Reblog: Brands on Social Can’t Ignore Social Engagement

January 25, 2012 at 9:00 AM (Customer Service) (, , , , )

This post originally appeared on my agency’s blog, RaceTalk.

A recent compilation of research on eMarketer shared that – surprise! – people don’t like being ignored by brands on social media. I mean, people don’t like being ignored in general, but when it comes to business-to-consumer offenses online, it can have some noteworthy repercussions: research firm Conversocial found that more than a quarter of survey respondents would no longer do business with a brand if their questions went unanswered on Facebook or Twitter. And let’s not forget the ripple effect: only 11.7 percent of survey participants said they wouldn’t care if they saw other user questions ignored online. Almost half said they would be far less likely to buy anything from that brand in the future, and the remainder said they would think twice (but recognized that there are other factors to consider).

eMarketer research

That’s a big angry chunk of the pie. I know that I’ve had both positive and negative experiences with brands on social media that continue to influence my willingness to give them my money. And yes, some of those negative experiences have been when I had a problem and no one on the brand side ever acknowledged it (*cough*cough*Southwest Airlines*cough*cough*). While I’m a huge advocate for brands being on social media, they need to know that “getting a Twitter” just isn’t going to cut it. Once you go social, you need to be social; there’s no private office to hide from customers. While it’s not possible to respond to all feedback, questions and complaints merit timely acknowledgements – even if it’s a request to redirect the conversation to another, more manageable channel. Otherwise, it becomes worse than being on-hold for 20 minutes, because at least there, it’s initially a private frustration – until the angry customer blogs about it later, anyway, but that’s another story.

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A Belated, Albeit Still Current, Dismissal of Domino’s

November 22, 2011 at 7:00 AM (Customer Service, Food) (, , , )

Yesterday, I saw a tweet about Domino’s introducing their new gourmet cheesy bread to appeal to consumer palates that are “evolving to such tastes.” Won’t lie: if this were to have taken place a couple years ago, I probably would have been eager to try the spinach and feta, or even the supposed souped-up cheese-only upgrade. Instead, today I was only reminded of how long it’s been since I gave up on the chain forever and ever, following a fatal last straw. Curious? Read on.

I used to worship Domino’s cheesy bread. “Party in my mouth” was just one of many, many happy ways to describe how I felt about the carb-heavy, cheesy, garlicky calories. Oftentimes when I called for delivery, I’d only order the pizza so I’d meet the minimum charge required for delivery. Sometimes I didn’t even try to kid myself and just ordered two boxes of cheesy bread. Given that I was still dancing during most of my Domino’s era, I could afford to enjoy this diet and not grow to the size of a house. Yes, life at BU was good.

Then I moved deep into the heart of a Brookline neighborhood, no longer a stone’s throw from BU’s campus. And the Golden Age came to an end.

It was my first night in my current place, where I’ve resided for more than a year, now, and I had no internet, little furniture, and little to no interest in cooking my own dinner. I didn’t worry, however, knowing that approximately 35 minutes were all I’d need before I could enjoy some of my beloved cheesy bread. I called up my local Domino’s and placed my order. When they went to confirm my address, I corrected them with my latest place of residence.

“Oh, uh, we don’t deliver that far.”

“Okay, can you connect me to a store that does?”

“It doesn’t work like that. You have to look it up online.”

“Well, I don’t have internet access. Is there another number I can call to find out who does deliver to me?”

“You could call corporate…”

Fine. I was hungry and still determined to not cook. I called corporate, gave them my address, and took down the number they gave me. I hung up and dialed the number… to find myself back on the phone with the original location who claimed to not deliver to me.

“Hi, I’d like to place and order for delivery, please.”

(After taking my number and address) “I’m sorry, we don’t deliver to that address.”

“I just got off the phone with corporate, and they said you do.”

(A mildly uncomfortable pause) “Okay, well, it’s going to take us, like, 80 minutes.”

“That’s fine” (it wasn’t, but what was I going to do?).

