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Retail Branding: Treasure Island Cigar Lounge

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The vast majority of Pinstripe’s clients are professional services firms – law, healthcare, architecture, technology, consulting, etc. Over the years, we’ve become pretty good at developing brands and crafting messages that work in those industries, but every once in a while we get a project that falls outside the norm which gives everyone a little shot of adrenaline and inspiration. The latest example is the rebranding of Ginger’s husband’s “retirement hobby” – a cigar bar on the beach.

When he purchased the bar, it had nine years under another name that we thought had a more retail connotation instead of a lounge to enjoy a fine cigar and cold glass of local craft beer. For a fresh start, and to highlight the lounge and to make it more ‘on the nose’ about the location (particularly for tourists checking Google), it became the Treasure Island Cigar Lounge.

Treasure Island Cigar Lounge

The logo was the fun part. Taking inspiration from local pirates, tattoos, a slight reference to his epic goatee, and Ginger’s fondness for octopuses, we developed a final, iconic brand for the lounge.

We don’t have many opportunities to work on consumer-facing, retail brands, so we enjoyed the creativity that comes with a fun project like this. So far, the logo appears on the web site, social media, menus, signage, stickers, coasters and t-shirts, but we’ll soon be producing ads, event materials and more. We’d love to see it as a mural!

Let us know if we can help you with a fun branding project!

Good Customer Service Isn’t That Hard

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Remember when getting something from an online store was a bit of a guessing game? Online shopping has changed quite a lot. And, I can appreciate it even more after a recent experience in a store that went sour.

The Customer Experience

I would say that buying something online has become a good experience, almost to the point where it resembles the in-store experience. Most retail websites provide multiple photos, sizes, dimensions, and weight. Checkout is quick and so is delivery. Plus, they have online reps that can answer quick questions, such as return policies and shipping. I consider this a good experience.

I have more expectations when I go to a store than simply finding what I need. A good sales associate can make a good experience great, simply by being nice (smiles are contagious) and offering suggestions when asked (knowledgeable staff). Going to the store also connects us with the brands we buy.

I think that’s still the difference between the two. The online experience always feel good, while the in-store one can feel great. Except when it’s not great—or even good. In fact, a bad experience makes me wish I had just gone online. A bad in-store experience feels like a bad investment, because my time could have been spent better. No one wants that feeling. This is why good customer service is more important now than ever before.

Good Customer Service

There’s not much to it. We just need to focus on only a few key points to have good service:

  • Friendly service is a must. I don’t want to be ignored and I certainly don’t need any attitude. And, research shows how 70% of all purchases are based on how we feel like we are being treated. Everyone has bad days, but they shouldn’t be taken out on others.
  • Knowledgeable staff that is available to answer questions. Odds are, if I’m asking a question about a product or service, it means I’m not 100% sure of it. So, when I need help, I want someone to be available.
  • Convenient and quick ways to pay. I don’t mind standing in line, but not for too long.

My most recent bad experience while shopping was because of an unfriendly service representative. There’s too much competition out there. Too many choices for me to take my business elsewhere. Their mistake cost them my business and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Be Polite, Be Honest

My bad experience only strengthens my belief in the value of good customer service. We can’t please everyone all of the time, but we can try our best to be nice and helpful. This also extends to managing some common marketing activities, like social media and customer feedback. When replying to customers, be polite, never rude, or misconstrued as rude. The best way to do this is to be honest. Admit mistakes. Provide alternatives. Give the right answer. Resolve problems in a calm manner. Your customers and clients will love you for it. That’s why good customer service goes a long way.

Preparing for Vacation: A Checklist for When You’re Away

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This is our favorite time of year. You can feel it in the air every morning when you walk outside. Pretty soon, school bus traffic will slow to a trickle after the kids are let out for summer vacation. Summertime is upon us. It’s time for a much needed vacation. Maybe a trip to the mountains this year or a cruise. You’re ready for one.

Planning for Your Absence

It’s been months since an official day off and nearly half a year since the holidays. You’ve made your reservations, coordinated pet care, shopped for the essentials. Now, it’s time to plan for your absence at work.

One of the best ways to have a great vacation is to feel reassured that everything back at the office has been taken care of, because you don’t want to be thinking about work while on vacation. You need some well-deserved rest and relaxation. That’s why we have compiled a checklist for you to follow, just to help you stay organized and ready for adventure.

Vacation Checklist

☐ Prioritize your workload. This may seem like a no brainer, but low priority projects have a way of creeping in and taking too much of your time. Plus, make sure to write it all down.

