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When you even think of the word ‘advertising,’ word of mouth advertising or WOM usually doesn’t rank in your top ten. The reality is that you are quite aware of that empty feeling deep down in the pit of your stomach when you see the word ‘advertising’ on some of the papers in your bills to be paid in-box. I do, because it just hurts to write that big check to cable and network TV, radio, print and all other forms of media advertising, month in and month out. Then why do you do it? You probably do it because reports tell you that an entertainment facility should be spending between 3-5% of their gross income on advertising. For every $1 million you are making, you should be spending $30,000-$50,000 of your hard- earned money, and for what? You think if you don’t spend that money on advertising, your income will surely go down, even though you never can truly prove if advertising is doing you any good at all. Why don’t you just stop advertising totally and see what happens to your business in 2-3 years? It just doesn’t seem fair that some businesses hardly advertise at all, and are so doggone successful. Have you ever considered that it might just be due to WOM – Word of Mouth?

If those numbers are not alarming to all of us, they should be? We need to focus on our customers, what they are saying and what they want. We need to be active in our business, and at our business, in order to talk to our customers. We need to train our managers and our employees to TALK to our customers. If we don’t find out where we are slipping up, 90% will go somewhere else — 90%! If they go somewhere else, and do not inform you, they will inform the public of how bad you are – how bad your service is, how lousy the food is, how terrible your employees’ attitudes are. You cannot afford this type of word of mouth advertising, and yet it goes on at your business each and every day, whether you believe it or not! It is like theft at your business; if you think it is not happening, you are truly naive.

Think about this – when you want to buy something or secure a service you need, how is the best way to find the provider? Is it through TV advertising, radio, newspaper, etc.? Sure, these might grab your attention, but they are ‘tooting’ their own horn and “selling” their product. Instead, you try to connect with your friends and share references of “great” providers. It saves you time and the hassle of shopping, because the product or service testing has already been done for you. Friends are more credible and trustworthy, and easier to understand than the product ad.

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JC is now my best buddy, and who is JC? A few years ago, I decided it was time to get a good sound and media center home system. I am inexperienced when it comes to this, so I thought I would visit my local Circuit City. (And that is another story – Circuit City is known for their service is now going out of business. What happened to them? Do you think it might have to do with the fact that they took their sales people off commission a few years ago? SERVICE, SERVICE, SERVICE). So Circuit City has the product, but I needed the an experienced professional to install it. The sales manager recommended I call JC. I did call, and JC came to my home, and went over his product, service, price, etc. He was very likable, knew what he was doing and delivered a fabulous service to me. I have given him, without him ever asking, over 25 leads. He has done business with about 90% of them, and he has told me that he has secured many more customers from those leads. I asked JC if he advertises at all, and he said, “Sure I do: ‘WOM’–Word Of Mouth.

How do you satisfy your customer so that they will spread the good word about you and your business? Or better yet, how do you satisfy the unhappy customer? You will always have the unhappy customer, and they will spread the bad news. It is also called “Word of Mouth Advertising” (WOM).

Start by saying, “I AM SORRY” and mean it. You need to show the empathy in your eyes, your smile and your body language. You need to show them that you are truly concerned, and that you want to get to the bottom of it. However, the most important thing is to help that customer right now to get their problem(s) resolved. The magic question, “What can I do right now to take care of this problem for you? Just be quiet and let them answer. Never be defensive, but humble. If it is within reason, do what they ask, or work out a compromise that will make them happy so they come back and also refer their friends. That is your objective, and make sure it is accomplished before they walk out your doors. If you don’t, you just did the worst job in advertising you could ever do. Sit down with them, buy them a Coke and don’t try and win — let them win. Once you have reached a mutual resolution, ask them what they think you should do to improve your company’s operating procedures/policies or customer service culture to reduce or eliminate this problem from ever occurring again. Don’t worry about the cost of compensating them, as this cost is usually far less then the real cost getting a new customer and far less than the true loss of business that can be the result of just one x-customer’s bad WOM advertising campaign directly targeting all of their family, friends, and everyday contacts.

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THE BOTTOM LINE IS THIS: You must establish trust – YOU MUST!

Then your positive WOM advertising might be, “Yes I was at Joe’s family fun center and they did mess up, but they took care of it by refunding the cost of half my daughter’s birthday party. They might have just had a bad day or one of their key employee’s head was not into their job, so yes, I would go there again. The owners and managers at Joe’s are committed to making their customers happy.” The negative must turn into the positive, and the positive is the absolute best WOM advertising you can ever buy!

Here is the final point Do you train and have meetings with your managers and employees telling them exactly how you expect them to deal with customers and customer complaints? Every complaint that comes in should be reviewed. The owner or general manager must follow up with a phone call to that disgruntled customer to – #1 make sure the problem has been resolved and satisfied and #2 make sure that the company has been able to reestablish trust. You need to get to the bottom – the core of the problem. Find out how you can better serve that person’s needs. APOLOGIZE AGAIN and thank them for giving you another chance at their business. In the end, your concern will show them that you really care, and you will win them back, and their positive WOM advertising.

Have you heard about or seen these statistics before?
  • Percent of unhappy customers that complain to the business: 4%
  • Percent of unhappy customers that do not complain: 96%
  • Percent that do not complain but just go elsewhere: 90%

If you want to cut down on your advertising costs, the best way is make positive WOM-Word Of Mouth Advertising a #1 priority. It takes time, but the effort will pay big dividends. Your WOM policy needs to be in place to take care of the 4% that report their unhappiness to you. The culture, the enthusiasm, the commitment to service with a smile, the paying attention to details, and going the extra mile, will go a long way to help take care of the other 96%. WOM is an ongoing effort that cannot be ignored. It is the cheapest advertising cost you have, but the most expensive, if bad WOM ever gets a chance to rear its ugly head. There is a whole lot more money to be made when your WOM is always on the positive side of the like/dislike line.

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Media advertising is a necessary and is a hard pill to swallow, but Word of Mouth advertising can make or break you!

‘Putting the Pieces Together’

by Martin ‘Bud’ Umbach, President, Recreation Solutions, Inc.

‘Fun Extra’ Newsletter, (IALEI), March 2009

 

Frank ‘the Crank’ comment:

Bud Umbach wrote this timeless article before any of us had any inkling about social media, Facebook, Twitter, etc. during his tenure on the Board of Directors of IALEI, several months before that association was absorbed by IAAPA.  Bud is one of the nicest, most honest, and most business savvy individuals I have ever met. He was a top insurance salesman back in the day and then decided he liked the family entertainment center industry. In 1996 Bud and his account friend and now partner, Hal Shilling, opened Kokomos Family Fun Center, a 40-acre indoor/outdoor pocket amusement park in Saginaw, MI.

When I attend an IAAPA or Bowl Expo, or Amusement Expo, and in the past a Fun Expo, I always collect hundreds of business cards as I network through the show. A week later I seriously try to arrange each card in the order of importance that the person I just met ‘could’ mean to me and/or my companies in the future.  It is a little game I like to play and years later see how accurate my evaluations were that year.  It is a fact in the year 2000 after attending a Fun Expo, I placed Bud’s business card on the top of the pile (the pile then goes into plastic business card holders in that same order) because I knew, right then and there, that Bud would play some very important role in my future. Bud now lives across the street from me in Naples, FL and we are very good friends (on a personal basis as well as a professional basis-Bud is also my business insurance and investment agent/advisor).

I hope you enjoyed reading ‘What is WOM?’ as I did reading it again almost 7 years later and now knowing for sure that WOM is still a really big deal.

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