Since I’ve started my new job as the Director of Marketing & Communications for a local business, I’ve had the opportunity to engage with a lot of customers. Since we don’t really have much of an office space, I spend a lot of time working in the public areas, and get the chance to be right there with the people. And while my job is “marketing,” I’ve done my fair share of clearing dirty dishes, handling customer inquiries, and just generally helping out wherever needed. This is one of the things I love about this job: while we have titles, everyone pitches in and helps out with everything. None of us is too important or too big to get our hands dirty. And this includes our owner, who is always the first to pitch in.
But as I spend time walking through our facility, I’ve been making it a priority to find out what our customers think.
“How’s your food?”
“How are you doing? Can I get you anything?”
And more often than not, I find that people are happy. Very happy. But they also offer me insight into what we can do better, even if they don’t realize it. As I take the time to listen, I’m learning more about our brand. Not the brand as we define it, but the brand as they define it.
With our World Cup viewing parties, we’ve had several chances to see how well we can perform when we are at max capacity, which means there might be around 700 people in our facility, often on hot and humid days. Over all, we’ve done incredibly well. As we have reached capacity, we’ve had a line of people outside waiting to get in. We weren’t able to let them in because we didn’t want to risk going over fire code. Most of these people were fine, but a few were upset. When this happened yesterday, we did a few things to try to ease their pain and make the experience less of a stress issue for them.
First, since we had multiple screens around the building for people to watch the game, and since that was the reason these people were in line, we turned one of the screens around so it was facing out, and alerted those in line that they could watch the game that way while they were waiting to get in. That little gesture won us some brownie points.
Second, since it was a hot day, I went outside with a bunch of bottled water that we had purchased, and handed them out to those standing in the hot sun and humid conditions. Just that little act alone got plenty of thank yous, and thankfully we were able to get everyone inside for the last part of the game, as other folks left to go home. Unfortunately we couldn’t deliver a win for the U.S. and make the experience even better.
No one asked for these things, but it was something we thought to do to help them out. They never voiced a need, but it doesn’t mean the need wasn’t there.
Also, as I have been monitoring our brand online, I’ve been keeping close tabs on our online reviews. Recently, one woman complained about her experience at our business on both Facebook and Foursquare. When I saw her comments, which were obviously made out of frustration, I realized that some of her concerns were out of a misunderstanding and that her facts weren’t quite correct. I reached out to her in a private message on Facebook and apologized for her experience, and very politely explained what had happened, and why there was confusion over the facts. I know that she saw the message, but she never responded. On the other hand, she did go back and remove her comment on Foursquare. I have no idea if I defused her frustration, but I hope she will be back. I also hope my reaching out made a positive impression on her.
Through it all, I’ve learned a lot about how our business is perceived by a wide variety of people; some of it good, some of it not so good. But that doesn’t mean we’ll get defensive. It means we’ll listen hard, and make the necessary changes. We know we’ll never please everyone. No one can. But we sure can try.
We will examine how we do things and make changes when important. We will continue to go out of our way to do both the big and little things that affect the way our brand is perceived, and we will do this both online and offline.
Simple acts like turning a TV around, handing out water, reaching out to those who are unhappy, and simply just asking people about their experience, can go a long way in building a strong, positive brand. Those little things take very little time, and a minimum amount of effort, but they can be huge in terms of marketing and customer experience.
And those little things might not even be all that obvious, but if you cultivate a climate of doing the little things, they will add up and your customers will notice, and even talk about it.
How are you reaching out to your customers? What little things can you do that will make a big difference?