Measure Success By Satisfied Customers

No matter what we do, we should never forget the people who help us stay in business, our customers.

When I worked for a newspaper, especially covering politics and the Legislature, I always had to remind myself to concentrate on who my "real" customer was. It's sometimes easy to lose sight of that person, especially when working hundreds of miles away from home base. 

My customer wasn't the local legislator, a U.S. senator or one of the many special interest groups that operate in Florida. It especially wasn't other newspaper editors and reporters or public relations folks. My job was to report and write for the reader who each day plunked (at that time) 50-cents into a newspaper box or ambled out to the driveway each morning to get the latest news.

I was reminded of that recently at the annual Florida Magazine Association conference, where we heard from some of the tops in the magazine field, including Samir Husni (aka Mr. Magazine) and Rebecca Darwin, who after a successful publishing career in New York City launched the highly acclaimed Garden & Gun Magazine out of Charleston, S.C., in 2007.

Both equated success with satisfied customers.

Disney knows its customers well — and I was a smiling fool for the three days I was there.

That message was further bolstered by my experience, as a customer, at the conference hotel — Disney's Yacht Club. When checking in, I had to hand over my driver's license. I got the license back along with a surprise — a birthday button with my name on it to wear during my stay. And wear it I did.

Normally, Disney staff will smile and incessantly wish you "a magical day." But the sharp-eyed staff noticed the button wherever I went and happily wished me a genuine Happy Birthday. A chef at the Swan Hotel who saw me while walking through the restaurant  went back into the kitchen to make up a Happy Birthday (written in chocolate) dessert platter at dinner one evening. The next morning I was handed a chocolate cupcake with a candle at breakfast, along with a pretty decent serenade from the waiter and my husband. Disney knows its customers well — and I was a smiling fool for the three days I was there.

No matter what we do, we should never forget the people who help us stay in business, our customers.

When I wrote newspaper stories for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, I often tried to envision the person reading them — a retiree in Century Village or a Fort Lauderdale young professional. What topics would they be interested in and what would be the best way to draw them in to a story? Today, when I write for 850 I think of our customers who get the magazine delivered to their offices and try to envision how they'll react to the story ideas and words.

Many businesses in Northwest Florida have been hunkered down for the last few years, just trying to survive the bad economy. Now that the financial climate appears to be improving, this may be the perfect time for all business owners to take a deep breath and analyze their customer service.

Do you know who your customer is and what he/she expects from you? Are you delivering your goods and/or services in such a way that your customer is getting the full benefit? If you aren't, chances are good that one of your competitors is.

I'm also happy to report that 850 was again named one of the best written magazines in Florida during the annual FMA awards. 850 has been printing since October 2008, when a portrait of former Gov. Charlie Crist graced our cover. The 2012 award marks the fourth year in a row that 850 has been selected for this honor — and we're darned proud.

Remember that you are our customer and we appreciate your support. So, don't hesitate to reach out to us via email or Facebook if you want to pass along some good story ideas.

Categories: Opinion