Customer Loyalty With a SXSW Interactive Twist

Author

Kristen Tischhauser

March 19, 2014

Those who go to Austin, Texas for South by Southwest Interactive, otherwise known as SXSW Interactive, know they're going to enjoy an incredible conference filled with great panels, fantastic networking parties, and once in a lifetime exposure to amazing people and brands in the tech space. This year was no different and, despite the rain and mass amounts of attendees, were a lot of examples of companies going above and beyond.

Let's look at a few of those success stories where glowing customer service and superior experiences lit up the gloomy, Austin sky.

1. Zirtual -- Clients of Zirtual got the royal treatment as the company went above and beyond to be there for their loyal customers. A pre-conference email went out inviting clients who attended SXSW to a special party at the W Hotel and, here's the great part, offering a variety of concierge services while visiting the city. Check out this excerpt from their client communication:

• Forgot your phone charger at the hotel? We got you.
• Need lunch picked up and dropped off to your booth? We got you.
• Your friend has your badge and he's across town? We got you.
• Want a bottle of wine delivered to a client you just met with? We've got you here, too.

Zirtual also had bike messengers available to clients and at the ready for pick-ups and deliveries. All this great service was completely free of charge as a special thank you to the company's loyal client base. "While we know that our ZA's are hard at work (behind the scenes) providing our clients with the virtual assistance they need during Southby, we really wanted to be able to offer them the luxury of a truly comprehensive personal assistant experience," said Maren Kate, Founder & CEO at Zirtual. "Taking care of these small, but time consuming tasks, allows them to focus on what's really important and feel confident in letting us handle the rest."

2. Airbnb -- Those groups renting accommodations through Airbnb got an email before heading out to Austin to help ensure a smooth trip. Group leaders were reminded of the specific, logistical information they should pass onto their entourage. Plus, the company set up a dedicated phone number for their clients in Austin. However, the customer service didn't stop there.

Airbnb was scouring social media for mentions of SXSW or Airbnb and randomly giving people rewards. What is a reward? Well, it seemed to vary. For example, a group sharing an Airbnb rental was given a Whole Foods gift card, a tweet earned one man a pair of cowboy boots, whereas another person was given a $500 Airbnb credit. Equally important, Airbnb listened for complaints online and remedied them quickly.

3. General Assembly -- Didn't have a SXSW Interactive pass? Well, General Assembly wanted to help folks go to Austin in style with three of their besties. The company hosted a sweepstakes that offered round-trip airfare (from anywhere in North America, Europe, Asia, or Australia); accommodations at a private house with a pool; coffee meetings with tech industry experts from hotspots like New York City, San Francisco, and L.A.; a $1,000 Uber credit to use for transportation (which would come in handy due to their surge pricing during SXSW); and VIP passes to a variety of special events. No skimping; all top of the line.

4. Rackspace -- Now, this one is totally in sync with the spirit of SXSW Interactive. Rackspace hijacked StartupBus for a special, creative experience. Eight buses carried 250 entrepreneurs to Rackspace's headquarters in nearby San Antonio and the company hosted a two-day event. In short, participants boarded the busses as strangers, formed teams, developed ideas, and built products in a 72-hour period while on the road in the StartupBus. Then, for two days, while at Rackspace HQ, they participated in working sessions and a mini conference with tech gurus such as Guy Kawasaki and Robert Scoble.

5. Cottonelle -- You wouldn't necessarily think that a toilet paper brand would be on the SXSW Interactive bandwagon, but anything goes in Austin. Cottonelle created a comfy Refresh Lounge, which offered a much-needed respite for weary conference-goers. They offered back massages, hair stylists and make-up artists for those who needed a touch-up (something many people really appreciated since the rain was making hair frizzy and mascara runny), and even free, travel-size samples.

Brands know that by creating a memorable experience for customers and attendees at SXSW Interactive, they'll get more exposure than they could at a dozen other conferences combined. Smart companies pulled out all the stops to ensure they created experiences that people would share and remember -- and share again.

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