Sunday, August 1, 2010

Get off my lawn!

Maybe it comes with getting older, but lately I've been taking note how society's standards seem to be slipping. A few weeks ago I was eating at Mallorca with family, and a man eating a couple of tables over was wearing a baseball cap. Now I wear baseball caps to a lot of places -- maybe more often than I should -- but a restaurant like Mallorca isn't one of them. As Tony Soprano would say, They don't serve hot dogs here.

I thought of this Friday when I was at Kennywood with my wife and kids, as a slouching ride worker walked over to open the gate to let my son and I on to the carousel. He was holding a cup of water in his teeth and he wore an otherwise blank expression. I noticed then that all the park employees wore Kennywood T-shirts -- many without name tags -- that made them indistinguishable from the guests. Maybe it's been a few years, but I remember when the staff at Kennywood all wore the same color polo shirts, and they were just a little quicker to smile and tell you to enjoy the ride.

Now I don't mean to be too hard on Kennywood. We had a great time -- the park is still clean and family friendly, and for the most part we got good service and enjoyed good food. But my experience there reminded me how important is attention to detail, and how everything an organization does speaks to its image. After all, public relations isn't just about how you promote yourself. It's about how you treat your customers. It's about the quality of your product. It's about making good decisions. A well-run organization is always the best public relations.


Fran Caplan said...

Read something years ago that went something like this; "treat your employees well and customer service will take care of itself". I do believe this is true.

Jason Togyer said...

A million years ago, when I was a Kennywood employee, we did indeed wear color-coded polo shirts. And getting caught without your nametag was a disciplinary offense.

But that's when the owners ran the park and were there all day, every day. Back then, Kennywood had a reputation for paying its top management talent well, and retaining those managers for a long time. That showed: Supervisors took ownership of their jobs, and viewed good customer relations as their only priority. If the customers were happy, they'd spend money, and profits would take care of themselves.

Things have changed since venture capitalists bought Kennywood. It's well-known in the Mon Valley that a lot of long-time Kennywood "lifers" have been fired or downsized. I have to suspect some of those moves were made to save money. After all, what do well-paid managers add to the bottom line?

But any business driven only by short-term profits is liable to lose sight of one basic fact --- if your product quality declines, no amount of PR spin will save you.

Kennywood is entirely a service-related business, and its new owners will let service decline at their peril.