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NPE2012 lesson: Don’t take clients for granted

By: Wylie Royce

April 13, 2012

Over the past two-plus years, much has been predicted, written and anticipated about NPE2012. It would appear that the show was quite a success, but just as important, it was a business lesson for us all.

First and foremost, if Chicago had not given SPI a reason to search for a new venue, Orlando would have never entered the picture and NPE would have continued to be in Chicago.

The economy was in a meltdown, exhibitors were canceling in droves, SPI was making huge concessions to keep the show alive, and Chicago pretty much continued on, business as usual. At the end of the day, Chicago was complacent toward SPI, its customer.

Unfortunately, every day we are all guilty of this same business sin to one extent or another. We have a base loading of customers who we believe are truly happy with us, and after a time, we tend to take their business for granted. To win our customers’ business, we raise their level of expectations above the value they are receiving from our competitors. But that elevated level must be met or exceeded every day, because if we don’t deliver, we put our business at risk.

We saw this happen to an entire industry 30 years ago. The U.S. auto industry had set the bar pretty low for quality, reliability, etc. What happened? Japan entered the market offering and delivering higher expectations. The U.S. auto industry opened the door, and will likely never return to its “glory days.”

Moving the show, just like changing suppliers, can be a huge risk in many ways, so given that all things are equal, the incumbent supplier typically has the home field advantage. Had McCormick Place operations not fallen below expectations, the search would never have started.

So the lesson learned? None of us, no matter how successful we may be, can ever become complacent about our customers, because if we do, there is a good chance that at some point in time, we will be in the same unfortunate position of being on the outside looking in.

Wylie Royce

Royce Colors

SPI National Board