We had a proud parenting moment last week, when we took our 8 and 10 year-old sons to their first concert.
Sure, we've tried to expose them to important things like museums, local theatre, and the symphony. But this was serious. This was rock and roll. We saw Cheap Trick, Poison, and Def Leppard. (You were expecting The Jonas Brothers?)
And with as much fun as I had, I found myself noticing several things during the evening that impressed me from a pure business and marketing standpoint.
First, Rick Nielsen (Cheap Trick) knows the value of goodwill "freebies." He flings a guitar pick into the crowd about every 20 seconds. He'll play a riff and then toss the pick to a fan. As silly as it sounds, it's a smart branding move and relationship builder. Folks go nuts for those things.
Second, I was also impressed by how aware the bands were of their target market. Their hardcore fans are older now and many "hang" with a different crowd (their kids) than they once did. I was concerned that my sons might hear a few things from the stage that I'd prefer they didn't. But in the four loud hours we were there, not one profane word was spoken by any band. I was pleasantly surprised.
But the thing I may have been most impressed by was the "customer appreciation" each band expressed to the crowd. I've been to many concerts in which the artist or band seemed to be going through the motions. Often, it seemed that the audience was there for the band's benefit and not the other way around. I chuckled and pointed out to my wife that even rock bands (the ones that last, anyway) understand who pays their bills.
We may not have tour buses or roadies, but these ideas are applicable to us, as well. What kind of "trinket" or goodwill gesture can you utilize to help engage customers this week? (But I wouldn’t fling them into the crowd.) How focused are your marketing messages on the demographics around your branch at any given time? Do you have any plan for keeping customers' kids busy and happy?
And do customers get the feeling that you are actually there to work for them and not the other way around? Make sure that customers are shown that you appreciate being given the opportunity of earning their business and gaining their loyalty and that you don't take either for granted.
Show your customers that you rock this week.
With all the problems I've had with airlines over the years, I suppose I should at least be grateful for all of the column and speech fodder they have provided. True to that tradition, a Continental gate agent reminded me this week that all of the "valued customer" marketing materials in the world can be rendered farcical by the actions of one employee.
I arrived for my 10:00 AM flight to Houston pretty early. While I was printing my boarding pass at a kiosk, the screen message said that my flight may have been oversold. It asked if I would like to volunteer to give up my seat for a travel voucher.
I clicked "No Thanks," and received my boarding pass. After making my way through security and getting a cup of coffee, I found my gate. I was the only traveler there. They had just boarded their 8:30 AM flight to Houston. As I sat down, they made an announcement for a passenger who had not boarded. They were making "last calls" and saying he would miss the flight.
Realizing there was at least one empty seat on the plane, I walked up to the lady at the counter and asked, "Do you have seats on this flight? I'm on the 10 o'clock, but I wouldn't mind getting home earlier. I don't have bags to check."
She said, "Yes, we have seats. It would just be a $50 charge to switch your flight." I literally stared at her for a few seconds and said, "I'm sorry. Did you say you want to charge me $50 for a seat?"
She chirped, "Yes sir. There is a fee to change flights." I stammered, "Uh, there's no standby list, and I'm the only guy here. I've got a ticket for the 10 AM flight that your kiosk said may be oversold." She then offered, "Well, if you're gold elite or higher, the fee is only $25." I laughed and told her, "Well, I guess those seats will stay empty."
So, I sat and waited for the next flight as they closed the door and flew to Houston with empty seats. And yes, there were folks on standby who didn't get on the 10:00 AM flight. So they got no fee, made a frequent flier really frustrated, and kept one other passenger off his desired flight. Well done!
Maybe she was following a company edict. The airline might be cracking down on fee collection. (Sound familiar?) But it reminded me of what happens when folks are apparently not encouraged or empowered to use, uh… common sense.
Let’s make sure that our teams are both.