Beth Keserauskis

Building relationships and making connections

The power of service with a smile

Luck o' the IrishThis morning my husband and I wanted to join in the “luck o’ the Irish” and have a pre-St. Pat’s Day parade traditional Irish breakfast at a local Irish pub. We have patronized this establishment in the past, and believe in supporting local businesses. Our experience prior to this particular morning has always been fine. Never extraordinary, but fine nonetheless.

Not so this morning. We read in the local paper that they were serving breakfast this Irish morning (note: they are not typically open for breakfast). What we did not notice until we arrived and saw the sign on the door was that reservations were required. Noting that there was NO ONE yet in the restaurant (and they were indeed open), we decided to go in and explain that we did not have reservations and see if they could still accommodate us. The bouncer at the door (yes, even at breakfast they were anticipating that the St. Patrick’s day partying and drinking would begin at the start of the day) and the first server we came across were very friendly and happily said they would go find out.

After standing there for what felt like 20 minutes (but was really like 5), noticing that food was ready to be served, that NO ONE was in there eating breakfast yet and remembering that the bouncer told us no one had made reservations before 8am (it was 7:15), we told him not to worry about it that we would just leave. Right at that point the server came back and told us we could eat. This was also after being able to watch her ask presumably the owner whether he would allow us to stay and eat, and then watching him sigh, look at us and say okay.

Then we were sat at the family-style long table by ourselves, served our coffee and shown the buffet area (which was already completely stocked with food). Our server visited us a total of three times—for us to order coffee, receive coffee and asked if we needed a refill. We spent 20 minutes in silence by ourselves eating breakfast with no one else arriving for their reservation. Thankfully we had enough cash and exact change to cover the bill and tip, because we left largely unnoticed. The only saving grace was the bouncer thanked us for our business and told us to have a nice day.

If you are in the restaurant business, you are clearly in the customer service business. If your customers are not having a great experience, they are not going to build a relationship with you and continue to patronize you. However strongly I feel about patronizing local businesses, experiences like this make me want to rethink the strategy. My recommendation to them is to assign the bouncer a new role: Chief of Customer Experience. He was the only one who made us feel welcome.

Is your customer experience warm and welcoming? Do you make your customers feel like an interruption to your day or a vital component of your success? Whether you are in the restaurant business, retail sales or higher education—your audience is passing judgment on your business based on their experience and telling other people about it. Make sure they are talking about what a wonderful experience they had with you.

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March 13, 2010 Posted by | marketing, relationships, reputation management, sales | , , | Leave a comment

A mascot is more than a sports cheerleader

Lets just talk a little bit today about how a mascot for a school or institution of higher education is so much more than just a representative of the athletics program or something that helps rally school spirit and pride. It can be a tool by which you continue your efforts to improve your relationships and manage your reputation within your community. Many people above and beyond season ticket holders are fans. When an institution needs to change its mascot costume—not necessarily the mascot itself but the costume that some poor soul has to don during each of the games—there are several ways in which you could do it. You could

  1. Just decide based on price which has its obvious implications,
  2. Decide based on looks amongst the people in charge of the mascot, or
  3. Take it a step further and use it as a relationship building tool.

SIUE Mascot Corey the CougarI am clearly a fan of #3. Get as much mileage out of this process as possible from a relationship building perspective with your publics. Allow your fans to vote after you’ve narrowed it down to 3 options everybody could be happy with no matter which was selected. Unveil these selections at a home athletic contest depending on what sport you get the most fan base at, or at a major university event and allow fans to vote. You can also post it on line and distribute it through your social networks, encouraging fans to give us their opinion and vote on the options.

It gives your constituents, your customers, or partners the opportunity to tell you what they think, and to engage them in a conversation. Give them a reason to feel invested in the organization. In this case they feel that they have a vested interest in this mascot, then when it comes time to unveil the new costume, you now have a platform to create this big splash and really encourage folks to attend the event where the new mascot is unveiled. Use that opportunity to continue to nurture the relationship with your customers whether it is you athletics fans, your student base, or your faculty and staff.

There are folks who may not necessarily frequent athletic contests but are very interested and passionate about the school—to them the mascot represents the whole organization, not just the athletic teams. So here is just one more way that something so simple as selecting a costume for the mascot, can really be a great way to engage your audience at very little or no cost. Just a small investment of your time.

March 5, 2010 Posted by | connecting, higher education, marketing, relationships | , , | Leave a comment

It’s really not about getting credit

Gold StarI had a very disheartening experience recently, that I managed to turn into an opportunity to improve my own skills as a manager and leader. In the interest of privacy, the general scenario is that a group of people were discussing an issue. I suggested a plan of action, which the group agreed with and ultimately the situation worked out based on that suggested path. Several days later I discover that certain individuals were claiming credit for my idea—I can only assume because it was successful and made us look good.

So my first reaction was anger and indignation. How dare they claim credit for my idea? Then I realized I don’t really care about getting credit if the overall group moves forward as a result. But I certainly lost a lot of faith in my fellow group members—how could they possibly have the best interest of the whole at heart when they were so willing to claim credit at the expense of others?

So my take away from this situation is first to manage my expectations for this group and stop expecting something I am never going to receive. Second, I realized that to be a better manager of my staff and a leader of our group, I needed to make sure that my staff feels empowered to make great suggestions knowing that I will praise them and give them credit for their great ideas and hard work. To me, that will inspire loyalty and maybe even inspire folks to achieve even greater things than they or I imagined possible.

Then I think about how an organization is managing its relationships with people—are we elevating our coworkers, target audiences, customers, etc? Or are we belittling their thoughts and opinions? Are we engaging in an honest, thoughtful, genuine dialogue? Or are we paying them lip service to better ourselves?

To me it’s clear which path will win in the long run.

October 31, 2009 Posted by | leadership, marketing, relationships | , , | Leave a comment

Finally!

Ah, the official foray into the blogging world. I never thought I would have the time to maintain a blog that people would actually want to consistently read. But that is my new commitment to myself–to walk the walk. Thanks to many encouragements from friends, coworkers and nudges from industry leaders I am finally here.

How can I be a good reputation/relationship/brand manager for a company if I am not leading by example and establishing my own brand, managing my own reputation and creating relationships of my own in the online space?? And so it shall begin!

October 29, 2009 Posted by | leadership, relationships, reputation management | , , | Leave a comment