Sunday, August 2, 2009

"When was caring not a real job?" - Gary Vaynerchuk

The hot topic of last week and last week's Twitter #AptChat topic was the Horizon lawsuit. After watching all of this go down and having Kate Good give me a nod in her latest post I've been inspired to write my own piece. I've given some advice about responding to our critics that I'd like to share, and also share why it's important to your brand.

So, in her post, Kate mentions something I said during my "Corporate Mullet" presentation from the Realpage User Conference. At some point I paraphrased Gary Vaynerchuk and said, "When did it no longer become our job to show our residents we care?" Man did it feel powerful to say that. I think I may have even got a few applause from the audience, but who knows. ;) Anyway, after my presentation was over a couple people that liked what I said came up to me and asked, "What should we do on if someone gives us a bad rating and we know some (or all) of what they say isn't true?" My response was, "Apologize." (CLICK HERE FOR EXAMPLE)

To me it doesn't matter if it's just a disgruntled ex-employee, or a real concern. I say apologize. Tell them you are sorry for their concern, thank them for taking the time to voice their concern, and tell them that you will be researching the situation further as it's your goal to continually improve the service you offer. With this response you don't admit that you've done anything wrong, you show appreciation for people voicing their concerns, and you highlight your goal of continuous improvement (as I hope that is what we're all striving for). Do you want to be known as a brand that ignores your customers, or as a brand that listens and responds?

In addition, I highly recommend ALL reviews be responded to. Even the good ones. Thank them for taking the time to provide feedback, and even give them your email address so they can contact you anytime if needed. I say give your email address to the critics as well. Ask them for suggestions, and have them email you. It all goes back to "caring" as Gary said, and I say "caring about your brand." Gary Vaynerchuk can be somewhat obnoxious at times, but the guy brings it and he definitely cares. Watch this clip for about two minutes and you'll see him make the point.

The whole thought of caring brings me back to my first job out of college. I was working for Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., and the first role they give you in the "management training program" was as a Customer Assistance Specialist. Yep, the 1-800 line operator. Rule #1: Apologize. I never connected that with caring until recently. Put yourself in the customer's shoes. They want to be heard, and it's someone's fault for not listening or not making the information easy to find. Now they're calling you. When it get's to you, i think you have to apologize to show you care. At Toyota, even if someone was just asking us the MSRP of a new car, we'd apologize first. "I'm sorry you were unable to find that information."

Regardless of the communication tool the concern comes in on (phone, email,, Twitter, etc.), make sure people know you're listening as it shows you care. Just because we have a policy, it's the way we've always done it, or it's a stretch of the truth, doesn't mean the customer's voice should not be heard. Even if the customer is wrong, SO WHAT! Let's remember what our real jobs are here, caring. It's not easy as we have a history of relying on policies and contracts in our industry, and it's easy to make all our decisons based on those. However, caring more can be easy as well if we just listen, show some empathy, and try to help people. Let's use these as opportunities to improve, as moments of misery that can be turned into moments of magic, or as ways to turn a dissatisfied customer into a lifelong customer. The brands we read about in business books, hear stories about from our friends and family, or just the ones we admire don't get their recognition and reputation from having incredible policies. I think they just care more.

Enjoy your week everyone!



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