Sometimes a service provider takes it to their heart

When a service provider takes critique with a positive attitude, you know that these people care for what they’re doing. My critique is in most cases a bit too extreme and that’s mostly the point, as I wish to showcase mostly opposite views while exploring other possibilities within certain limits. Often I look back at a post and wonder if I was too harsh, but then I remember the general attitude a lot of companies and organizers in general have. It’s a bit unfair to lump them all into one piece, but looking at these people in one general view creates a sort of competition to design better service. Then again, I do admit that I’ve been listening to Josh Hadley’s rants lately a bit too much and some of my intentions have been slightly adjusted to channel the passion that man oozes.

In that sense, you can be surprised that within eight hours of releasing my disappointment on the upcoming Desucon Frostbite I noticed that Antti Myyrä, the main organizer, had commented there and further explained the situation. At the time you’re reading this post the comment will have already been deleted and moved into this post in order to open a transparent dialogue. Let’s see what the man writes back.

Hi there!

Thanks for the feedback and suggestions. The truth is, we actually don’t have a clue beforehand whether our GOH’s will give out signatures or not. Usually they do, but sometimes they just don’t. We realize how important getting an autograph from the GOH is to fans, and we have succeeded in negotiating with many who at first didn’t want to give out any. This time it was unfortunately a different story.

So, being in a situation where we can’t get everything we want, we could have of course cancelled the whole thing, but to whom would that do any good? I still believe fans can get a lot out of the visit, although getting a signature from Mr. Wakamoto would have been a highlight of the event (or even the whole year, for some).

As for communicating the thing, we didn’t release the information until we were certain that this is the deal we’re getting. Releasing incorrect information or just lying about it isn’t how we do things. We are of course offering a full refund on ticket purchase, if someone wishes to cancel their visit because of this.

Information is the most important thing when it comes to event organizing, but not just towards the customers. Having an open dialogue and clear set agreement between the organizer and the guests is highly important, as it helps in solidifying the overall structure of the event. Knowing well beforehand what will be, how it will be and at what time is extremely important. It’s far too common to have this sort of lack of dialogue and information between participants. Every working environment suffers from this from school to event organizing to whatever generic workplace we are in. The problem persists in our information era, even thou we have multiple sorts of instant messengers. Some things are in the human nature by default. 

Uncertainty has been a downfall for few events that I’ve been putting up. That uncertainty needs to be removed with questions and answers from both sides, so no ambiguous assumptions are left open. This of course is always reflected in the information given to the customers. Leaving information allows the customer to assume what will take place rather than to expect what will take place. This is what you want to avoid as much as you can.

It’s understandable that we do not wish to release information that we are not certain on. However, then this uncertainty needs to be reflected on the released information. How this information is released is actually very difficult to achieve with the desired effect. Sometimes it may put the organizers in a position where they look incompetent, but with correct wording it becomes just a part of the information.

Personally, I’m glad to see that the organizers are willing to refund the ticket’s price for all who wish to that. While it’s “merely” 20€, you need to take account the travel and hotel expenses as well. The overall price of the visit is not 20€, but all those expenses added to it. Simply because of this good deed I’m still willing to participate in the event and further explore what do they have to offer.

We do have a version of the site in English (and an English Twitter account, @desukunENG), but the site’s currently not in use. This is actually a thing where we’d appreciate if you’d help us! We don’t want to put up a mirror site, because many things in Desucon Frostbite are completely in Finnish and we don’t want to make people believe that everything is in English at the event. So, we only want to publish the things that an international visitor might need or appreciates. Would you have any suggestions which things we should at least put to the English site? I promise we’ll have one before our summer event, Desucon!

When information on certain events is given in English, it always has to be made clear whether or not the event itself is multilingual. It looks like none of the Finnish convention practise English outside few selected programs, which is both a positive and a negative. While it offers everything to the local audience, it locks out the possible foreign audience. If we were to put an extremely overboard service, one way to open these events to foreign visitors would be to have a translator with a selected group, to which this translator would summarize programs and other matters. This sort of guided event translation service is usually rather expensive. However, the signs in the event could be bilingual and it would ask no extra effort.

Clear cut information is the key overall. A clear page design saves a lot of troubles later on. Mirroring a Finnish site into English would only be half the job, as the other half would demand that the information would be modified to serve the needs of foreign visitors. An English language site should always have relevant information for both local population who do not speak Finnish and information for possible foreign visitors. All the basic stuff from description of the event, history of the event, why and when… It’s all pretty clear overall. The same basic stuff as with any event site. However, English information site should also contain description of the city and a somewhat exhaustive collection of hotels, transportation timetables and maps for foodstuff, restaurants and if possible, a small review on each place would be extremely helpful. Knowing which place sells the cheapest pizza, or what store has the best selection, will always come in handy. Most of these are easily done with Google Maps most of the time, and many travel agency sites already offer this service, but having an exhaustive information package for the possible visitors saves their time, which then turns for the organizers favour on the long run. A happy customer is a returning customer.

The question What is relevant information? in this case it depends on what sort of event is being held. Newsfeed is always necessary, and while I do recognize how useful Facebook and Twitter are nowadays, the good old RSS feed on the site for new updates is still irreplaceable. Keeping both sites updated at the same time is also important, so that neither side misses any important bits.

