Last week, a friend of mine called me to talk about her forthcoming trip to New York. She knew that I’d been with my fiancée a few years back and wanted to know if I had any hotel recommendations.
I immediately recommended one of the places we’d stayed, the Park Central New York – a large hotel located between Central Park and Times Square.
The hotel is a solid four-star; clean, corporate, generally high quality, but nothing out of the ordinary. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have remembered it at all, if it wasn’t for a single encounter with a member of the hotel’s staff that stuck in our minds long after we’d left.
The moment in question happened about three days into our holiday, when the toilet in our room inexplicably became blocked (it is not necessary here to explore the why’s or wherefore’s). So I called reception and a short time later a repairman – a young chap called Jerry who, we learned, was originally from Jamaica – arrived to take a look.
When I opened the door, Jerry was striking a heroic pose, with a plunger jauntily draped over his shoulder and a huge grin on his face. I liked him immediately – indeed, anyone who greets a total stranger in this manner deserves to be liked immediately and unreservedly! He came in and got down to business, treating my fiancée and I to a series of tunefully whistled ditties as he went about his work. When the job was done, he emerged from the bathroom and, with a triumphant grin, exclaimed: “Congratulations guys – you’re back in business!!”
Why did we find this so memorable? I genuinely have no idea, because now that I write it down it’s really not at all funny – a chap doing the job he was supposed to albeit with a certain joie de vivre one doesn’t always expect. But our meeting made such an impact that “you’re back in business!” became something of a catchphrase of ours for a while – and it’s probably the only reason I remembered the hotel and subsequently recommended it to my friend all those years later.
Which, in a rambling, roundabout way, gets me round to the point of this blog. Companies invest huge amounts of money and resources trying to build and maintain a positive impression of their brand. More often than not this investment is focused on externally-facing aspects of their business: website and digital presence, media relations, advertising, direct marketing, etc. True, these are all vital parts of the PR mix – but sometimes it’s the smallest things that have the biggest impact on how your brand is perceived.
All too often we see businesses – and particularly service businesses - overlooking the most important part of the communications mix: their front-line ambassadors, namely their own staff. We’ve conducted dozens of perception audits for clients across a range of sectors, exploring why customers feel positively or negatively about their brand – and more often than not, it’s how those customers are dealt with on a day-to-day basis that has the biggest impact on perceptions of a business.
Businesses should look inward as well as outward when it comes to public relations and communications. Big ticket external campaigns of course play an important role, but it is true ambassadors like Jerry who have the power to leave a lasting positive impression on the customer. Companies would do well to remind themselves of that fact a little more often.
Tom Short, Account Director