I placed my order – cheesy bread (natch) and a small fancy-pants pizza that was being advertised at the time (tried to see if it still exists, but the Domino’s website wasn’t cooperating) – and sat back and waited. Sure enough, after an excruciatingly long hour and 20 minutes passed, I heard the buzzer. I paid the delivery person, took the boxes and skedaddled inside to feast. I shelved the pizza box, focusing my salivating attention on the smaller box, sure to contain my cheesy bread. I opened it, and –

Let’s take a moment. Do you remember that customer complaint letter to Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines? Let me pull out a particular excerpt with which I identify all too easily, following the experience I’m recounting to you now:

Imagine being a twelve year old boy Richard. Now imagine it’s Christmas morning and you’re sat their with your final present to open. It’s a big one, and you know what it is. It’s that Goodmans stereo you picked out the catalogue and wrote to Santa about. Only you open the present and it’s not in there. It’s your hamster Richard. It’s your hamster in the box and it’s not breathing.

Buffalo chicken kickers. Buffalo [expletive]ing chicken kickers. After all that back-and-forth and waiting with bated breath, I had, in front of me, a box of food that I couldn’t even eat (buffalo wings are too spicy for my tender palate). To say I was livid would be polite. I called the store back immediately, as the delivery man had already gone, to demand a remedy to this outrage. After being asked what I wanted them to do about it (really?!), I said that I wanted a delivery of cheesy bread – and that I wanted the next cheesy bread purchase comped (this was not the first time my poor culinary delight had been forgotten). I was promised both, and once again I found myself sitting and waiting for my dinner.

Not 30 minutes later, I had company. Before letting the delivery guy go, I confirmed that he had indeed brought me cheesy bread. At last, somewhere between 10:00 and 11:00 p.m., after a long day of moving, I had my dinner. I opened the box, finally beginning to relax knowing that I could still get my fix.

Only the cheesy bread had been rushed through the oven: the top looked like it had barely been heated. Even my trophy for all my efforts was tarnished and I couldn’t enjoy that. I should have called to complain again, or at the very least written my own letter of complaint that would have made Sir Richard think that he had it easy, but I was too exhausted and hungry. Defeated, I sat in my apartment, alone, eating crappy cheesy bread – oh, and that pizza wasn’t great, either. I never ordered that comped cheesy bread. I was done. To this day I still refuse to order it.

So Domino’s, good luck with your new gourmet cheesy bread. Maybe I’ll hear how it turns out through one grapevine or another, because I sure won’t be ordering it – or anything else on the menu – for myself.

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The Meat House: Disney World for Social Foodies

September 10, 2011 at 10:41 PM (Food) (, , , , , )

A quick glance at my Foursquare feed would probably reveal at least one recent check-in at The Meat House in Coolidge Corner accompanied by “omgomgomgomnomnomnom” or some variation thereof. It’s a specialty grocery store filled with all kinds of deliciousness (including a solid beer and wine selection) and super-helpful staff – oh, and a heckuva butcher. Even better, The Meat House embraces social media to almost no end. It’s a wonder the place isn’t called Brittany Falconer Land, but I’m sure marketing is working on that.

I’ll yap about their online presence first, but then I’ll sing the praises of their good ole’ fashioned customer service. The Meat House opened in Coolidge Corner maybe about a year ago, and since then I’ve become somewhat hooked. At first I went in just to see what was up – with a name like “The Meat House,” I was bound to find something I liked. Sure enough I did, made my purchase, which came with a free package of steak tips for my first-time visit, and went on my merry way. A short time later, I saw a familiar name in my daily Groupon Email: $20 for $40 worth of fare at The Meat House. I didn’t have to think long about that one. After that, the other online channels made themselves known to me: Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, and SCVNGR.* Finding a place with a neighborhood feel that connects with me both online and offline and offers fantastic food and service is quite the boon, and as a result The Meat House has earned a spot on my top five favourite regular places in Boston.

The Meat House: Go ahead and tell me you're not salivating, liar.I did note that the store connects both online and off. Let me tell you about the Brookline staff (I’ll drop names where I can). For starters, you will not be ignored. Within 10 seconds of entering the store, someone is going to ask you how you’re doing and if you need help finding anything. If it’s your first time visiting, you’ll be offered a quick tour (did you know you can order alligator or whatever other exotic meat you want?) and a package of The Meat House’s delicious steak tips (grill them). Need a recommendation? Ask anyone there – the entire staff is incredibly knowledgeable and more than happy to share expertise on pairings, preparation tips and anything else you may be wondering about culinarily. While The Meat House is a chain, it certainly doesn’t feel like one. When I walked in today I think at least 50 percent of the staff knew my name, and the rest recognised me at the least. Granted, I go probably twice a week, but I’m sure everyone else is treated just as warmly. Speaking of not feeling like a chain, each store is unique in stocking as much local fare as possible. I think Brookline’s store carries at least 30 percent local goods. Translation: buy delicious, and be nice to the local economy.

