Inextricably linked

I read two things yesterday that cemented for me the fact that, due to the effect of social media, customer service and public relations are now inextricably linked.

The first was a quote by Randi Zuckerberg, Facebook’s former marketing director (and sister of the social networking site’s famous CEO), in the August 2011 issue of Hotel Management.

She said, “We’re basically at a place where you can’t afford to [let] a very vocal person have a bad experience [at your business].”

The second was a blog post by Peter Shankman titled, The Greatest Customer Service Story Ever Told, Starring Morton’s Steakhouse.

In it, Peter describes an act of heroic service delivered by a Morton’s Steakhouse in New Jersey that was initiated by a simple tweet by him in Florida hours earlier. While Peter attempts to play down the role his Twitter follower count and related influence may have played, Morton’s is savvy enough to recognize a PR opportunity when they see it.

What happened next is the stuff of legends—though one may debate whether it was legendary customer service or a legendary PR ploy.

Either way, you’ve got to hand it to Morton’s for assertively monitoring its Twitter feed and capitalizing on an opportunity that countless, less engaged businesses would have simply allowed to lapse…

And it was an opportunity. Within one day of Shankman’s blog post, there have already been hundreds, if not thousands, of social media pings—blog comments, Twitter retweets, Facebook Likes, etc.—pertaining to it.

Aside from the obvious benefits to Morton’s reputation, consider this sampling of comments by readers of the post:

  • “I don’t eat out at steakhouses too much, but Morton’s is now on my radar.”
  • “I’ll be looking for an opportunity to visit a Morton’s in my area and will definately remember this story.”
  • “And then you have me, just a guy who has never heard of Morton’s reading this post because a friend linked to it on Facebook. I read it and think, huh, maybe I should try this place.”
  • “I’m from Northern Ontario in Canada and I’ve never even heard of Morton’s but I swear if I’m ever near one I will remember THIS story and I will stop in!!”
  • “I’ve never eaten at a Morton’s…but I’m looking for a place for a special dinner soon and will now be booking it at the Morton’s in Baltimore.”

Whatever resources Morton’s may have invested in this over-the-top PR stunt, its positive return on investment is incalculable.

Randi Zuckerberg cautioned businesses to avoid letting a very vocal person have a bad experience. The opposite is also true: Businesses should go out of their way to ensure that a very vocal person has an exceptional experience.

By capitalizing on the opportunity presented—even unwittingly—by (a very vocal) Peter Shankman, Morton’s did just that. They understand the new reality that, due to the effect of social media, customer service and public relations are now inextricably linked.

Have an opinion? We’re listening.