About Vanessa Rogers

Vanessa Rogers is District Improvement Manager for the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance. She is also the Founder and President of Vanessa Rogers Consulting, Inc. Vanessa serves on the IPI Advisory Council and the Parking Matters® Committee.

Making the Call

Vanessa Rogers

In early 2011, I started spending a little time on Fridays writing down the names of one or two customers I’d recently worked with on an issue to touch base with the following week, to see if their issue(s) had been properly resolved and if the solution we came up with was still working.

When calls from customers or businesses reach my desk, it’s usually because the individual or company has exhausted all other options and needs to talk about a negative experience they had with a front line staff person. These messages come from Facebook, Twitter, website inquires, emails, and even the occasional, good old-fashioned phone call. It would be very easy to think that people who contact me are just doing it to pointlessly complain (especially my frequent squeaky wheels), but I still think one-on-one customer outreach is critical to the success of any downtown or municipal parking operation. Many of the interactions I have with customers can be challenging and (not uncommonly) uncomfortable, but I continue to spend time each Friday writing down names of people to call.

I think magic lies in the relationships that are forming between downtown development professionals and parking professionals who realize that it might just be time to get back to the basics when it comes to customer service. It may sound straightforward but nine times out of 10, all a customer wants is to have their voice heard. With all the dollars that are spent on marketing, public relations, and customer incentives, I’m always amazed how far a few minutes of my time will go towards creating goodwill.

Try this experiment and let me know how it goes: carve out a half-hour each week to follow up with one person or organization you’ve recently worked with on an issue. Ask them how everything is working out. Tell them you appreciate their contacting you because it makes you better at your job. Listen to them, empathize with them, and most importantly, be honest with them. You can’t fix everyone’s issues, but people know when someone is being straight with them. After several months of Friday follow-up phone calls, I can tell you that the reaction you’ll get from your customers is profoundly addictive.