Friday, January 25, 2008

Listener Imaging

There are a lot of great companies out there producing a lot of great imaging tools, and listener drops are one of the handiest things that they offer. Sure, cool sound effects are nice, but without some “meat” in the middle of that imaging sandwich, sound effects are just a couple of pieces of dry bread. But as nice as it can be to get a big pile of listener drops all neatly packaged for you, the generic stuff always leaves me wanting more. I heard a promo on WSOC recently that cemented that feeling. They used Luke Bryan’s “All My Friends” say as the background (and, sometimes, foreground) of the promo. And the promo was filled with REAL LISTENERS saying REAL THINGS about the station and the morning show (“Tanner in the Morning”).

Take a listen to your current imaging. First, do you have any that contains listener drops? If not, get some. Second, how many of those listener drops are really about you and your station? The more specific and local they can be, the better. There is such a huge difference between “I love you guys” and “I love WSOC.” “I wake up with you every morning” vs. “I can’t start my day without Tanner.” “I drive home with you every day” vs. “Charlie and Debbie help get me home every day.” “Nobody in town plays better music” vs. “There’s only one station in Charlotte that I listen to.” If you can work in an appropriate song like “All My Friends Say,” all the better.

But how do you get drops from those real listeners? I realize that your request lines probably aren’t burning up with people giving you no-editing-necessary, air-worthy praise, but that shouldn’t discourage you. First, make sure every jock rolls tape every time they answer the phone. You never know what kind of a gem you might get. Second, if you get somebody on the phone who exhibits the kind of “vibe” that you’re looking for (right demo, fun, excited, etc.), ask them some questions about the station and the personalities: Why do you listen to us? When do you listen? Where do you listen? Who do you listen to? What do you like about us? How do you feel when we play your favorite songs? How do you feel when we make you laugh? Do your friends listen to us, too?

Have fun with this. Make these listeners a part of the “in” crowd. Make them stars and let them know that we appreciate their support. Tell them to listen for themselves on the air very soon. Encourage them to have their friends listen. Heck, have their friends call in and be “stars,” too.

You won’t be able to use everything from every caller, and you’ll need to make sure you don’t run the same pieces too many times, but soon you’ll have compiled a collection that’ll connect you and your listeners and your market in a very special way.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Customer Service

I spent this New Year’s weekend like you may have: I hung out with family, watched a little football and tried to tackle a home improvement project. That project took me to not one, but two, home improvement stores: The Home Depot and Lowe’s. And I had lousy customer service at each store. At The Home Depot, I was buying a storm door and had to talk to someone at the “customer service” counter. We talked about the door and then she handed me her scanning gun, asking me to scan the door and actually saying that she was “too lazy” to walk around the counter and scan it herself. As I scanned the door, she blearily rubbed her face and told me that she had stayed up all night the night before. Since that had been New Year’s Eve, she probably wasn’t the only one who had stayed up later than usual, but I knew they were closing early on New Year’s Day, so I tried to cheerfully add that “at least you close soon, right?” “Yeah, thank God. I can’t wait until Five O’clock,” was her reply.

Over at Lowe’s, I brought my handful of items to the checkout counter, and the cashier asked if I found everything I was looking for. I said yes and she continued scanning my items. As she handed me my receipt, she said, “Here you go.” It still strikes me as odd when customers aren’t thanked for their business, but I thanked her and then wished her a happy New Year’s. She was unfazed. She didn’t blink, she didn’t smile, she didn’t say anything.

Both of these experiences got me to thinking about our customers and our customer service. What kind of message are we sending to our customers: our listeners? How many calls do you answer during one show? Several? Dozens? Hundreds? Even if you do have hundreds of “customer” calls that you answer each day, you should treat each call like it’s your only call, because for a given listener who calls you, they’re (probably) not calling you hundreds of times a day, they’re calling you once. If you have one bad call in 100, you can say that 1% of your calls were bad. But if they have one bad call, and it’s the only call they made, that’s 100% for them.

And what about face-to-face interaction: remotes and personal appearances? How many hands do you shake and babies do you kiss? Each interaction could be leaving a lasting impression. Sure, you’re human. Maybe you’re sick. Maybe you tossed and turned all night last night. Who hasn’t been there? But, for the most part, listeners don’t care that you may be having a bad day. They’ve got their own problems. On some level, some listeners may be empathetic, but what memory is going to stick with them longer? The fact that you’re human and weren’t 100% when they talked to you, or the feeling they got when you let them know they’re appreciated and valued as a customer?

Will every listener you talk to end up being a lifelong friend and fan? Probably not. But negative impressions have a way of sticking around. What kind of message are you sending to your “customers”? By delivering good customer service and making each one of your listeners feel important, you’re setting yourself up for success.