Monday, October 02, 2006

Weekly WOM: Increase the fun factor

The Church of the Customer blog reports on how one intrepid Southwest Airlines gate agent took matters into his own hands to perk up flyers after the A/C broke down at the terminal. The agent soothed weary travelers with his jokes, goofy hat and greeting everyone by name. According to the report, the heat was quickly forgotten, but the fun experience was not. As Jackie Huba sums up, "It was still hot as hell at the gate, but most folks made their way onto the plane with a smile on their face, as I did. The freedom to be fun. Yet another reason why Southwest has such strong word of mouth versus its competitors." The post also includes a chart from a HBR article, The One Number You Need to Grow (Hint: It's customer referrals).

This story reminded me of another one I read from the NYT that describes how one hotel is training its employees in the finer points of etiquette: "The program, begun in August, is meant to set Loews employees apart by their behavior, dress and personalized approach to sales." The intensive two-day training covers all manner of social and sales skills. As part of this new strategy, the hotel's sales people encourage their potential clients to have fun, try out the bed and use the bath products. It seems to be working as one client said, "'I saw a big change,' Ms. Cricks said. "I used to see the hotel as stiff and sterile. The site visit was very whimsical. It was definitely fun." And more important for the Regency, she said she planned to expand the list of clients she would steer there."

As these two examples suggest, there would seem to be a direct WOM-fun relationship. I know we're not in the entertainment business, but if airlines and hotels can insert a bit of humor into their routines, libraries can too. I can't speak for everyone, but a sense of humor is a very endearing quality to me in both people and companies. Fun, however, doesn't just happen. As these examples demonstrate, for fun to work, it has to be a part of the organizational culture and front-line staff have to feel empowered to take certain liberties depending on the situation. Doing so may not just be good for the funny bone, but also for fostering positive word-of-mouth.

Categories: creativity_and_inspiration | real_life

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