SHRM 2011 Annual Conference

SHRM 2011 Annual Conference

With more than 650 exhibiting companies, the SHRM expo is the largest trade show dedicated to human resource management products and services and is always a centerpiece of the SHRM Annual Conference.

There were 40 exhibitors related to background screening and 30 of those had their total concentration in background screens. The consensus was they were extremely pleased with the quantity and the quality of traffic to their booths. The paid attendance was 13,800 plus 4500 exhibitor personnel and others for a total of 18,300. This compares to 2010 numbers of16,400. Las Vegas still has its drawing power.

NAPBS was an exhibitor this year. The purpose of exhibiting is to create exposure to NAPBS and to educate HR managers that background checkers have a professional organization and an organization that sets quality standards. This also promotes the use of an NAPBS member company.

In addition, attendance gave our NAPBS personnel the chance to meet with many of the background screening exhibitors and to get a first-hand feel for our customers. In spite of not having the best location on the expo floor, the booth was busy, with over 100 HR visitors. Most of the people that stopped had never heard of the association, what it stands for and its promotion of best practices. Many said quite clearly, they were not happy with their current CRA and were looking to switch.

They were given a handout or their email was taken to send them a link to to find member companies they might explore to replace their existing CRA.

Now, a key point: This issue of HR being dissatisfied with their current CRA was a common theme expressed by everyone I talked with about the conference. Pay attention now: I have been doing the SHRM conference since 1995 and I cannot remember any such conference where this was not the theme! Why are so many HR people unhappy with their current vendor?

People were not shopping price, they were shopping service and turnaround time. Satisfying these needs is how I built my background screening company in the ‘90s and is exactly what is driving growth in successful companies today. You have to think of yourself as being in the service industry.

Sure, you sell data; sure, you sell information; sure, you have to be (reasonably) price competitive; but when all is said and done, if you have the accuracy and you have fast turnaround time, the customer is satisfied. If they have an issue and call your customer service department, they should be able to get an answer right then, right now, not tomorrow, from someone who is empowered to satisfy them. This is no different than how you would want to be served by your vendors.

Here is a good exercise: check out the service at Comcast or ATT or Dell or the Social Security Administration, and then do the opposite. Mystery shop your own company. Even for the basics. How well does it work when you call in? Is the phone system easy to navigate? Do you have to wait on hold?

If you don’t have the proper extension for someone, how easy is it to get to him or her? Once you get to them, do they know how to resolve your issue? Then, pretend you are a prospective client. How easy is it to get to someone by phone that can sell you and get you to sign up? How easy is to do this from your website? Don’t stand in the way of turning a prospect into a customer.

OK, enough preaching. In addition to good service, I was told that attendees had a lot of inquiries about social media, biometrics, occ med, DOT compliance, ATS integrations, international searches and assessments. Evan a couple of inquires about CBSV (Consent Based SSN Verifications). Do you have these services in your arsenal?

Everyone I talked to said their sales are up, and up very nicely from last year. Several are claiming increases over 35%. These are companies that have invested in sales personnel, marketing dollars, technology, reducing their data acquisition costs to remain competitive and a commitment to customer service and strong customer service departments.

Even with 30 or so background companies exhibiting, ranging in size from $4M in sales to hundreds of millions of dollars, some notable names were still absent.  Sure this is an expensive endeavor, but whereelse do you have the chance to talk to thousands of potential buyers? Where else can you meet your clients face-to- face? Where else can you see how your competition is marketing? Where else as a senior manager can you hear your customers’ feedback (aka complaints or praise)? What other venue gives you the chance to juice up your sales staff?

Looks like 2011 and 2012 will continue to be great years for our industry.