Yesterday some colleagues and I picked up an Avis rental car at O’Hare in Chicago. The line was short, yet it took forever. There was only one associate there to serve customers and no sense that it was Avis’s responsibility to speed the process along.
Since I had nothing to do, seemed a good time to pull out the iPhone and send a message via Twitter to the 5000 or so people who might be paying attention. Why not? It takes all of five seconds to create and distribute a message — whether criticism or praise — about a company or product. It’s an easy way to do others a favor, either saving them from, or turning them onto, a similar experience.
OK, obviously my one little message wasn’t going to make much of a difference to a big company like Avis. But what if 1000 people, or even 100 people, had a similar experience and decided to let their followers know? What if some of those hundred folks each had thousands of followers? Wouldn’t that be a problem? Or at least, wouldn’t it be a missed opportunity, a lost chance to inspire the opposite reaction and message?
That evening I had dinner at a little restaurant called Nonno (the newest restaurant in the growing Bartolotta empire) in Terminal D of Milwaukee’s General Mitchell airport. The receptionist was welcoming and eager to accommodate my request for quick service so I could make my plane. The waitress who showed up within moments of my arrival offered to watch my bags while I ran to the restroom. The service was attentive. And my meal — penne with asparagus, shrimp, tomatoes and garlic — was prepared perfectly. When I asked about the restaurant, surprised that a place so good sat in the middle of an airport, I was provided with knowledgeable answers about ingredients and the owner’s philosophy, along with a helpful pamphlet about their other restaurants, “just in case I want to try something different next time I’m in Milwaukee.”
Time to get out the iPhone and share with anyone who’s interested a sound bite or two about the “best airport restaurant in America.” When I let my waitress know I had “broadcast” a compliment, she was genuinely appreciative of the gesture.
Was it timing, coincidence, or chance that made the two experiences so different? Might it have been the other way around on another day? Or was it the difference between two distinct company cultures?
Either way, in this day and age, when consumers are the medium, the distribution channel, the evangelists or the critics, shouldn’t every brand go out of its way to do everything it can to prevent negative word of mouth and encourage the positive?
Maybe a business should go so far as to post a sign suggesting all customers feel free to tweet their reactions, positive or negative. Now that might get a business to remember to pay attention to its service. What are your thoughts?