In addition to being able to order alligator, or venison, or ostrich, or whatever unconventional animal you enjoy consuming, if you have a hankering for a specific beer or wine, go talk to Steve. He’s responsible for the store’s alcohol content and will work with you to get your beer or wine of choice (assuming the store is already working with the distributor). I had been looking for Atwater’s Vanilla Java Porter – it’s amazing and you should be looking for it right now – for months. As far as I know, it isn’t exactly mainstream in the Boston area (but it should be). Once I spoke with Seth about it, he introduced me to Steve who checked the database and, sure enough, was able to ship some in for me. I’ve received some great treatment at Boston restaurants, but never has a grocery store gone above and beyond for me to provide me with the best experience possible.

Finally, obligatory shout-out to Jamie, the marketing person in town who, as far as I know, is responsible for the Groupons and Facebook updates. Once again, her work expands beyond the online realm. I’ve seen her in the store as well as at countless events, spreading The Meat House Gospel (often with coupons in-tow). Her job is awesome, as is she. Say hi if you see her in the store. And then tell her to do an interview with me for beyond 140. 😉

If You Go
The Meat House
1285 Beacon Street
Coolidge Corner
Brookline, MA 02446
Open Daily – Summer: 9am – 9pm

*I don’t use SCVNGR, so I don’t actually know what having a presence on the site/app does, but I still wanted to include it.

Today’s Tunes
Black Sheep, Martin Sexton

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Richies Pizza: A Mini Brand Loyalty Case Study

April 6, 2011 at 3:48 AM (Food, Happenings) (, , , , , )

Let me tell you a little story about seizing a sub-ideal moment in customer service and turning that into an opportunity.

I originally found Richies, a pizza (and stuff) place in Washington Square when I was moving to my current apartment. At the time, I was actually hoping to get my first taste of Publick House, but for whatever reason that magical place doesn’t believe in opening its doors during daylight hours.  Oh well.  Anyhoo, desperate for sustenance (moving oodles of possessions up four flights of stairs does that to people), we meandered into Richies.  The food did the job, and the staff was more than welcoming. When a Richies Groupon made its way into Gmail, I was happy to buy two, particularly as I had recently gone cold turkey in my battle with my Dominos addiction.

Fast-forward four months and one of my two Groupons later. Once again, I had no food in my fridge, and needed some dinner on a late Friday night.  Unable to get through on the phone, I figured I’d place an order online. Unfortunately, it didn’t look like I’d be able to use the Groupon online (weird, given it’s an online coupon, but whatever), so I resigned myself for paying full price for my pizza.  After entering my credit card information, a confirmation screen told me I’d get my order in 60-70 minutes. A bit excruciating, but I knew I’d manage.

Fast-forward two hours – and no pizza – later. Cranky and hungry, I went to bed, figuring that the website flubbed and my card wasn’t actually charged.  It was.  A bit crankier, I called Richies tonight to see about remedying the situation. And remedied it was!

I quickly (and politely – always try to be polite!) explained my dilemma. Moments later, not only did Richies promise to refund my card, but when I asked if I could just get my pizza a few days late, i.e., today, they told me “Sure, definitely.” Oh, and it would still be free.

How great is that? No back-talk, an explanation* accompanied by genuine humility, and a speedy recovery.  Had this exchange gone less pleasantly, I probably would have contacted Groupon and asked for a refund on my second (unused) coupon. Instead, I’ve been reminded of the great customer service at Richies, and even after I’ve used my final Groupon, I’ll definitely be calling them back.

*As it turned out, Richies closed early that night, but the website was still operating up until the usual closing time. The restaurant is working on syncing that all up.

Richies
1632 Beacon St.
Brookline, MA 02446
(617) 739-1114

 

Totally Unrelated Shameless Plug
This Thursday, I’ll be interviewing the one and only @BostonTweet for RaceTalk, my agency’s blog. I’ve got a few questions for him, and I’m sure you do, too.  So between now and then, tweet your questions for him using the hashtag #askbostontweet. Thanks!

