Public Relations IS Customer Service!
For years, and at thousands of conferences and conventions, corporate executives, middle management and line staff employees have sat in "breakout sessions", "general sessions" and "special sessions" listening to speakers stressing customer service. Entire careers have been created for writers of CS books, consider the popular titles: "At Your Service", "Service America", "Super Service", "Remarkable Service", etc. I know. I've sat in those sessions, given those speeches, written those papers. Several decades and many dollars later, I'd suggest to you that customer service, especially in the "service sector", is SO bad and SO miserable that when a service sector employee actually does his or her job we are amazed. There is hope.
Over the past 30 days I've been on the road for 17. The cities, hotels and restaurants in Chicago, Grand Rapids, Minneapolis, Sioux City, Sioux Falls, Omaha and Las Vegas have all been more than happy to see me whip out the gold card. However, overall, customer service gets a grade of C-. Yep, it's passing, but just. (By the way, can somebody enlighten me as to why hotel chains like Hilton, that have a room rate of $145+ a night, charge $11.95 a day for high speed Internet while at Super 8 and Red Roof Inn it's free?) The small minority of executives and companies that understand that customer service is their primary public relations undertaking...rock.
Let me give you two examples:
Her name is Connie. She works as an afternoon supervisor at the Bell Desk at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Last week, I was in the middle of doing a PR project for a client Calcium Products. It was a "room drop" invite. The MGM Grand has 5,000 rooms. At 8:30 in the evening I took my list of 43 people (no room numbers and not even sure they were at the MGM) to Connie, asked that her staff slip the invite under the door of each person we targeted. At 10:15 I get a call from Connie, "Mr. Libbie, I'll be going home in about an hour. I just wanted to call and let you know we've finished the room drop but that five of the people on your list are not guests of the MGM. Is there anything I can do to help you find them, I know how important this is." I asked her where she was from and let her know that she just earned five out of five stars. Just by doing her job.
Jim Wessing is the president of Kondex Corporation of Wisconsin and outgoing president of FEMA (Farm Equipment Manufacturing Association). Thursday, on my return from Las Vegas I sent Jim the minutes of a meeting of the associate membership group of FEMA. (I get to be the secretary of the Board of Governors). Here is the text of the e-mail I received Friday afternoon:
"Michael, Thank you for sharing these minutes. Sounds as though meeting was well organized, issues discussed and in good hands. Best wishes, Jim"
Jim "gets it": In fifteen seconds he responds, thanks and compliments. He sure didn't have to. I don't have the numbers but with that kind of response I'll bet his company is doing well, very well.
Now, here is the frosting: In the past thirty days and a sea of faces two experiences and two people have stood out from them all and I get to write about them, name names and publish for the world. These folks, one an employee and the other an employer, understand that the key to positive public relations is: 1) "Doing your Job" and 2) Responding, Thanking and Complimenting. And just think...you didn't have to hire me to tell you the real secret of positive Public Relations is Customer Service.