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Cultivating the Best Customer Experience

cultivating client relationships

There are satisfied customers – those who have received their products or services and are content with their purchase; there are dissatisfied customers – those whose expectations have not been met; and then there are off-the-charts fans of your business – those clients who have received memorable, exceptional customer service and products. Can you think of the last customer service experience you had that made you a raving fan? Creating this type of memorable experience for your customers does not have to be difficult.

Use Failure as an Opportunity to Improve

We all set out to make our clients happy with the work we do, but we don’t always succeed. Failure to make a client happy with your product or service is not a failure at all – rather, take it as an opportunity to create an even stronger impression. Think of client dissatisfaction as the best time to show just how resilient, patient, and cooperative your company can be. Use negative feedback to improve your future operations and customer service. As long as you learn from your mistakes, you will only get better.

cultivating strong client relationships

Say it with a smile – being personable and passionate goes a long way in great customer service.

Customer Experience is a Part of Your Brand

Great customer service should be a part of your package, not an afterthought. If you find yourself constantly patching up problems and messes, then it’s probably time to re-evaluate your approach. Think of good service as a part of the product you are selling – people are buying your product or service over others because you offer the complete package – a great experience in addition to a great product. Win more sales with great products, win customer loyalty with great service. Be passionate about customer service and show your customers that you care. Find a way to build excellent customer service into your process from the very beginning.

Leadership Leads Good Customer Experience

Realize that good customer service starts at the leadership level. If treating your customers to a good experience is not valued by leadership, then that will be reflected in other positions. Other hindrances to good customer experience are apathy, disorganization, and disengagement of employees. All of these are problems that can be solved by good leadership. Executives should provide training, assistance, and perks for good customer service. A solid client-centric program should have guidelines for providing good service, as well as protocol for addressing problems when they do arise. In the case of Zappos, for example, if clients don’t like the shoes they ordered, no problem! Just return the items with free shipping both ways. The problem of customer dissatisfaction is virtually erased, since they can return the product without worrying about being charged. When you have a great customer experience, it’s because that experience is built into the very culture of the organization, beginning at the top.

Check out a few of our favorite books on the topic of customer service:

The New Gold Standard – The Ritz Carlton Hotel Company

Zappos: Good to Great

Spotlight On: Shannon Bennett, VP Sales & Marketing at ADM Two

ADM Two has been one of our clients for years and we feel like we’ve become a part of the family. We love working with them because of their incredible creativity, fine craftsmanship, and awesome gigantic warehouse space that we get tours of every chance we get. They design and fabricate trade show booths, corporate signage and interiors, and museum cases and displays. It’s a really fascinating business, so we are honored to feature Shannon Bennett, VP of Sales & Marketing at ADM Two.

Shannon Bennett

VP Sales & Marketing




What inspired you to pursue a career in exhibit design?

I kind of fell into the industry. I studied mass communication – programming and production – and intended to work in the new media. However, I had my first business job with ADM Two (the original one). Once I started I was hooked. It was much like the industry I studied as we too were putting on a show, but it was just a 3D show.

What is the first assignment you remember? Why?

I remember my first time on the show floor. It was Supershow in Atlanta. We were working on the Nutmeg Mills booth. They are the licensed sportswear company that is on Linebaugh and has the stadium-like building. Their booth replicated the look of their building. Ray Butterfield, our founder and my mentor, was supervising the installation. I found it very impressive seeing all these large companies whose names I see in stores. I felt like I was in on the secret of the new items to come out. However, it was most memorable because during the install, one of the labor guys dropped a beam and hit Ray on the head and he had to be seen by the medical staff onsite. Not only was I worried about Ray; we still had a booth to get up as the show had to go on. However, Ray was fine and everything went up without a hitch.

What do you like most about the exhibit design industry and community?

I like the change every day brings. There is always a solution that needs to be found to meet an objective. The creative vibe of the community is what inspires me most. There are very talented people who love what they do and it shows in their craft. The people make the difference in this industry. One you are in you never seem to leave which lends itself to long lasting business relationships and friendships.

What challenges does your industry face?

Our industry faces many challenges that change based on the business climate at the time. During the economic downturn, we had to determine the best way to help our clients exhibit most cost efficiently without sacrificing their brand. This meant extra efforts on our part to determine everything from layouts to materials that would reduce the cost of attending shows.

Another challenge in our industry is how to maximize the experience beyond the trade show floor. A client’s success at a trade show is determined by the overall experience they have inside the booth space as well as before and after the show.

How do you measure your success?

I measure my success by my client’s success. If they do well then I feel we have done our part of the job.

What has been your greatest accomplishment in your career?

My greatest accomplishment is balancing family life and my work life. Both parts of my life allow me to achieve greater success in the other.

What do you think is the biggest mistake companies make when working in exhibit design?

