Why Every Seat Has A Story

Posted on May 3, 2016 by - Also by this author

LOS ANGELES — I’ve gotten used to LCT trade shows and conferences by now, where I can always raid a deep silo of topics to write about. This month brings another LCT Leadership Summit in Miami Beach, my eighth one, and my personal favorite among LCT events, for reasons obvious to anyone who has ever attended. Summits and shows underscore how my job role reconciles the luxury ground transportation industry with the media world — two distinct fields brought together at this B2B magazine and website.

Last month, I enjoyed the rarer experience of being an attendee at a digital media conference, as opposed to part of the host team at a LCT one. I figured it would be far removed from the all-out, immersive LCT experience. What surprised me over the two days was how the leading topics at the media conference so strongly coincide with what we learn and hear at LCT events.

The theme that spans the digital media and chauffeured transportation worlds is how to develop customer service and communication oriented to the value and needs of individuals. The disruptions of technology and social media have splintered mass-group messages and marketing into more creative, targeted efforts that recognize and appreciate clients.

In chauffeured transportation, that traditionally has meant chauffeurs who know how to give personalized service, and remember what a specific client likes and prefers. In the digital media realm, we’re learning how to provide more information directed to the the digital visitor, or reader. Conference speakers all pointed to the same reality: Service providers and product producers all need to sharpen their e-messaging and e-marketing to stand out in more human ways. Here are some takeaways we can all apply to our businesses:

  • Don’t talk about you, because it’s not about you. It’s about helping your audience, your clients. Become a resource for them first, and only then talk about how your service and products help them. No screaming sales pitches. Customers need to know you care.
  • Be authentic. So much marketing and client relations now are gimmicky, fake, and oversaturated. Offering personality in your business is the clincher. You, as a business and as an operation, want to be like people — personable, unique, and distinct.
  • Active listening helps you connect with others, like they are human beings, not just pieces of a profit center. It leads to connecting with your customers, and making them feel cared about.
  • Personalization makes or breaks your business. Use names. Everyone has one, and nothing sounds sweeter to a customer than the sound of his or her name. 
  • Understand your audience, your client-base. Expectations differ. Communicate and market accordingly. Don’t pelt them with 37 emails in four hours. Instead, ask how can you help your clients succeed? Make life easier? Learn something useful?
  • Create engaging content that doesn’t feel like selling. Your brand is the sum of customer experiences. Allow responses to help determine your messages. 
  • Define your company voice. What is your culture, your purpose, your story? Why do you like to do what you’re doing? If you covered up your company logo, would your company still sound like you?
  • Live in the world of your customers, your audience. Craft a vision around solving problems, drawing upon your experience and expertise.
  • Every seat has a story. That was the message from a manager at Southwest Airlines, who finds and tells inspiring stories of employees and customers that show a human side. He cited the customer service rep who drove hundreds of miles to retrieve a lost bag for a passenger so she could have her running shoes in time for a marathon, and the reunion of a captain who waved back at a young boy waving at him from along a runway fence. Both stories were told on video and social media. Does your company have hidden heroes and interesting customers?

I was most intrigued by the title of the last session, “Snowflakes In A Blizzard,” led by a Microsoft executive. Easterners may notice West Coast dwellers are fascinated with rain and snow, since we get too little of the first and none of the second. The title related to the science of how each snowflake looks unique under the microscope, but identical when whirling in a blizzard.

The speaker summed up the challenge for business owners and digital media providers: “People get depressed if they don’t feel unique and special, but they also need to be part of a larger group, like snowflakes in a snowstorm. When do your customers want to be reaffirmed? When do they want to feel part of a group?”
The answers are about as varied and unique as individual businesses. It’s up to all of us to bring about the better angels in a disrupted world.

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