☐ Take a look ahead. Planning your return is as important as stepping away. Adjust your calendar and be strategic with your scheduling.

☐ Schedule a buffer. Try to leave a couple hours open before you leave and keep a couple open when you return.

☐ Let your colleagues know. If you give everyone notice far enough in advance, then they can adjust their calendar, too. This is even more helpful when working on teams or in committees.

☐ Contact high-priority clients a week before you leave. Reach out and let them know where you’ll be and who they can get in touch with if they need anything.

☐ Prepare a return agenda. Your head will be fuzzy, but in a good way. You’ll have vacation on your brain. We’ve all been there. Plan ahead and be ready or else you’ll get overwhelmed.

☐ Let everyone know your availability. Work continues even while you’re on vacation. Taking a work-related call can be a necessary, minor disruption. Make sure your colleagues have a number to reach you and let them know days and times when you’ll be available. Also, let them know when you’ll be disconnected.

☐ Set up your Backup. Who’s covering for you while you’re gone? Make sure they are aware of your projects, how to handle emergencies, and when they should contact you.

☐ A list of tips. Providing your backup with a list of tips can save them time and reduce frustration.

☐ Put in a little extra time. Adding an hour or two a day can tie up loose ends and save you a lot of headaches after your return.

☐ Clean up. A cluttered desk will make it harder for your backup to help you. Organize your files and tidy up around your office. Don’t forget to water the plants.

☐ Archive and back up files. Make sure all of your files and emails are backed up and available.

☐ Out of office. Set up your out of office messages. Customize your auto-reply and voicemail to reflect the dates you’ll be away and your backup’s name and contact information.

☐ Brain dump. You may want to quickly type out a list of notes before you leave. This will help you get back into the swing of things when you return.

☐ Say good-bye to everyone!

Planning to Have Fun

It’s always important to work with your colleagues prior to leaving the office. You may need to delegate tasks while you’re away. Also, having an emergency plan in place is needed most when you’re out of the country, sippin’ cocktails on that cruise of a lifetime, where there’s no internet or phone service. We hope you have a great vacation!

Online Reputation Management Refresher

For many years, we have helped brands build and maintain their online reputations. The key has been consistency and doing a few things well, as opposed to trying to do everything poorly. Taking control of your online reputation is more important today than it has ever been. The amount of people relying on the internet for research and reviews continues to grow every year.

It’s no longer acceptable for your business to have no reviews or testimonials. If your company is having problems getting online reviews, just ask clients. And keep asking because 90% of the people in a large survey use the internet for research on products and services and 88% of them trust positive online reviews, treating them like personal recommendations.

The Bad Review

In 2014, over 2/3 of the people in a large survey said that they base their purchasing decisions on online reviews. Negative reviews can turn away 22% to 70% of a company’s potential business, depending upon how many bad reviews show up in the search results.

The process to address bad reviews has not changed. All negative comments should be addressed quickly and directly. Communicate with the reviewer, if possible, to rectify the situation or find some common ground. Then, write a blog about how these problems were addressed.

Dealing with Social Media

Social media faux pas still top the list for most frequent and destructive actions to reputations. Last year, the recently fallen YouTube vlogger, Kian Lawley, made racist comments which forced Fox and other companies to pull the plug on all of his film and television projects. The same thing can happen to small and midsize companies, which is why protocols need to be in place for all social media marketing.

Once the News Hears About It…

Over the years, news and entertainment media have increased their coverage of social media activity—from the President’s quixotic tweets to sports and television stars. Social media has become newsworthy, especially when it’s negative.

No one is immune to this trend. Even worse is when mistakes go viral, like the epic social media fail for a store in northern Minnesota, because local media outlets cover local businesses and someone, anyone can pick the story up and share it.

Everything Contributes, Not Just Social Media

Reputation management has a good mix of everything. Social media is a large part of that reputation, but it isn’t the only thing that matters. Keeping content fresh and up-to-date is also important. Businesses can go back and erase negative or outdated posts. This includes website content, like blogs, articles and case studies.

It’s also important to follow websites that post client and customer reviews. Many will have a policy for retracting negative reviews. All of this is part of a reputation maintenance plan, because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

In some cases, you may need a bit more help with smoothing over your bad review or a publicly smeared reputation. In these situations, Pinstripe Marketing can help! Contact us for assistance.

