What are your customers saying
about you online?
Whenever I think of the importance of the
internet to small businesses, I think of a USA Today article
I read in November 2009 about start-up airlines.
Kent Craford and his partners started SeaPort
Airlines in June 2008. Since the aircraft are small, passengers
don’t have to pass through TSA checkpoints.
Instead of going through security at Portland’s
PDX and landing at SeaTac, a one-half hour to 45 minute drive
south of Seattle, SeaPort’s 9-seater aircraft uses a private
air field at PDX and lands at Boeing Field, 6 minutes from downtown
Yes, it was a good idea, but let’s face it:
USA Today reported that for every company like SeaPort, there
are 10 others that fail. Fuel prices, high labor costs and the
whim of travelers affect all fledgling airlines.
SeaPort, however, is another story. What
began as one round trip a day turned into several air services
between Eastern Oregon and the Oregon coast to Portland, and
Memphis to four small towns in Arkansas. Rob McKinney, CEO and
president, said the company’s commitment to exceptional customer
service and internet know-how has boosted the airline to annual
sales of $25 million.
It took a while, but eventually the company
added e-ticketing, and passengers were able to use online sites
such as Expedia and Travelocity to book tickets. SeaPort has
built a reputation of providing personal customer service, sometimes
holding a flight if a customer is running late. Online reviews
left on internet travel sites are monitored closely.
“Service comes first,” McKinney said. “SeaPort
focuses on the fact that we are a service that just happens to
be an airline. We understand that giving our guests an exceptional
experience is what will bring them back as loyal customers.
Every traveler who has had a problem with
SeaPort was been personally attended to. Every business’s Google
image is so important, McKinney said, most businesses are aware
of it – or they should be – so that they can make sure their
company’s online image is as good as possible.
McKinney also believes in planning a public
relations campaign in advance and sticking to it. While some
businesses may be able to plan as far as a year in advance, there
are so many fluctuations in the airline industry, he plans a
90-day advance schedule that takes up half his time, and spends
the other half dealing with the unexpected.
Earthbound businesses can follow up an online
sale with an e-mail request for a review.
Comment cards directing customers to a feedback
site can be handed out with checks.
Some businesses offer a chance for a prize
on the receipt for people who visit a website to leave feedback.
Facebook’s “like” buttons are free to online businesses and provide
free advertising on a customer’s news feed and wall.
For those reasons and more, a business’s
website is an important tool. Its money well spent in today’s
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Ron Sturgeon is past owner of AAA
Small Car World. In 1999, he sold his six Texas locations, with
140 employees, to Greenleaf. In 2001, he founded North Texas
Insurance Auction, which he sold to Copart in 2002. In 2002,
his book “Salvaging Millions” was published to help
small business owners achieve significant success, and was recently
reprinted. In June 2003, he joined the new ownership and management
team of GreenLeaf. He also manages his real estate holdings and
investments. You can learn more about him at WWW.autosalvageconsultant.com
He can be reached at 5940 Eden, Haltom City, TX 76117, email@example.com or
817-834-3625 ext 6#.