Posts Tagged communication
A couple weeks ago, going through my DVR lineup, it occurred to me just how much we like our heroes and heroines flawed. The characters that we rally behind are in one way or another fundamentally flawed. From Chuck to Big Bang to Grey’s Anatomy to just about any form of reality TV – the people we love have serious issues. The question is simply whether we know it up front or are waiting intently for the other shoe to drop.
This of course isn’t surprising, we all like rooting for the underdog. No one finds constant perfection entertaining. So if we want the characters of our lives flawed, what about our brands?
I would argue that there should be no difference. Obviously I don’t want to be cruising around in a mechanically flawed automobile that puts my family and other drivers at risk – but I’d also say there’s nothing wrong with an auto brand openly tackling a challenge, problem or cause that we can all get behind. Case in point, the new Chevy Volt. I am not a GM fan and I will not be an early adopter of the EV but I do admire the way GM has more or less put all its eggs in one basket on this one. If the Volt isn’t a success, there’s no way of knowing just how far GM will fall.
And I think this new ‘pioneering’ image of GM will play out in its favor. In the case of GM, it has to. So I am, as I’m sure you are, rooting for them.
There’s also the flipside to consider – when flaws and faults are discovered, why do so many brands try to hide from them, as though ignoring the problem will make it go away. Sticking to the auto and oil theme, both BP and Toyota (anyone else find Toyota’s slogan of “Moving Forward” ironic?) have been criticized for their relatively unapologetic PR strategy – which we’d agree has not worked out well for them. People are still anxiously awaiting a heartfelt apology and/or admission of fault.
So go ahead – embrace your sub-par-ness. People will love you for it. There’s just no other logical explanation for the longevity of gratingly annoying characters like Urkel.
According to Ben Affleck in the 90’s classic, Mallrats, “the customer is always an asshole”. I think we’d all agree this is probably not the best outlook on customers, but its funny to see how many businesses act like they believe it even though its not explicitly posted on the front door.
My wife and I recently dined at a moderately upscale Tapas restaurant. If you haven’t had tapas, the idea is that you order several smaller dishes (2 to 3 /person) so that everyone gets to try a little of everything. Since I spent several years living in Hong Kong, I equate it to Spanish Dim Sum. I’m not a yelper or reviewer so I’ll refrain from publishing this resaturant’s name, but I will say the overall experience left a lot to be desired. I was particularly disappointed not because the service was especially slow (which it was) or that the wait staff were not personable (which they weren’t) but because they broke every other expectation I have as a diner.
1) Don’t charge for things customers are accustomed to getting for free. This restaurant took it upon themselves to charge $5 for bread with a small assortment of spreads. To make matters worse, if you wanted more bread it was $1 for another small loaf. I’m all for profit maximizing firms, but if I’m used to getting something at no charge, I probably value that item less than its actually worth. The appropriate customer centered offering would have been complimentary bread, and $5 for the spreads. Chances are I would have paid for the spreads to get the most out of my dining experience, and it would have gotten the meal off to a much more positive start.
2. Be the product expert. If I ask a question as basic as “which of these items would you recommend”, the appropriate response is NOT “I don’t know, I haven’t tried those”. Our server’s excuse was that the restaurant regularly updated the menu. Frequently changing/updating your product offering does not excuse a lack of product knowledge. If you’re in a customer facing role, you are the perceived sales person, as such I expect you to be a product expert (or at least somewhat knowledgable).
3) Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. A twenty minute wait can feel much longer than that, especially in a restaurant where you can see other people eat while you wait. That said I’ll never knock a restaurant for slow service. Variation happens. What I will knock is the inaction that occurs when customers wait uninformed. A good example of handling this the right way is Tesla motors. Their $100,000 electric car has a very long waitlist. To keep customers engaged during the waiting process, Tesla has exclusive online communities for “owners” with exclusive access to videos, webisodes and other content. This creates heightened anticipation which justifies the wait. In my experience customers are generally forgiving. If I’m waiting, just recognize that I’m waiting.
…And for crying out loud, give me some complimentary bread.