the participants. Sometimes people sign up for an event just to hear one speaker, and the other lectures is seen as a bonus!

Our focus is to address the challenges for the Call Centre Industry in Denmark from different angles.

We will look at both theories and practical cases and do our best to create an event designed to meet the expectations of our customers. We know that the companies evolve all the time and our ambition is to stay ahead of the audience. A part of this philosophy is to always have keynote speakers from abroad. Certain markets are more developed and it is great to tap into cutting edge speakers wealth of information and find new inspiration for how to do things better on a local level.

We must keep an eye to the major changes that occur and be able to let the new trends find a way into our conference programme. For instance: How to deal with Social Medias has been on the programme the last two years. Suddenly Customer Service departments had to deal with customers on facebook – and the base for a new conference topic was in the making.

The annual events are in many respects some of the most fun and challenging to do as a Conference Provider. The ambition is always to make next year’s event a little bit better and add even more value into the package.

If we forget to have the utmost respect for the need for good research prior to the event – we know we will be doomed. Nobody wants to pay premium prices for an outdated product. In my opinion the concept of trying to sell the same story every year will be a sure road to disaster. The company’s who buys conferences are smart company’s who will attend the good events and skip the mediocre ones.

As a Conference Provider  - what do you think are the most important argument for attending a conference?

Jens:

As a participant:

  • New ideas – if you can implement one good idea you most likely will have an ROI that goes through the roof !
  • Networking – renew and add new contacts to your network. This is important both from a business and personal perspective
  • Get assurance that you are on the right track. It is always nice to get confirmation that the concepts and ideas you are working on is similar to what other successful companies are doing

As a speaker

  • Spread the word… I am an expert in this area. If you are on the programme as a speaker a lot of other companies will identify you as an expert.
  • Networking/soft sales. You get to mingle with the delegates and you will be able to add valuable contacts to your network.

As a Company

  • Be seen as a market leader
  • Attract the best applicants for new positions – your future co-worker could be in the audience
  • Branding opportunity

As a sponsor

  • Meet decisions makers in an environment, where there are open for new inputs
  • Branding opportunity
  • A chance to present a great case / soft selling

About MBCE:

MBCE is the company behind the biggest annual Conference for the Contact Centre industry in Denmark.

MBCE is an independent training and Conference Provider creating products on the Business to Business market in Denmark in areas like: Customer Service, Finance, IT/ServiceDesk and General Management. We develop our products from scratch based on a research oriented dialogue with the marketplace. We have an extensive network and knowledge base of experts from a theoretical and a more practical viewpoint. The owner’s of MBCE has more than 15 years of experience in developing and marketing conferences in Denmark and abroad.

 


About the Author

Andreas Wessel Knaack

Andreas Wessel Knaack is head of the change management team in TeleFaction. The team assists clients to integrate customer feedback in ways that improve business. This is done by balancing focus on effectiveness and effect in various areas: Increase customer loyalty and satisfaction, Optimize operations i.e. effective staffing and call duration, Cultural change in teams, From call center as cost center to a profit center, Increase sales and reducing churn, Target KPI reporting, Benchmark analysis, Multichannel benchmarks etc.

TeleFaction primarily caters to European businesses in the telecom, financial services, energy, travel and transport industries.

Andreas has many years of business experience in using market research to implement and develop a brand culture. Most recently as head of Group Market Analysis in Danske Bank, one of the leading financial enterprises in northern Europe.

Andreas holds a Master of Science in Sociology along different programmes in business, entrepreneurship and cultural understanding, latest a Rotary Group Study Exchange programme to Santiago de Chile.    

 






 
 

 
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