Trade Show TalesBlog

Posts Tagged ‘Customer Service’

Customer Service Just Got Easier at Your Next Trade Show

November 1st, 2016 1 COMMENT

This photo was shot with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III and L-series lens.

What’s the Difference Between a Shopping Mall and a Trade Show?

Most retailers devote significant time and money to customer service training for their employees. The same can’t be said for exhibitors and their booth staff. They assume their team will be professional.

Recently, I was invited to conduct a Booth Etiquette and Sales Training seminar for a medical services company. It would have been easy to pull together a PowerPoint. Instead, I asked the attendees if they had ever worked in any job where they were expected to approach, assist, and advise someone on a purchase. Of the 52 attendees, all but four raised their hand. I then asked them to think about the “rules” they learned.


Here’s What They Told Me 

  1. Acknowledge every customer who enters your department, even if you are busy.
  2. Smile.
  3. Don’t bad-mouth your competition.
  4. If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.
  5. Arrive on time. Don’t leave early. Your customers expect the store to be open at the scheduled time and remain open until they have finished shopping.
  6. Listen. Follow the 80/20 rule of sales by listening at least 80 percent of the time.
  7. Ask open-ended questions.
  8. Say “Thank you,” “Please,” and “You’re Welcome.”
  9. Dress appropriately for the job, including basic hygiene. At a minimum, polish your shoes, use an iron, brush your teeth, and comb your hair.
  10. The “Hard Sell” rarely works. The “Consultative Approach” rarely fails.
  11. Don’t chew gum on the sales floor.
  12. Don’t eat on the sales floor.
  13. Don’t drink any beverages on the sales floor.
  14. Wear comfortable shoes.
  15. You can’t be an expert about everything. Ask a colleague to ask who may know more about a product or service.
  16. Don’t make assumptions based on a customer’s appearance.
  17. Start conversations . . .  not a sales pitch.
  18. The customer is always right (or mostly right).
  19. Things get messy, but they can’t stay that way.
  20. You’re not a carnival barker. You are a sales professional.
  21. If you make a commitment to find something, to add them to the mailing list, or to call them when an item goes on sale, honor that commitment.

These “Rules” Should Seem Very Familiar

After all, working on the show floor is very similar to working in a shoe store, electronics store, or a restaurant. You are there to assist customers. Sometimes your customers know exactly what they want. Other times, they expect you to guide them to most appropriate solution after determining their needs. Sometimes it’s slow. Other times it’s busy, but either way you are onstage and expected to perform flawlessly and to be a professional.

And yet, we often see behavior in a trade show booth that would be unacceptable in any retail situation:

  • Eating and drinking on the show floor
  • Drifting into the booth 45 minutes after the show starts after partying until 4 am and reeking of alcohol
  • Congregating in packs, ignoring customers, bad mouthing competitors, and acting like working the show floor is a punishment
  • Monopolizing conversations with customers, disregarding basic sales skills, and launching into a laundry list of features and benefits
  • Using literature and the lead retrieval machine as a substitute for asking open-ended questions
  • Failing to acknowledge customers with a smile or a “be there in a minute”
  • Pre-judging a customer based on appearance or after glancing at the color of their badge
  • Not following up on a lead or a promise to a potential customer

Nearly Everyone Knows How to be Successful on the Trade Show Floor

You learned the basics when you worked at Macy’s or LensCrafters or AutoZone or Olive Garden. At a minimum, you learned to be nice, to be polite, and to treat each customer with respect. At a maximum, you learned how to sell and the importance of customer service. The products and services you now represent may be more complicated and the selling price higher, but the skills are basically the same.

So next time you enter your booth, whether you have a table top at the local Chamber of Commerce show or a 30′ x 30′ custom exhibit at your industry’s premier event, remember what you learned working nights and weekends at the mall. And don’t forget to shine your shoes and iron your shirt or blouse. Appearance counts!

Please share your comments!

–Mel White

Ignorance and Indifference on the Trade Show Floor

October 26th, 2016 COMMENTS

seinfeldJerry: “I don’t understand, I made a reservation, do you have my reservation?”

Agent: “Yes, we do, unfortunately we ran out of cars.”

Jerry: “But the reservation keeps the car here. That’s why you have the reservation.”

Agent: “I know why we have reservations.”

Jerry: “I don’t think you do. If you did, I’d have a car. See, you know how to take the reservation, you just don’t know how to “hold” the reservation and that’s really the most important part of the reservation, the holding. Anybody can just take them.”

We all recognize this scene from Seinfeld:  The rental car desk. The banter between Jerry and Elaine. And the snide, indifferent response from the rental car agent. We’ve all experienced this poor customer service from an overbooked flight, a missed service appointment, or a bait and switch on an advertised product.

Yet, not all bad customer service is this blatant. Sometimes it is poor planning, not recognizing industry trends, or pure laziness. As a trade show exhibitor or an attendee, you’ve experienced this walking the show floor.


As a child, you looked forward to the annual county fair — the rides, the concerts, and the food vendors were the highlight of the summer. You planned your summer around it. Trade shows were like that once – many, many years ago. Not anymore.

