With the focus on the customer journey and early touch points, visitors to Autumn Fair enjoyed under-the-sea themed painted subways and improved signage en route to the venue, introducing a new level of anticipation. Inside the building they were greeted by theatre pieces, including a green piano which they were encouraged to play, situated within a dwell zone with dedicated seating and increased power points where they could take a break.
A significant addition to the NEC offer comes in the form of a “Welcome Host”. For Autumn Fair, a “Welcome Host” was designated to organisers i2i for the first four hours of their first day as a general aide, and going forward will be made available to every show.
Additional organiser benefits include provision of a welcome hamper, a VIP discount card for every food outlet at the venue, improvements to the toilets and offices to enhance their overall functionality and appeal, as well as celebratory champagne.
“Although we know we’re the venue of choice for our organisers and visitors, we’re continuing to make improvements to demonstrate our flexibility, as well as creating a warm welcome and showing off our personality,” says Martin Clarke, the NEC’s Marketing Director. “That in turn will make it easier for our customers to succeed and for visitors to get the most out of their experience. We also need to continue to be “brilliant at basics”, focusing on the little things that make people want to do business with us and visit us again.
“We’ve focused on – and will continue to do so – all of our customer journeys, from organisers to exhibitors and visitors, focusing on early touch points and injecting more personality into our offer. We need to continue to be great hosts and think “why not?” showing that we’re fresh-thinking in our approach and willing to take risks. Overall, the NEC wants to make people feel a sense of anticipation, inspiration and excitement when visiting. We want to be famous for our “wow” factor, living a brand that surprises and delights its customers and leads the way in the marketplace.”
Going forward, exhibitors will benefit from comprehensive, informative welcome packs and random acts of kindness, ranging from free coffee to complimentary exhibitor advantage parking, the NEC’s new parking product which permits exhibitors to park right behind their halls.
The conference and live audience will experience a revitalised Gallery area used for meeting breakouts, including revamped conference suites (which have increased to 34 across the venue during this year), in addition to an up-to-date bar based on learnings from the high street.
“We’re continuously looking at ways to improve,” says Clarke. “Research told us that positive associations with the NEC focused on it being well known for its central location and connectivity, facilities, size and flexible space and its proven knowledge and expertise. As a result, it’s described as reliable, dependable, professional, friendly and trustworthy.
“However, with the customer experience becoming more and more sophisticated throughout the hospitality industry, our focus is on “experiential” which will generate excitement and showcase our character in a more obvious way, but at the same time not losing sight of our vital business traits. We hope that through building an emotional attachment with the NEC brand we’ll also give the venue resilience in a changing market and enhance our stakeholder relationships.”
Jason Stead, i2i’s Client Experience Director said: “Exhibitors and visitors come to our shows for a specific purpose - to do business, and the setting in which that’s done can make a real difference. Ultimately, our aim as the Client Experience Team is to get our exhibitors and visitors to arrive in a good mood and to leave in a better mood, and the venue has a major part to play in achieving that.
“The NEC has made some great improvements over the summer and we’re delighted to reap the benefits. Some of the improvements are functional, such as better signage and access, while some of the improvements are linked to emotional engagement like better lighting, the great murals in the subways and the pianos in the Piazza.
“You feel better in a high quality environment and if people are in a good mood they can achieve more. Introducing some fun and anticipation - making and continuing to make those small touches - can make a big difference.”