Last month I shared some ideas on how to provide better customer services to one set of a radio station’s customer’s – its listeners. This month, I want to focus on the other set of customers, being the clients who purchase advertising on your radio station and, hopefully, your digital websites as well.
In today’s service orientated economy, great customer service is not only expected, it is often the difference between success and failure. The reality is that advertisers do not really need us, we need them. After all, they do have other options. Therefore, our job is to make our product as desirable as possible, ensure that the radio station is an effective advertising medium for the client, and make it as easy as possible for any advertiser to do business with the station. Remember that today the average consumer has many different options in your market and beyond when they need a product or service, and when it comes to advertising we know that the average retailer is approached by 10 different companies on any given day offering to sell them a product or services to help the retailer increase their market share. This includes your radio station, all the other radio stations in the market or close by, billboards, newspaper, flyers, magazines, cable channels, website portals and all the social media marketing experts. Then there are the companies selling branded merchandise, promotions, B2B concepts and numerous other companies all looking to grab a share of that local retailer’s advertising pie.
This means that if we are to be more successful in 2013 we need to look at our how we communicate with our customer, how we create a point of difference, and how we provide an even better customer service to the advertiser. So let’s start by asking when was the last time you looked at what customer benefits you offer your retailers in order to stand out from these competitors? Here are a few customer service benefits that will not cost you much, but may create a valuable point of difference and set your station apart from your competition:
24 hour on call service: This was easier to achieve when we had staff on the air 24 hours a day, seven days a week because there was always someone to answer the phone after hours. Then it was a matter of having one phone number that was answered by the front desk during office hours and by the announcer outside of normal office hours. The reality is that most clients will never call the station outside of office hours, but giving them the benefit of calling anytime of any day or night when they have an issue is a great service and will probably be appreciated by your clients. It would not cost much to have your office phones answered by a service outside of normal hours and they can email or text the message to the appropriate staff member who can then deal with the client’s query in a timely manner.
Advertiser referral service: Run an image campaign on the air inviting listeners to call the station if they want more information about an ad they heard on the radio. It is also easy to have this information on the radio station’s website with a link to the client’s website. This creates the perception that the station in committed to looking after the advertiser’s needs. Chances are, very few listeners will actually phone up asking about an ad, but advertisers will appreciate that the station is going the extra distance to make their advertising more effective.
Advertiser advisory panel: Once a month, gather several advertisers in your conference room, ask for feedback on how the station is doing and seek suggestions on how the station could improve. It needs to be a free form discussion where advertisers feel they can speak openly and even criticize the station. This creates an opportunity to fix those things you deem worth fixing and will help to build client loyalty, because they feel like they are contributing to the policies of the station. Chances are you will get some actionable ideas and those clients will listen to the station to see if their ideas are being acted upon.
Welcome board: This is a simple idea that makes the client feel important. When they arrive at the station have their name displayed on a “welcome” board similar to the board or screen you see in hotel lobbies. So when a staff member books a meeting with the client at the station to voice an ad, or meet with the rep or GM, tell reception who then ensures the client’s name is on the welcome board on the appropriate day. “XX-FM welcomes Bill Smith of Smith’s Menswear.” That way the staff knows a client is coming into the station and can greet them by name if they encounter them in the hallway. Over time, more of your staff will get to know the names of more of your advertisers, and those clients will feel important when they come to the station.
Have we done something wrong: It should be very easy for your traffic person to keep track of any non seasonal advertiser who has not advertised on your station in the past 3 months. Send them a personalized letter from the General Sales Manager or General Manager along the following lines, “We note with concern that you have not advertised with our radio station in the past three months. Have we done something wrong? Is there some way in which our service did not live up to your expectations? If you were unhappy with our service, our product or your commercial we would like to know, and we hope you will give us the opportunity to put this right. I will call you personally in the next few days or please call me at your convenience because your business is important to us.”
Customer Service Manager: This is another job than can be easily handled by the Traffic Manager. They spend 20 minutes each day phoning clients who have schedules running on the station. They introduce themselves as the Customer Service Manager and explain that they are calling to check that everything is okay and if we can help them in any way. Most stations do not have that many accounts on the air at any one time so it should not take much time each day to make some calls. But it does show the client that the radio station cares about them enough to call. It is also a great way to identify any problems and allows you to get them fixed quickly. Not all sales reps are detail orientated and some may be reluctant to pass along the client concerns for various reasons. Also, some clients may not feel comfortable complaining directly to the sales rep.
Thanks for choosing us: Send this letter out to new clients welcoming them to the radio station and thanking them for their business. You might even include a voucher to use for an upgrade or to be applied to a future campaign. This is not only great customer service it also encourages future purchases. You probably receive lots of these types of offers yourself, but how often do you think about doing this as a radio station? You might also include some helpful information such as how to create a powerful radio commercial. If they are new to your station they may not have the knowledge or experience in what to put in their radio commercial.
Free sponsorships: If you have a programming feature that is not sold, then pick one of your top advertisers and offer them the feature at no charge for two months. If the feature is running and it is unsponsored then the station has lost nothing by giving this away, and the client will appreciate the gesture. Then talk to sales and motivate them to go get it sold. In the meantime one of the major advertiser’s names is associated with the feature which should make it easier to sell.
Run educational seminars: Put on a seminar once a year, or more frequently if you can justify it, and bring in an expert who can help your clients better understand how to use media and how to make their advertising more effective. By the way, you should listen closely to your local radio ads and look for copy that you know does not work for the client. If you would like a list of what to look for contact our office and we’ll be happy to send that to you. Then find out why the copy is like that. Was it the rep, the writer, or the client? Sometimes it’s all three! Seminars are a powerful way to educate your clients and they will appreciate that you did this.
The above are just a few ideas to get you thinking about ways to provide a better service to your customers. I am sure if you thought about it you could come up with others that would be just as good, if not better. But doing this is still not enough. You not only need to practice great customer service, but you also need to continually emphasize your customer service advantages you have over your competitors and make sure you market these benefits to your clients. I know of one station that sends out a personalized letter promoting a different customer benefit each month to all the key advertising decision makers. You might consider inserting the letter with the invoice if you send them in the mail, providing the marketing reaches the decision maker and not the person in accounts payable.
I should point out that some of these ideas were, and probably still are being used in New Zealand and Doug Gold was the person who came up with many of them. You can read more about customer service if you Google “Fun is a Serious Business The More FM Story.”