February 11, 2020

Applying QFD on B2B Exhibition Industry

What is QFD ( Quality Function Deployment)?

-A tool for customer-focused design of products and services.

B2B exhibition industry is recoganized as service industry which provides a platform for players in certain vertical business chain to gather in a venue for the purpose of exchanging information and transacting goods (My own definition). With the developement of globalisation and advanced technology, B2B exhibition can be broadly organised in many regions where there is a customer needs. The booming trends has been witnessed in Europe (Germany, UK), Asia (China, HK China, Singapore, etc.) and North America (US), where event organising companies and talents dominate.

German B2B exhibition company leads ahead in technology in aspect of serving customers in hard service and has good reputations in world-scope brand mangament. UK takes fully advantage of resource integration by fast and widely establishing partnership and joint vetures. China gain profit from the government policy and up-trend of global market economy, expanded and new furbished venues and frastructures to make it an attractive business center. However, the whole industry is not ideal though prosperous and stunning from the PR report.

Looking into the specific project, it's not hard to find that team members always doing the repetitive and machenical work as the framework is not likely to change. However, what matters to customer is seldom deeply studied. Or there is not a role setting properly who really care about customer. Why am I so assertive is partly because the performance is always interlinked with revenue, whereas the customer's needs can never be the priority. Issues in this industry can be decribed as below which QFD may provide analysis of design the service accordingly.

-Remoteness from the final customer (may not even familar with the director customer)

-Lack of visibility of the customer chain (lack of experts and high turnover which leads to lack of constant study)

-Informal (or inappropriate) customer requirement definition (lack of experts and lack of deep communication with customer)

-Complex technologies (Can be replaced by complex business chain, self-recognition of the service capability)

-Technology-led products or service (lack of experts)

-Unclear relationship between customer requirements and technology (lack of experts)

To sum up, it's all about people.

There are actually some practical actions been taken by marketing department to collect the info or feedback from customer in post-show questionnare. However, is there any significant progress has ever made other than taking use of the data to support the offical report? Is there a transparant communication between marketing team (hide in screen) and sales team (in front line)? Is the requirement or problem can be forwarded to the right person who can solve it? Is the problem from feedback can be improved in next edition? Can the suppliers are competent to represent the organisor in communication and execution? ... ...

QFD provides a structured approach for the whole process which is customer-focused and can apply in the early service life cycle with the engagement of cross-functional team to help making decisions. As aforemented,questionnaire is widely used to collect info, in addtion to that, call center also collect info by tele method. The most direct way is sales people talk with customer and listen. Ironically, the data is normally dealt with by intern (without any background knowledge or even make mistakes),no matter this role is in the project or call center. The management team only got the final report with an positive NO. like 88% customer are satisfied with this event and 85% customer will participate in next edition... However, what is the truth behind this? What about those who are not satisfied? In which aspect they are not satisfied? Is it really mean something to have the figure of estimated percentage who might be the customer next time? The huge gap between customer satisfaction and the signal where can be identified is not known, regardless of the reliability of the tools and methods to collect it.

(Source from Paul Robert, WMG)

After analysis of the links include degree of importance, customer competitiveness, staff competance, service comparasion, a suitable matrix shown relationships can be established. instead of collecting data after the service, why not do it ahead of the service? Why not establish a tracking record of customer saying involving multi-functional department who may solve the problem.

The benefits of QFD are many, while this can best solve the problem in earlier stage or can be seen as before actually delivering the service. if the players are all perform in one way which is after service, what out come can be reached if the one who do it differently?

Further requirements like senior management commitment, change management, department structure change, talent asquisition, compentent partner are also the key factors which can facilitate QFD. All decisions should be made with a reason.

To conclude, exhibition industry is now in a growing trend in terms of revenue, however, the customer requirements can hardly be identified and met due to the lack of knowledge and short-term profit-focused strategy. How to satisfy the existing customer and attract competitors customer is the key for long-term development.


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