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What Makes a Fantastic Bar Staff?

January 23, 2011 at 9:15 PM (Food) (, , , )

There is a fair number of establishments in Boston with good, even great bar staff, but there’s a reason why I keep defaulting to Boylston St.’s Atlantic Fish Co. – aside from the great atmosphere, wine and craft beer options and delicious seafood (perhaps I shouldn’t be blogging about this before I’ve eaten lunch…): it has a fantastic bar staff.

“Brittany, what are you talking about? What makes a ‘fantastic’ bar staff?”

I am so glad you asked, dear reader, mostly because it gives me a reason to bother writing the rest of this post.  I didn’t write the book on bar staff quality experiences, but as far as I’m concerned, good and great bartenders will be attentive, recognise regulars, look up recipes for the cocktails they don’t know off-hand, and so on.  They create an experience that will leave patrons thinking, “That was a nice drink/ meal.”  They meet expectations.  A fantastic bar staff will exceed those expectations to the point of surprise.  I’ve made a few observations at the Fish that I think are certainly worth sharing with folks who haven’t stopped by, yet.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen patrons sit at the bar and sit for more than two minutes, even on busy nights, before someone has greeted them, asked them how they are, and what they would like to drink.  Oftentimes the bartender will immediately introduce him or herself as well, and if not immediately, then definitely within the next interaction or so.  I have been to other, pricier bars and have seen patrons sit at the bar unattended for what seems like forever (although it’s probably only a little over five minutes) before being asked what they would like to drink.

There is no alienation between bar staff and patrons.  While I try not to interrupt conversations between bartenders and a different party, I never feel uncomfortable asking a question (or in my case particularly, harassing someone behind the bar), nor do I ever feel like I’m taxing the bar staff with a request.  Having worked in food service and retail (and currently in public relations), I subscribe to the belief that customers should not ever feel like they have to struggle to communicate with whomever is supposed to be taking care of them. I’ve been to multiple restaurants where trying to get the attention of my server seemed impossible – and I’m not even a difficult customer (at least, I don’t think so . . .).

This next one is example-worthy: Red wine, bread and cheese at the bar at Atlantic Fish. Thanks, Jeff!if you have a craving, the nice folks at Atlantic will go above and beyond to sate that craving.  About a week ago, Adam and I went to Atlantic for a glass (or more) of wine.  I was a little hungry, but wasn’t really in the mood for seafood.  To be honest, all I really wanted was some cheese to go with my wine, but I wasn’t going to make any noises about it, given that my girlish figure didn’t need that much deliciousness anyway.  Our bartender, Jeff came over to check in on us and Adam shared my hankering of the moment with him. While I tried to protest, Jeff picked up the phone, called the kitchen and asked for a side of Parmesan cheese.  A minute or so later, I had a lovely scene (look right, please) in front of me.

Atlantic Fish's bar staff spoils me rotten. Who else goes ahead and whips together a dish of balsamic, oil, seasoning and cheese in 45 seconds? Thanks, Joe! Photo courtesy of Nicholas Adam Owens.I would have been happy with the cheese.  Truly.  Atlantic had to go a step further, though.  Joe, the bar manager was also working that evening.  He took one look at the cheese and said something to the effect of “This simply will not do.”  The next thing I knew, I had a dish of oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and of course cheese to go with my bowl of carbs. Did Jeff or Joe have to go out of their way to help rid me of my cheese craving?  Good heavens, no.  They did, though.  I have also seen the staff order cake from their sister restaurant, Abe & Louie’s, next-door because a customer was pining for it (they may or may not have done it for me as well one one occasion – honestly, it’s amazing that I’m not obese by now).

Maybe I’m an easy critic because it doesn’t take much to impress me when it comes to customer service, but on the same side of that coin, it blows my mind when I have a poor experience, knowing how simple it is to even provide the bare minimum of care for a patron: being polite and attentive, and taking whatever measures necessary to ensure an enjoyable dining experience. If you stick to that, I’d say that at least 90% of customers would be content.  If you really want to blow them away, though, take a page out of Atlantic Fish Co.’s book.

Today’s Tunes
“Wonderwall,” Oasis
“Layla,” Eric Clapton
“Waiting for My Real Life to Begin,” Colin Hay

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