Proximity and CUSTOMER SERVICE in a Web-centric world
How Important is Locality in Maintaining Good Customer Relations?
Location is everything, so they say.
And I know this was true during most of my career. But given how long that career has been, this probably started to change 20 years ago.
For the first 30 years or so, distance was an issue, but it depended on the kind of work you were doing. When meetings were still a specialty, and the production methods arcane, you could compete nationwide if your reputation snd client list was robust. However, for more meat and potatoes work, such as training videos or corporate overviews, the clients were more comfortable with things they could touch and feel. The budgets were more competitive, their planning was more on the fly, and there was comfort in the ability to drop things and show up to a harried client's office on a moments notice.
Toasting a Successful Meeting
There was also an issue of trust. Based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, we worked with a major drug retailer headquartered in Chicago for 20 plus years. Dropping in was a 70 mile drive, really almost next door, but there was always the threat of competition from Chicago-based producers, since the client and their repeat business was always on a production house's salesperson's must have list. We had to work to maintain the relationship.
Trust Beats Location
But the client grew to trust us, and our institutional knowledge of the company (we did loads of research since we wrote the scripts) was valued. Even the Chairman and the President of the company both knew who we were, and we often pitched them along with our direct client in person. We produced major meetings and motivational / training tapes for them, and the meetings required only so much contact, while the regular videos, particularly if an in-house producer wanted to sit in on the edit, required more in-person involvement, at our place or theirs.
As time went on, and the client started producing some of the meat and potatoes work internally, we still retained the annual meetings. This was an area of extended expertise on our part. We knew the audience. We knew the culture. We knew what had gone before, and what not to repeat. We kept adding creative and staging surprises.
Major Meeting for Walgreens, Las Vegas 2007
That's why, when I chose to downsize and move back to my home state of New Jersey, my relationship with the client continued for another ten years. Of course I knew plenty of support people in the Chicago / Milwaukee market, and it was an easy two hour flight to Chicago from Newark. But most of my work-- conception, scriptwriting, coordination, editing-- could be done in my attic office or at a local Monmouth County, New Jersey production house.
It was, as Billy Joel sings, "A Matter of Trust".
The Odd Paradigm of Today's "Local"
Today, at 71, I find my creative powers at their peak. I can write creative solutions quickly, know exactly how to execute them, and have a lifetime of experience to back that up. But marketing is a challenge. Websites used to work, but that was 15 years ago-- the web is now so flooded that marketing is a constant battle of Tweeting, Instagramming, Facebooking, keeping sites updated, and more.
I belong to a marketing site that sends media sales leads that are both local and national. Most are listed as national-- the potential buyer wants a video, editing, script or website and is willing to work nationally. But the budgets they suggest are too low to indicate that they've ever looked for this kind of work before. And really, it hasn't clicked yet. Particularly if they want some shooting done, I can see that they are going to really want at least that part local. And why not? Video producers are everywhere (although the definition of "Video Producer" now seems to include helping he person to become a YouTube star).
I've had my greatest successes when I got to know the client and their personal place in the organization really well, and you can't do that on the telephone. That sometimes still involves a cup of coffee, meal, or sitting at a bar or in the company cafeteria. There are politics involved-- who likes who, who's on the road to advancement, what's at stake this time. These are important issues to your client.
And sorry, but that's local-- or an awful lot of airplane rides.
Next time, the story of my New York Office on 54th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues.
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