 

 

 

 

So You Got a Bad Customer Review …

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Public and readily accessible customer reviews are a fact of life for today’s business owners. Whether focused on a specific industry such as reviews at Hotels.com or covering a wide range of companies (i.e. Google Reviews, Yelp … etc.) there are plenty of online sites that want consumers to rate satisfaction with a recent purchase. The question for business owners and managers is what to do when they inevitably get negative comments.

Take Stock of the Situation

We may like to say that the customer is always right, but when criticized our natural inclination is to be defensive. We’ll make excuses, question the veracity of our detractors, or claim others are at fault (There are two sides to every story, after all!). Still, we should try to overcome our human impulses and:

  • Stay calm – Yep, they really said that, right there, for all the world to see. The unfairness of it all! Okay … stop. While your every instinct may be to fight back, instead clear your head and concentrate on fixing a problem. The issue isn’t necessarily a bad review. Also, if you’re wishing your customer had tried to be more understanding, maybe you could start the ball rolling by going first.
  • Investigate – Do what you can to understand what transpired to create the unhappy customer. Recalling the incident, or finding the employee who remembers what happened may depend on the level of detail in the reviewer’s account, but make a good faith effort to get the facts. Keep in mind that the in-house person who knows the most about the incident may have had the biggest role in making the customer unhappy. Don’t be accusatory with that staff member, but take pains to see the matter from the customer’s perspective.
  • Make Changes – Once you’re satisfied you have a handle on what transpired, ensure there will be no cause for similar reviews in the future. Did an employee do something wrong? Was a policy at fault? If so, address the deficiency and correct it. Was the problem unavoidable or was the customer in the wrong? Then explore measures to let upset customers in the future know you care about their feelings, even if you can’t make them completely happy.

React Positively

You’ve done what you can to uncover the facts and you have a plan for moving forward. Now it’s time to let others know you’ve acknowledged a problem and are working to set things right by:

  • Responding Online (at the review site) – Don’t just let a bad review sit there! Many customer satisfaction sites provide an opportunity for you to address a critical review. (This goes for social media criticisms as well.) Respectfully and graciously express your concern that a customer had a bad experience. If your investigation found that your business was at fault, own up to it, apologize and let people know how you plan to fix the problem. If the problem was out of your control, politely explain why. Don’t belabor your points.
  • Contacting the unhappy customer directly – If possible, contact the person who posted the negative review. Let them know you are disheartened that they had a bad experience. You may find them very reasonable as the heat of the moment has passed, They may even appreciate you reaching out to them. See if reasonable accommodation can be reached. Keep in mind: It’s not so important that they understand your position, but that they know you care about theirs.
  • Going public – Without rehashing a specific bad review, let customers (current, former and prospective) know you value their feedback whether it’s good or bad. Encourage their reviews on rating sites (suggest a few that you can easily monitor) and add the proviso that you’d always like the opportunity to address any concerns. When real problems are uncovered, let everyone know you’re fixing them. “Responsive” and “thoughtful” are very marketable qualities in a business.

Minimize the Impact

Though you do everything possible to set things right—and that irate reviewer is now your most enthusiastic advocate—a negative comment could virtually hang around forever. Here are three things you can do to mitigate the damage:

  • Overwhelm the bad reviews with good – As mentioned, you should encourage customers to review your business, and if you usually do a good job, your ratings will reflect that. People understand everyone occasionally has a bad day, and some customers are going to be unreasonable jerks, so the stray one-star rating won’t sink you. Just don’t manufacture glowing reviews—that’s unethical and there could be negative repercussions from the review site.
  • Work on Search Engine Results – Google the name of your business. What comes up at the top? If negative comments are prominent, embark on a plan to increase improve your Internet presence. The more “good news” you have out there, the less prominence any negative reviews will have.
  • Emphasize customer testimonials and case studies in your marketing – Apart from trusted word-of-mouth communication, verified testimonials and case studies are about the most effective form of advertising. Make them a component of your sales and marketing strategy on your website, in ads and commercials, brochures … everywhere! You want to people to see that happy customers are the norm, and a bad experience is an aberration.

Final thought: think of negative reviews as an opportunity. If you have a problem in how you’re serving customers, you want to know it. And if you aren’t really doing anything wrong, here’s your chance to practice your customer relations skills. Besides, anything that encourages us to look beyond our normal, everyday perspective will only help us grow and be better prepared for new challenges in the future.

The Pinstripe PR team are reputation management pros and can help mitigate negative comments. Contact us here to learn how we can help.

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