Thereâ€™s No One Here To Take Your Call Right Now: Radio's Customer Service Deficit
This Week's 'The Letter' From All Access News-Talk-Sports by Perry Michael Simon
April 8, 2011 at 9:10 AM (PT)
Radio is still a business. I feel like I have to remind everyone of that after hearing a tale of woe from someone who works at a non-profit, who has been calling radio stations in several markets merely to find out about their public service announcement policies. She just wants to know whether they accept PSAs, whether they air pre-recorded PSAs or prefer scripts, that kind of thing. Some stations are happy to provide the information. Unfortunately, not all stations do that.
So far, she's been finding that a lot of stations don't bother to return calls, or don't have the information at hand, and don't really consider any of it all that important. Maybe it isn't, and, yeah, they're only PSAs, but a business that treats anyone as insignificant -- that can't even muster a "sorry, we don't carry PSAs" -- needs to consider the fact that they're in a business that can't afford to do that to anyone. NO business can afford to blow off the public.
And forget PSAs for a moment. I hear horror stories about on-air guests being bumped at the last minute and being rudely dismissed by an intern or phone screener to whom the task was delegated. I've dealt with similar situations myself. The problems don't only affect guests; think about how people who come to the station to pick up prizes or just ask for information are treated (if, that is, they can make it past the locked security doors). Stations often assign untrained staffers to deal with the public. Then we make jokes about companies who outsource their customer service overseas. Maybe that's not such a bad idea.
It shouldn't be that hard to understand. If you're running a business, everyone with whom you do business should be treated well. You know the drill: "the customer is always right," or at least not treated like an annoyance. If you've ever complained about bad service anywhere -- a rude waiter, a bad reservations agent, an unhelpful bank employee -- you have no excuse to treat people the same way. I'm not talking about on the air -- you can hang up on callers all you want if it's part of the show -- but when someone calls for information, or you're booking or unbooking a guest, or you're taking requests, it's really not that hard to deal with it the right way.
(And I plead guilty to this at times, too, not the rudeness but not always quickly returning calls or messages. We all get backed up sometimes. But I should do better, too. We all should. It doesn't really sink in until someone from outside the business notices it)
While I try to get things wrapped up before heading to the NAB Show convention in LAS VEGAS, I wanted to mention one other issue, the move of AM talk stations to FM. Again. But this time, I wanted to drop in a word of warning.
There's a difference between putting a talk station on a regular full-power signal and putting it on a translator, and a difference in translators depending on the market. Allow me to explain: If your market is small, and your sales and listening area is concentrated in a relative few square miles, a translator's probably better than nothing. It might not do a great job getting into buildings, but it's something.
But some of the translator simulcasts are in markets that are more spread out, and that's a potential problem. If you're promoting that you're "now on FM!" and people can't hear you throughout the market on FM, you're setting yourself up to be the FM equivalent of a high-frequency daytimer with a weird directional pattern. All it takes is one time a listener tries to tune in and can't get the signal, and you've lost a customer.
I've heard this in action myself, in a market which shall remain unnamed. I heard a station promote itself as an FM, using its translator's frequency, and the AM night signal was bad, so I dutifully popped over to the FM, figuring that since I was in the heart of the market, I should be able to listen without a problem. And what I heard was... not good. Dropouts. Static. Bleed from another station. It was only intermittently listenable as I drove around, and that translates to unlistenable for most people. I'm sure there are sections of that market where the signal's fine, but it just didn't cover the market, not even close. I couldn't imagine a commute where the signal would be there from start to finish. Why would anyone set a button for a station that isn't there all the time?
Again, if the translator covers most or all of the typical commutes in your market, great. But if the signal doesn't cover everywhere your audience goes within the market, it's not competitive. It might be fine for a niche format that won't get more than a 1 share no matter what signal it uses, but if your station is crowing about being on FM and the FM signal reaches just a fraction of the market, it's pointless. If a company values its talk programming and wants to preserve and grow its ratings and revenue for the future, a full-market signal is a necessity. 98 watts won't cut it.
Here's yet another reminder about the upcoming REVLON RUN/WALK FOR WOMEN in LOS ANGELES on MAY 7th, in which my wife FRAN and I annually participate. We do it to raise funds to fight breast cancer, and we're asking once again for anyone who can donate to do so. It's a great cause, and while times remain tough, if you can give, please do: go to do.eifoundation.org/goto/pmsimon, and know that every donation is always greatly appreciated. Thank you!
What's at Talk Topics, the show prep column at AllAccess.com, this week? Glad you asked (you DID ask, didn't you?). You can go here and see the whole pile of hundreds of topics and conversation starters and kicker stories for your radio show, and you'll find stuff like a dog poop DNA database, a possible reason people in HOLLYWOOD act the way they do, why stores are getting more cluttered, really tiny hotel rooms, a therapy kangaroo, several bad Craigslist stories, the return of the Commodore 64, a guy wandering around a Target store in transparent shorts, Nazi cakes, why you need to put those paper gasket things on public toilet seats before you sit down, GADHAFI's PR initiative, a guy who gave up solid food for Lent and is drinking beer instead, and why band names aren't what they used to be, plus all the "real news" and various and sundry other items, all lined up there for you to pick and choose. You also get "10 Questions With..." WPRO/Providence's JOHN DEPETRO, who talks about all the controversies, successes, and national attention he's generated, and the rest of All Access with all the news and features and ratings and job listings and other resources you need, updated all day every day, and all free.
There's also pmsimon.com, where I write about mostly non-radio stuff, and Nerdist.com, the "nerd culture" site at which I'm Editor and write a lot of it. Neither of those are All Access productions, so Joel remains blame-free on that. But come on over and check 'em out anyway.
As I mentioned, I'll be in Vegas for a few days covering the NAB Show. Yes, they still have some radio stuff going on there, and we'll have that for you in Net News. If you're attending, say hi. As always, I'll be stuck at a panel, sitting somewhere on the side of the room by the power outlet. See you there.