It’s all about relationships

Today I noticed a tweet by a public relations worker at a local creative firm, Rob Batherson, who was pleased with the way an employee at the Hilton Fashion District Hotel in New York had dealt with an issue he was having. Obviously we all prefer when a company solves our problems, but I do want to elaborate a bit on this thought.

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My beer habits have changed dramatically in the past year. I’ve always been a lover of quirky, bold beers, and have never been a big fan of the mass-market swill that one can find at most bars. My conversion to nearly 100% craft beer consumption, from perhaps 50% previously, was quick, and largely thanks to a tweet that I spotted by Bobby O’Keefe last August which introduced me to the Brewnosers Club. In the same period, my brand loyalty switched dramatically.

In my first year at Dal, I lived at Howe Hall, and when I wanted to fill my growler (perhaps 10% of my beer consumption at the time, maybe less), I’d trek out to Propeller. I really love Propeller’s beer, I find they have great quality, flavour, and consistency. The following year, I was living close to the North End (depends on who you ask) and was even closer to their brewery. However, every time I went to Propeller, I didn’t feel accepted as a customer. By that I mean the employees made no attempt to reach out, and rarely said more than a forceful “Hello.” Growler fills and purchasing bottles directly from the brewery had probably hit 50% of my consumption (excluding bars). This year, I once again moved downtown, and when the farmer’s market moved across the street from Garrison I started to check Garrison’s brews out when in the area.

Garrison provided a wildly different customer experience. Their staff seemed friendlier from day one, and when I go to purchase or sample their products they are always friendly and helpful. A few have started to recognize me, which is nice considering my visits are infrequent. One employee, however, has stood out. Garrison’s marketing and social media is handled by a young woman named Meg. Meg is great because she answers any query rapidly and thoroughly. If a product is not as expected, she moves quickly to rectify the situation. Meg goes above and beyond to ensure Garrison’s customers are satisfied, and it’s something I’ve noticed on multiple occasions. Whether an individual says something about Garrison in a public forum, whether positive or negative, Meg is quick to respond, thank the person if it’s positive, or see what can be done to correct the problem if it’s not.

The customer service displayed by the entire team at Garrison is something that motivates me to consume more of their beer, even though I don’t like it to the same extent as Propeller. Sadly, Propeller suffered a big loss in my eyes when brewmaster Don Harms returned to Ontario this spring. I sat next to him on a flight to Ottawa last December, and he was very friendly and encouraged me to come to the brewery so he could run some quality tests on my homebrew. Sadly, I was not able to take him up on the offer before he left a few months later.

Breweries aren’t the only companies that work to establish solid relationships with their customers. Public utilities seem to be much-maligned organizations. Relatively isolated from the threat of competition, they have little incentive to work harder on their product and their relationships. Aaron, who handles social media for Nova Scotia Power is another great example. He keeps their Twitter account up to date, lighthearted, and proactive. He works hard to answer questions thoroughly (I’ve asked questions about corona discharge sounding louder than normal, emissions at generating stations, charts for power usage by time of day. I’ve also pointed out issues with the website’s usability). Every time, Aaron is quick and thorough to respond. His proficiency is especially unexpected given my preconceptions of public utilities.

As Rob pointed out in his tweet, it’s all about creating positive relationships with customers and solving their problems. That’ll beat any advertising campaign.

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