In the Trenches: Building a Business With Less of Me
There’s no doubt that my name is synonymous with the Cranky Flier and Cranky Concierge. In fact, I’m so closely tied to the Cranky brand, which I built from scratch, that it’s not uncommon for people to simply refer to me as “Cranky” instead of Brett. That’s a good thing, because it affirms that the brand is solid. But it’s also a bad thing, because I’m not flying solo anymore: I have employees. It’s hard to get people to understand that.
I’m not looking to quit or retire — although I wouldn’t frown on sipping fruity drinks in a tropical location for a while. But the business has grown so much that I can’t handle everything myself. Other people work for me and do a fantastic job. Clients can now complete an entire trip with Cranky Concierge and have absolutely no interaction with me.
However, a lot of customers still think that when they email Cranky Concierge, they’re emailing me directly. (And sometimes they do email me directly instead of going through the usual business channels.) But as the company grows, I can’t respond as quickly as I’d like to, which inevitably means some people will be unhappy. So, I need to effectively communicate that Cranky Concierge consists of more than just me.
We’ve already worked hard to adjust the scripts on our interactive voice response system and voice mail messages. That has helped to some extent. I also include gentle reminders in my responses whenever clients email me directly, reminding them to send emails to the general inbox so they'll get faster service. But for some people, it seems that there’s no way to make the message clear. Old habits die hard, right?
What concerns me most is that clients may email me and simply not get a response for some time. In this business, a 24 hour delay can be problematic, so the window is much shorter for good customer service. I want responses to go out within a few hours at most. I do my best to make sure that doesn’t happen, but it still stresses me out that someone will fall through the cracks. Short of putting a permanent out-of-office reply on my email account or setting up permanent forwarding (both of which are likely to aggravate the situation more than alleviate it), I’ve run out of ideas.
This is generally only a problem for longtime clients or prospects who come to Cranky Concierge through the Cranky Flier blog. But they represent a substantial portion of our customer base. It’s a tough problem to solve. Any thoughts?
Brett Snyder is President and Chief Airline Dork of Cranky Concierge air travel assistance. Snyder previously worked for several airlines, including America West and United, before leaving to create a travel search site for PriceGrabber.com. Snyder did his undergrad at George Washington and earned his MBA from Stanford.