Exhibitors must be proactive. To be successful, they must invite existing and potential customers to their booth and explain their value. Whether you are using email, social media, advertising, or good old fashion phone calls, as an exhibitor, you should plan for 50% of your show traffic to be generated pre-show. Simply showing up and showing off no longer works.



Think about all the money you spend before the show even starts — the exhibit, freight, booth space, drayage, labor, and travel costs. It’s significant. The show opens, attendees swarm the show floor, and some of those enter your booth space. And you ignore them.

By Day 3 how many pass through your booth without a greeting, a handshake, or even a friendly head nod? Your team may acknowledge them but it’s half-hearted. They’re already checking on their flight or planning for dinner. The attendee senses it. They move on to a competitor excited to see them on Day 3 at 3 pm.


At its core, a trade show is a face-to-face Google search. Attendees are there to find and collect information. Yet, many exhibitors bring charming rather than competent staffers. Simple questions can’t be answered by the booth staff, or the one expert is always unavailable. Even the booth fails the information test. Lots of splash but no real substance on your products and services. The successful exhibitor strikes a balance between charm and competence, flash and substance.



Perhaps I’m naïve, but I don’t buy the statistics about lead follow-up. It’s not ideal, not even close, but most companies follow up on show leads. Unfortunately, they do it half-hearted. They send an email or leave a phone message… then call it good. They treat a show lead as a cold lead, not a warm one.

The trade show attendee stopped in your booth for a reason. It’s your job to pinpoint what they need and when they need it. All too often, we abandon the sales process after the first attempt: “I left a message and they never got back to me.”


What did you learn at your last show about your competitors, your vendors, your industry, and your customers? Nothing is more valuable. Yes, the trade show should lead to more sales. There should be a measurable ROI. However, it’s the unmeasurable ROI that’s often more valuable.

We call it “face-to-face marketing,” but it’s people connecting with people, sharing information, venting, gossiping, and looking for solutions. No website can do that as effectively as two people together. Ever.

There’s no magic or voodoo to outstanding customer service on the trade show floor. It’s all about smart planning, commonsense, and hard work.

–Mel White


Trade Show Tips to the Beat of the 1970s

July 22nd, 2016 3 COMMENTS


The Keys to a Successful Trade Show:  Customer Service

Advicertainment by M. Christine Delea

Taking care of business means taking care of your customers. Giving them your time and attention and always being courteous. It can all be done — or at least started — at trade shows. You want your customers to look at your booth and think that nobody does it better.

What’cha Gonna Do

pablo_cruiseConventions and trade shows can be overwhelming and a bit frightening. There are a lot of people, an overwhelming amount of noise, too much recirculated air, and by mid-afternoon you cannot tell the diamonds from the rust. It can be tiring to the point that you start daydreaming about napping. But don’t get so far away that you neglect those who still have the energy to stop in at your booth.

So, how do you make the trade show experience valuable for customers and successful for you? What are you going to do?

First, your customers, as well as your colleagues, deserve your undivided attention. After a couple of days, attendees may be tired and possibly cranky. Same with you. But your smile and your eyes should say, they don’t know. Even if you end up listening to someone’s life story, keep your phone off and your smile on.

Don’t Stop

Second, take good notes when people talk to you, especially if you’re tired. Don’t stop at name, company, and title. Listen “between the lines,” and hear what they are saying about their business needs and wants. Those notes will help once you are back home, remembering the last time you saw him.

fleetwoodmacvintageDon’t make people wait. No one should have to knock three times to get you to say, “How do you do?” Everyone should be greeted the second they appear at your display. And every gesture, no matter how small, deserves a hearty “Thank You!”

The Show Must Go On

Finally, here are some easy suggestions. Be sure to give your business card to everyone. Always post photos and observations on your company’s Facebook and corporate website. Tweet and pin as often as possible.And, take lots of pictures of your booth and your customers.

The show must go on, but you — and everyone you have contact with — will have a much better time if you have a frame of mind that puts attendees first.

Who knows, you may even go dancing in the moonlight to some Classic 1970s tunes. It’s all part of the super time you’ll have of participating in a trade show.

Posts in the Series:


Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or


A Customer Service Infographic — A Customer Saved is a Penny Earned

August 27th, 2013 COMMENTS

Nice Companies Finish First

Peter Shankman at Shankman|Honig released an infographic today showing exactly how much money businesses lose each day thanks to horrible customer service, and what they stand to gain if they improve it by a few notches. Long story short . . . Be nice to the customers you have, and you’re guaranteed to get the customers you want.

–Mel White


Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or



Classic Exhibits Distributor Feedback in 2012

December 21st, 2012 COMMENTS

About two or three times a month, we send “Customer Feedback” emails. On average about 20-30 emails a month, more during February, fewer during July. If you’ve received one, you’ll recognize the subject line:  “Feedback on your recent order | #12345 Sacagawea Portable Hybrid (PM XYZ).”

The request is open-ended, in that it’s not a survey, but a request asking you to tell us what we did right or what we did wrong. When we do something wrong, we try to fix it immediately. When we do something right, we share it.