I find that companies try and rush through the process of design focusing on a final look prior to doing their homework and determining the overall objectives. I think it is important to include decision-makers in the process rather than just delivering a design that meets parts of the objectives. More time should be spent on understanding the branding goals of the company, the budgetary costs of the exhibit as well as cost of exhibiting, the functional needs of the exhibit and how a new design impacts the overall trade show program.

What is the most interesting trend you see in exhibit design?

The increased use of rental components in the design for various types of events – trade shows, small private meetings (Yara) and private events (PSCU, NexTech). By integrating rentals into the program either as a complete solution or in combination with existing or new components, clients can achieve more with less and not have the commitment and cost of ownership for parts they may only use once a year.

How has technology helped/hindered your work?

Just one of the ways technology has helped is it allows us to quickly and easily look up show information. Back in the day (15+ yrs ago) they communicated information about a particular show to the exhibitor through a show manual. The pros of the old exhibit manual were that it were usually accurate and received in a timely manner. Today’s technology makes it easier and more cost effective to provide the information online. However, I have found that the information is not provided as early as the old style manuals were. Additionally, I have found that the information from year to year is only updated and often the dates/days etc are not changed in their entirety, making important dates not 100% accurate. You may have the right date but not the correct day of the week noted.

The second way I think technology has hindered our work is in the delivery of information. We tend to get pieced information rather than a well thought out delivery of complete details. We then have to spend additional time compiling emails to ensure we have all the information and that any changes through the e-chain are caught. Information is not provided in a timely manner, pushing us to change our internal schedules and rush to meet client needs.

Technology has helped immensely in the search for specific or specialized materials needed for our various projects. It also helps in the speed of communication, conveying images and transferring data. However, the speed of communication can also be a hindrance.

How do you stay on top of your field?

  • I attend various trade shows to see what is the latest and greatest in the field
  • I read industry magazines, blogs and studies
  • I look at new product innovations to see how they may impact my clients

What resources do you recommend? (Books, magazines, web, etc.)

I read Seth Godin every morning as in inspirational start to the day, as well as:

 If you could give one piece of advice to Tampa Bay companies, what would it be?

Invest in your community resources. Use local companies as there are very talented people and companies just around the corner from you. Build relationships.

What are your hobbies?

Traveling, reading, learning about healthy eating/lifestyle, wine, and I’m in a Krewe – Queen Anne’s Revenge.

Spotlight On: David Graham, Principal of Elite Intelligence Solutions

intelligence agency marketingNext up in our Spotlight series is David Graham, a truly fascinating person who is a wealth of information about intelligence and security. There’s something about David – you just trust him because he is so knowledgeable and he can talk for hours about things that most people couldn’t even imagine. We were lucky enough to work with David on his website, and in the process we learned a lot of cool stuff. We thought you might find him interesting as well.

David Graham


Elite Intelligence Solutions


Years in this industry: 30

What is Intelligence? How does it relate to my business?

Intelligence is a process of identifying, collecting, and analyzing information, allowing the client to make an informed decision based on accurate, unbiased information.

What inspired you to pursue a career in intelligence?

I’m naturally inquisitive and I’m always searching for answers and developing solutions to problems.

What do you like most about the intelligence industry and community?

The industry is consistently changing, whether it’s advances in technology or the motives of individuals. These changes keep the field of intelligence interesting and constantly evolving.

What challenges does your industry face?

I think the biggest challenge is keeping information secure. Whether it’s cyber-security, physical security or protecting intellectual property, each of these requires a different method of detection and prevention.

How do you measure your success?

I measure success by providing a client with the information they requested and/or providing a solution to an issue they may be dealing with.

What do you think is the biggest mistake companies make when working in intelligence?

The biggest mistake I see companies make is failing to recognize or admitting they have a problem. They should hire an outside source to come in and assist in gathering information – intelligence – and formulating a solution. Relying on internal sources to gather information can be problematic for many reasons, including lack of expertise, lack of experience, or company or personal loyalties.

What is the most interesting trend you see in intelligence?

The most interesting trend I see is the speed at which technology is advancing. These advances create challenges for the security expert and require him or her to stay up to date on current threats, methods, and techniques to combat these threats.

How has technology helped/hindered your work?

Technology has hindered this field because:  Hidden audio and video recorders can be purchased on the internet for less than $20.00. The proliferation of these inexpensive, readily accessible devices has made it difficult to protect the information of individuals and companies.

Helped: From camera systems to cyber-security protocols to technical surveillance counter-measures, technology has helped the industry with the advanced equipment development designed to combat intrusions and information leakage.

How do you stay on top of your field?

The only way to stay on top of this field is through continuing education and networking with other subject matter experts.

If you could give one piece of advice to Tampa Bay companies, what would it be?

Prevention and protection. Do not wait to call on an expert to assist in preventing the loss of information and develop a solid plan to protect you, your employees, your facilities, and your information.

What are your hobbies?

Having grown up on Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, I love to fish and go boating with my family. I’m an avid hunter and outdoorsman. I also enjoy training dogs for obedience and bird hunting.

