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April 9, 2009

Laugh It Off

In this post: Treat your customers right when they need it most – they’ll repay you (literally) in the long run …

Jaimy SzymanskiWhen times get tough, the tough get laughing.

At least that’s what Skyline Comedy Café of Appleton, Wis., hopes. Its recent promotion gives all unemployed patrons (who can prove it with paperwork) free admission to a comedy show. The promotion dubbed, ‘Nights of Laughter,’ is executed in hopes of lightening the mood and decreasing the stress of being unemployed in a tough economy.

After all, laughter is the best medicine. (So are clichés, apparently. Forgive me, readers.)

Not only is Skyline setting itself up for increased patronage after their now-unemployed customers once again find work, but it has also garnered national press through CNN for their compassion toward the jobless. This will no-doubt translate into even more customers who, although employed, will visit Skyline due to its strong values and care for its customers.

Not to mention, the good comedy – most of the time.

I think it’s a brilliant idea. It gets me wondering – why don’t more companies harness the power of human compassion to serve their customers? The upfront cost to Skyline in running this promotion is minimal, but the ultimate reward is great.

Now more than ever, it’s time to give your customers a break. And I’m not saying you always have to give away something free either – I know it’s not only customers who may be suffering now. You could run a promotion or discount, allow a few more grace-period days in payment, deliver uber-personalized customer service, offer a free initial consultation, or throw in a product add-on with purchase.

Or, take the tech route and position your Twitter account as a completely free ‘advice center’ for your customers, and commit yourself or team to a 24-hour response time on all questions asked or issues of concern raised. The same can be done with a Facebook group. The medium isn’t the point; it’s the connections and fostering of relationships that count.

No matter what you decide to do, keep in mind the end impact. Your customers will remember which companies and organizations were empathetic (as well as those who acted just plain pathetic) once the economy turns around.

Right now, it’s about thinking big picture and long-term plans. Because, if you show you care more than your competitors do, you can bet customers will know where to spend their money when the time comes.