The event programme schedule itself needs to be translated as well, and further emphasize that all programs are in initially set language unless mentioned differently. English  programs could also play part in the overall event, where certain set of panels or presentations are designed to be presented in English, or if someone would like to see the trouble going through, bilingual with subtitles. I’ve seen few well made presentations, where the presentation was held in Finnish, but a video was rolling in the background showcasing all the presentation with English subtitles. A lot of work, and if well made, really awesome way to present yourself.

This would be a good place for small customer research. If possible, I’d recommend doing a small inquiry among the foreign visitors what they’d like to see on the website. That, and visit hotels’ sites and other similar webpages to amass some material and patching a good vision what is needed to serve foreign customers.

On another note, it would be interesting to see if anyone from abroad would be willing to come here to arrange some sort of programme for the convention. We’d get some change through that. It would also give a chance for some adventurous person to wonder into Finnish wilderness called Lahti.

TL;DR We aren’t complete idiots, just suck at negotiating if you will ;)

Best regards,
Antti Myyrä
Main Organizer
Desucon Frostbite

I like that bit. Negotiating skills grow only through experience, much like everything else.

P.S. I’m pretty sure you already know this but your readers probably don’t, so I’ll need to clarify: the organization behind Desucon is completely non-profit and all the work is completely voluntary. No one gets a salary, or any other kind of pay for doing this, so there’s no hidden scheme to make more money. That doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be criticism, but it should stick to the facts.

Our finances are actually open for everyone and the results for our fiscal year 2011-2012 can be found from here: http://desucon.fi/desucon/blogi/2011/12/luukku-2—desuconin-talous-julkiseksi (in Finnish again, sorry) The newest one was actually completed just before Christmas, and we’ll release it after Frostbite. If you’re interested in details, I’d love to go through them with you.

I admit going overboard with this a bit. However, non-profit or not, I see that there is no reason to not fully realize possibilities that event like this holds. Non-profit or not, it doesn’t matter on the long run. Naturally we can’t expect to have same level of service as in events run by companies that are after profit, but ultimately what only matters from the customers’ point of view is that they get what they get is the best possible outcome. If it would mean that salaries would need to be paid in order to lift the quality of the event, I’m all in. As always, there’s the fine line between doing the best you can, and the best your customers expect. Thou I have to admit, that sometimes the customers can be huge assholes with this.

If relevant in the future, I’ll take on mr. Myyrä’s offer and discuss on what goes into putting up an event like this. I’m sure that his point of views and experiences would be interesting to hear.

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2 thoughts on “Sometimes a service provider takes it to their heart

  1. With the con opening in less than 2 days, I’m still wondering if there’ll be that much of international audience there.
    I’ve tried my best at Googling and poking around in my surrounding communities to see if there was any other foreigner going there… but so far, my googling only pointed me to your blog and twitter didn’t get me any clue (the official desucon twitter in english only managed to indicate me that there will be at least 2 other foreign visitors, great~). Maybe you could try to see the percentage of ticket shipped outside Finland to get a good idea?

    Well, since I don’t know a thing in Finnish, I’ll try being a bit overconfident on the general level of English in Finland… couldn’t be worse than France anyway…

  2. Indeed, there were people from abroad. The languages I heard spoken in the hallways were at least English, French, German, Japanese and Swedish. I’m not sure, but I might’ve caught some Russian in there as well. Do keep in mind that even if it is singular digits that take the overall visitor amount, those single digits are incredibly important. First, they are additional numbers to the local visitor amount of visitors. Second, they are the best way to get the word around the world. Wakamoto’s visit was good advertisement to Desucon in general, even if the information mis-management did have a negative echo, and it has opened a Blue Ocean for them to use. Not tapping to this market would be foolish if they wish to grow larger and have more significant role both locally and within international margins, but they also may choose to be secluded and aim to offer only for locals. However, the former does not close the latter, but vice versa it does. This is, after all, work made with love and no pay, so I do recognize that putting up their very best might not be in their interests. Nobody really wants to put their best when they won’t get paid, unless you’re really good hearted person. Remember the old saying; million starts with a penny. Same with events and conventions; it starts with handful of visitors, and the visitor amount will grow if properly nurtured.

    I will be contacting the main organizer soon enough and I will inquire of him if he is able or willing to give out such detailed information. But for the moment, go with the flow. I know I’m going what I heard in there.

    English in Finland overall is understandable. I do know a lot of cases where foreign languages are a trouble for certain people, but overall within the service business English seems to be well in hand (or in mouth in this case?) with under age of 45 or so. Going from up there things kinda fall apart, where the person can understand the language, but is either afraid of producing it or unable. Accents and dialects are a whole other thing, especially when it comes to speaking foreign languages. Finnish accents makes eg. Japanese somewhat harsh to listen to, as evident during Wakamoto’s show. Sometimes we have people with smooth accent that flows like native’s would, but then we have these Kimi Räikkönen style of speaking where every word hurts like an ACME anvil.

    I will be doing another open critique within these pages soon enough. I hope to begin and finish it this week and get my editor to quickly pace through it. There are minor and major issues that need to be pointed out, but there are some successes as well. However, I hope you can until then.

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