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10/06/08 Reach For The Stars


One of the finest hotels in America could not seem to get the five-star rating it deserved. Everything was perfect: pristine grounds, first-class accommodations, exceptional service. Why, then, did customers give this hotel such poor reviews?

The management had paid attention to every detail but one — the parking attendants.

When customers left the hotel and gave their ticket to the parking attendant, the wait dragged on. Not only were the employees disorganized, they were disgruntled — and every customer caught the attitude. In an otherwise fine establishment, the customers saw this one flaw as major.

The hotel manager met with the parking attendant and heard their grievances. As part of the interview, he asked each attendant to recite his job description. He was told their job is to park cars.

The manager officially fired them all — and rehired them as frontline ambassadors.
This simple — almost silly — move helped the attendants understand how their attitudes affected the hotel. The reassignment of purpose changed the entire image of the hotel, which ultimately earned its fifth star.

I Speak From Experience
Every encounter your radio station offers customers impacts not only your own reputation, but the reputation of radio in general. If an advertiser calls a radio station for the first time and encounters a problem, you may have pushed away a radio advertiser forever.

Years ago I was determined to sell a particular New York advertiser on radio. The owner was known for not believing in radio, and my rep firm had never succeeded in selling her. Although she controlled millions of dollars, radio got none of it. I managed to arrange a lunch with her and quickly learned the problem: She had moved to New York only five years earlier from a town in the Midwest where she worked for a small advertising agency. She had used radio to some success, but at one point her client asked her to cut all spending for six months. She received scathing phone calls and negative pressure from many of the radio stations she had been using (but not from other media). She vowed never to use radio again. Who knew that this small local advertiser would end up controlling a multimillion-dollar budget for an agency in New York a few years later? I never sold her.

A Lasting Impression
The image of our frontline ambassadors – our salespeople – is hurt by radio’s practices. What impression do we give clients when they meet a new rep every 90 days? Or work with 20 reps in five years? How do they react to the pressure from salespeople who will lose their job if they miss budget? How does radio look when people sell clients schedules that can’t work, just to get some revenue on the books? How do people feel about us when we whine about not being on a buy? What signal do we send when we go around the agency after not being bought?

I don't want to suggest that we should not keep pressure on our people or try every possible way to get business. But I don't recommend any behavior that makes radio look bad, because the impressions we leave can last a lifetime. I tried radio and it doesn’t work comes from not having the guts to walk away from business that lacks proper frequency or relevant creative.

Radio suffers image problems. I hear it from managers and sellers every day, who hear it from prospective advertisers every day. It starts with your frontline ambassadors. Your local attention to detail could impact the radio industry as a whole.

Have you evaluated every touch point your station has with customers? Who are your frontline ambassadors? How are they keeping you from getting your star?


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