With the holiday season here, we thought we’d share a few of your positive comments about Classic and our Customer Service team. It’s good for the soul to hear your praise, particularly as one year ends and another begins. Thank you for your feedback, good and bad. It makes us all better.

Feedback on Your Recent Order

1. I just want to let you know that Classic is my preferred vendor. I love the exhibits, the clients are always happy. Bob Beuhl is always, pleasant, helpful and fun! Thank you so much for yet another great experience!

 2. Jeff helped me create an Aero canopy frame based on the dimensions I provided.  A CAD was created for my approval, a simple ‘sign off’ approval was given and your people went to work. We received the item as discussed, with complete set-up instructions and it fits beautifully. Working with Jeff made me realize how difficult Company Z really is to deal with. It’s unusual for us to have a vendor that actually helps and supports us through the project. We always felt like we were bothering the Company Z people. We are extremely happy to be a distributor for Classic Exhibits, top quality products and super customer service. Thank you.

3. It has been a month since that specific order, but as far as I can recall it went rather smoothly. Edie is always on top of the ball and very easy to get a hold of. She is great about returning my e-mails and phone calls promptly. I also really appreciate that if Edie doesn’t know the answer to my question, she is always quick to find out from the resident expert.

4. The job went great…no issues. The client was very happy. Bob did great as usual!

5. Charlie does a good job at responding to my questions and concerns no matter how big or small they might be. I actually like your product and think it makes a good looking booth for how small it can pack down to. Overall you guys have done a great job with my little orders and I look forward to working with Charlie in the future.

6. You guys did a great job on this. I love working with Jeff – he is very responsive, which makes my life way easier. He also rolls with the punches when the client’s ad agency makes last minute changes.

7.  The graphic did, indeed, fit the structure perfectly, although there was some back and forth with Optima about that. I expect the client to be extremely pleased with the unit.  Will send photo of what we did.

8. Charlie has been great to work with on this project and I enjoy working with him. There was an issue with one set of the graphics. It had pen marks on it around the perimeter. I contacted Charlie, but he was out, so Edie and Kevin responded immediately to the problem. They suggested I wash them, which I didn’t really want to do. Instead I learned that dabbing some alcohol on the pen mark, will take it out.

Charlie saw the emails between us regarding the pen marks and immediately followed up with me upon his return. I thought that was nice of him to follow up.

 9. As always we were very pleased with service we received from Edie and Classic. Edie is always helpful, quick with responses and a pleasure to work with. The client was very happy with their new booth. You have an excellent team in place.

10. I don’t have anything specific to say about my most recent job, but I can tell you that I have always received nothing but stellar service from my contacts at Classic. I typically work with Bob Beuhl, but I’ve also worked with Wade West in the past and he has been just as equally attentive and helpful. Sometimes customers can be a real pain, but Bob (and Wade) handled all of my questions and requests with accuracy and were extremely pleasant to work with. Give them raises! 😉

11. Sorry that I can’t give you any specifics other than, “Gee that was easy.” It was a re-order of a previous project that shipped direct to a client show, so I never saw the final piece other than in the photos that Wade sent. Looked good, client is happy, so I am happy!

 12. I wanted to thank both of you, and ask that you extend my thanks to Anne and Wade, for the support we’ve received in the last several quotes. The speed and flexibility we’ve experienced in the estimating process has allowed us to close the orders against some very difficult competition, under some very tight deadlines. Jennifer and Liz are singing your praises.

13. Anne is AWESOME…I love her! Please don’t ever take her away from us!

14. The client was extremely happy with the exhibit property. I was working through an agency, and my contact there was very apprehensive because the show fell during dates that she was out of the country and her client was insistent that they set up themselves – we were both very nervous as the delivery, set up and show opening were all on the same day – no margin for errors. Everything went flawlessly. The client had absolutely no problems figuring out how to set-up the booth themselves – so very user friendly – very happy clients.

15. I enjoy very much working with Anne on projects. She is courteous, patient and knowledgeable. Classic Exhibits and Anne hit the mark on this one. The hardware and graphics arrived on time as promised and she was able to help make our deadline even with a couple changes to the order in the process.

16. I thought Edie was absolutely great!! She was very thorough and helpful and kept her eye on the project all the way through. She is a great asset to your organization.

17. Looks fabulous!! Charlie was awesome as always!

18. Bob and Classic are by far the best! My client loves his booth and has even referred another client that he met at his trade show. Thanks to Classic and Bob, we have another happy client!

In addition, Kevin and I would like to extend our thanks to our Design Team, Mike Swartout and Katina Rigall. Your designs and your work with Classic Distributors make the rest of us look better every single day. And to Production, Accounting, Sales, Purchasing, Web Development, and Customer Service . . . You know you are loved, respected, and admired, even if we don’t say it often enough.

Keep the feedback coming folks. We welcome your comments in 2013 and look forward to an exciting year.

–Mel White and Kevin Carty


Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions and engineered aluminum extrusions (ClassicMODUL). Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100.