Never heard of him. Or is it her?
Well, in any case, the last thing any company is thinking about is hiring anybody at this point. After all, there's a pandemic going on.
Precisely, and that's just the reason why every radio organization needs Jordan Hill on the job. The good news is that it won't cost anyone a dime in salary, benefits, or personal time off.
That's because Jordan Hill doesn't exist. He/she doesn't have a profile on LinkedIn.
Jordan Hill is a fake name and a non-existent person who could help every radio company get better at everything it does by connecting in a more meaningful way with consumers, advertisers, and communities.
The idea of making a fake customer service manager your company's point person for feedback is one that many companies have used, most notably, Home Depot.
An article in Business Insider by Áine Cain – “Inside the story of Ben Hill: the fictional executive and hotline used by Home Depot's founders to listen to customer backlash” – tells the tale of how the company's founders made their brand better by listening to its shoppers.
We now know Home Depot as a mega-force in hardware and home improvement – one of America's great retail brands. But in the early years, the competition was fierce, especially from hometown hardware stores. How did Home Depot figure it out, and grow their business? Customer feedback played a significant role.
Home Depot founders Arthur Blank and Bernie Marcus came up with the idea of creating a fake executive – “Ben Hill” – named after an exit off I-285 in Georgia.
To generate feedback, they posted signs in every store: “Are you satisfied? If not, call Ben Hill” followed by a phone number.
(Astute radio pros will recall Arbitron invented “Chris Johnson” as a gender neutral customer rep who could answer questions about the survey and other matters. There were a lot of “Chris Johnsons” working at their headquarters in those days.)
At Home Depot when a call came in for “Ben Hill,” operators were instructed to route it directly to Blank, Marcus, or a couple other executives who answered the phone by using their real names and mentioning their founder status or titles.
And they got a mouthful. Thanks to “Ben Hill,” they learned about their business, the competition, and their employees. And in the process, they gained insights about how to run their stores in ways you just don't hear in off-sites, retreats, or focus groups.
As you'd expect, most of the calls that came into “Ben” were of the customer service nature – an attribute that has become especially important as consumers are interfacing with companies online. It turned out to be a great “hack,” a way to easily, efficiently, and inexpensively learn the truth about the Home Depot shopping experience.
I have not seen any data on the value of listening to consumers during COVID, but my suspicion is that now more than ever, people want to be heard. During the Zoom focus groups we've been conducting these past several months, many are frustrated by their predicaments. Amidst job losses, protests, the pandemic, and frustration over openings – and closings – many feel a deep sense of angst and fear about what's to come.
They also want to feel better, to be entertained in an environment where there's more of everything, but yet, so many dissatisfied by their options. As radio broadcasters face new and troublesome competition for the consumer's time and attention, being that “ear” could prove beneficial, not just to strengthen connections but to also learn how to make listening to a broadcast radio station more pleasant, rewarding, informative, and entertaining.
As a programmer, I used to walk into the production studios every few weeks, and just clear the request lines. I answered the phone, identifying myself as the PD, and found most people – even those who were upset or hacked off – to be understanding and even appreciative of being heard. In the process, I got a true flavor of what was going on out there.
Today, the connection points are more numerous, especially in the social media world. It's one thing to monitor posts, comments, and snark. But it's also beneficial to actually speak to listeners – to hear in their own words what it's like to spend time with your station, your personalities, and your content.
Home Depot's Arthur Blank sums it up this way:
“Our job is to make every single customer happy. And that means if they're not happy after step one, you go to step two and you make them happy.”
That may sound awfully old school – even quaint. But the fact is, customer service matters, perhaps more than ever in an era where consumers are stressed, frustrated, and often feeling powerless to change anything.
Letting them spend a few minutes with someone who will listen to them may be a priceless commodity during 2020. It might even help broadcast executives get in touch with their rapidly changing businesses in our topsy-turvy world.
What can you learn about broadcast radio and the media landscape in 2020? What can you learn about your company, and specifically, your stations are performing at this critical moment in time?
Hire “Jordan Hill” to find out.
And I'll be happy to help you brainstorm fictitious names.
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