Favorite food?

Anything Italian

Last book you read?

The Wizards of Langley” Inside the CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology by Jeffrey T.  Richelson.

I’ve been asked why I read non-fiction technical “espionage” books. Prior to retiring from a major law enforcement agency, I was assigned as a technical surveillance detective, responsible for all aspects of technical and physical surveillance and tasked with developing surveillance techniques and procedures to detect and record criminal activity. I am a firm believer of “not reinventing the wheel,” so I became a student of the methodologies and techniques of the CIA and KGB on how to gather intelligence and then apply them to modern law enforcement. Along with learning “how” to gather intelligence, I learned how to protect and prevent the loss of intelligence. Even though I’m no longer in law enforcement, I am still a student of legally obtaining and preventing the loss of intelligence and applying these principles in the private sector.

Spotlight On: Rachel Barrett, Director of Marketing at Shorecrest

We love stories and people, so we thought it would be really interesting to start featuring some of our most favorite people in a monthly Spotlight column. We regularly feature clients, Pinstripe Marketing employees, partners, and community members who have touched our lives in some way.

This Spotlight is on Rachel Barrett, Director of Marketing and Communications at Shorecrest Preparatory School. Rachel is not just a wonderful client, she is a really great person too. Now you can meet her for yourself.

Rachel MartinRachel Barrett

Director of Marketing and Communication

Shorecrest Preparatory School

St. Petersburg, FL

Years in this position: 1.5

Years in this industry: 10

What is the first marketing project you remember?

I was charged with planning a ladies tea for a group of alumni at Savannah Country Day School where I worked in the Development Office. When I asked about the budget for the event my boss told me, “Spend what you need.” $5,000 later I had the finest rented china, tablecloths, and gourmet cookies for a group of about 25 women. It was a charming event, but cost about 10x what we’d budgeted. I learned that, while autonomy is something I value and appreciate, sometimes you must give – and get – specific instructions before charging ahead!

What do you like most about marketing?

The sheer variety! In my role I get to write, design, code, analyze data, study psychology, take risks, lead, follow, work independently, collaborate, etc. And the field is always evolving – there is always something new to learn.

What challenges does your industry face?

In education, there’s the struggle of balancing best practices based on the latest brain research of child development versus what parents experienced as students just a generation ago. Sometimes parents expect school to be the same experience for their children as it was for them, though the world is an entirely different place. Educators also face the pressure of our data-driven society. Things like test scores and one-dimensional student assessments can compete against goals that are difficult to measure like a child’s social-emotional health, resilience, understanding over memorization, etc. For me, working at a place like Shorecrest with such an incredible group of teachers, I think our faculty and administration do an exemplary job of balancing those demands, which in turn gives our marketing team the tools we need to communicate effectively with our current and prospective families.

What marketing resources do you recommend?

Seth Godin is my marketing crush; my favorite of his books is All Marketers are Liars. I also am a huge fan of Hubspot’s blog and training materials. Staying connected with peers and fellow marketers on LinkedIn and Twitter is also a great way to see what other professionals are discussing and sharing.

 If you could give one piece of advice to Tampa Bay companies, what would it be?

Partner with a school. It could be through a service project mentoring at-risk students, through sponsoring a department or team that aligns with your company’s mission, providing guest experts for a class discussion, there are so many ways that businesses and schools can form mutually beneficial relationships. The more our communities invest in education, the stronger our area is for recruiting employees with families, the stronger our future workforce, the list goes on. 

What are your hobbies?

I love to run and bike. Almost as much as I love to eat and drink. I’m also really trying to get into gardening, but I seem to kill everything I attempt to cultivate.

Last book you read?

The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff.

Thank you, Rachel, for taking the time out of your schedule to answer a few questions to give our readers some insight into the life of a preparatory school marketing director! We can’t wait to see what you do next.

If you’d like to be featured in the Pinstripe Spotlight, just let us know!

Bobbie Shay Lee Speaks at University of Rhode Island

Bobbie Shay Lee presents at University of Rhode Island

Bobbie Shay Lee was selected as the 2016 University of Rhode Island Vangermeersch Lecturer to present “Profit or Purpose: Looking Beyond the Surface”.

In her address, the former NFL cheerleader told the stark truth about some cause-related marketing and how consumers can be well informed about purchasing products with ties to charitable organizations.

A breast cancer survivor, it was Lee’s quest for information about funding from the NFL’s “Crucial Catch” breast cancer campaign that led her to create the Center for Transparency. Through the Center, she has worked to provide clarity about the profits being made and details of exactly how much money is actually contributed to a company’s selected non-profit.

Read more about her lecture in the University of Rhode Island student newspaper.

Bobbie Shay Lee, 2016 Vangermeersch Lecturer

Bobbie Shay Lee, 2016 Vangermeersch Lecturer

Bobbie Shay Lee, 2016 Vangermeersch Lecturer