We (heart) our customers!

So boasted a red, white and blue clothes-hanger cover at the dry cleaners I frequent.


I couldn’t tell from the sullen, gum-smacking cashier.

Nor from the not-completed — yet pre-paid — minor mending work I’d requested in addition to dry cleaning.

The repeat garment left behind, I drove off with customer service on my mind.

How well do our news media companies serve customers?

Define customers any way you wish: readers, web users, callers, company visitors. Let’s agree for the sake of argument that we serve news consumers capably by way of well-trained journalists with a heart for community service and righting wrongs.

But how has our lack of service in many other areas discouraged opportunities to sell content or services?

I’m not only talking about the employee who can’t be bothered to help a bounced-around-the-building caller find a recipe for hot and spicy holiday cheese dip that ran “some time in the last few weeks” — even though we know it’s nearly summer. No, I’m talking about dozens of ways we make it difficult for people to interact with us — and ultimately buy goods or services from us.

Let’s start with the basics. Can readers easily browse and buy editorial photos from your web site using a credit card? Will you have it framed for them if they desire? Can they buy a single story via a “wallet” application, into which they can pre-pay an amount such as $5 or $10?

Can they subscribe to RSS feeds on your main site and microsites? Does your mobile platform serve them with news and information in a mobile-friendly manner? Can they click-thru to advertisers’ web sites? Can they click to call or text advertisers via your mobile sites?

Beyond the rudimentary, can they complete such commonly encountered on non-news sites actions such as clicking on text to buy an item (for example a book or tech gadget review)? Can they pay a library staff member to research a subject for them and receive a concise printed topic summary?

Can your ad staff serve clients with solutions to sales, marketing, public relations and event challenges? Do they have the confidence to help clients narrow down a goal, knowing they may ultimately suggest a solution with no print revenue attached this time?

Can your ad staff provide beleaguered business owners with search engine optimization (SEO) how-to’s, even to the point of hand-holding to get them started? Will they spend the additional time it takes to tell advertisers that our low-cost online and mobile directory will save them a lot of money over what they’re spending in telephone directories, and get them better results too?

Do we (heart) our customers?

We should. They’re our readers, our advertisers, our web site users, our event attendees, our community. They’re why we are here.