Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The conversation (still) carries on....

...with or without you.

Jennifer writes today
of a bad experience at her local Panera Bread:
Sometime during the last two weeks, Panera put a new policy in place that required wifi users to "log-in" to the wifi access once an hour. Since I work here for roughly three hours every time I come in, that means I have three interruptions to my work flow....I've been coming here two mornings a week for more than six months. The staff knows me, the kitchen folks know me, the couch in front of the fireplace has an indent the shape of my rear on it. In other words, I am a very regular customer. Based on how often I tell people about going to Panera to work both in real life or on my blogs, you might even call me a brand evangelist.

I represent the customer you don't want to annoy. Not because there's anything special about me, but because I'm the type of customer who is already enamored with the brand and therefore willing to put up with the occasional inconvenience. If I get annoyed by what you're doing, chances are high that new customers will be annoyed as well. The difference is those new customers will simply walk out the door and never come back. The loyal customers will probably at least complain and give you a chance to fix things.

And this of course returns us to another plea for companies to PLEASE monitor what your customers are saying about you on their blogs. Remember a few days ago when I blogged about how Ike was running a countdown on his blog for how long it had been since Blockbuster hadn't contacted him about the good customer service he received? He added in Twitter the other night that he finally gave up and took the countdown off his sidebar.

Want to know how painfully hard it is to monitor the blogosphere? Let's walk you through this ordeal, with Panera Bread as the example.

1 - Go to http://www.google.com

2 - Click on 'more' at the top left, then from the list, click 'Blogs'

3 - Type in 'Panera Bread' and click 'Search Blogs'.

4- There's your results. And notice the top one? Yeah, it's Jennifer's post.

5 - Click on the 'RSS' option under 'Subscribe' on the left sidebar. That will save this search as an RSS feed in your feedreader, and now every time someone blogs about Panera Bread, it will show up in your feed reader.

Total time: <60 seconds.

Jennifer explains that not only should Panera Bread be monitoring the blogosphere, but that this also present an opportunity to Panera Bread's competitors:
A smart competitor to Panera Bread (say Atlanta Bread Company, Camille's or any other casual cafe) would be watching to see what consumers are saying about the company as well. As much as I love Panera, I do not love being forced to log back in every hour so that I can continue working. If I found out that a competitor with a similar environment and equally good food let me work without interrupting me, I'd make the switch.

And if anyone from Panera Bread actually reads this and subscribes to the 'c'mon who cares about what one blogger says?' mentality, check out Jennifer's post, and more specifically, notice what it says to the right of her post's title? It says that yesterday 10,500 people feed readers accessed her site.

So that means that over 10,000 feed readers (not visitors, feed readers) could be reading today about how Panera Bread disappointed one of their brand evangelists.

Yeah. And to further drive the point home, here's an Alexa comparision of Search Engine Guide's traffic, version the traffic to Panera Bread's website:

It's a bit small, but the line on top that's well above the other, represents Search Engine Guide's traffic. So Jennifer's post complaining about the experience she received at her local Panera Bread was broadcast to a far larger audience than the one that Panera Bread's website enjoys.

Makes it easy to see what companies can potentially lose when they don't invest 60 seconds to monitor the blogosphere, doesn't it?

Pic of Panera Bread cups via Flickr user powerbooktrance


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Anonymous said...

Thanks Mack...

The countdown is still running. The code rolls on in the original post. I just needed to clear out some sidebar space, because there might be another company "on the monitoring clock" in the immediate future.

Jennifer Laycock said...

Honestly Mack, I don't know what frustrates me more.

That Panera bread (and other companies) continue to institute stupid policy changes or that they fail to take the time to monitor consumer response.

Perhaps I'm wrong and they'll show up at one of our blogs by the end of the day to explain their reasoning, but I certainly wouldn't bet my Cinnamon Crunch bagel on it...

Mack Collier said...

BTW I hate to point out the completely obvious, but do these companies not also realize that this is FREE market research?


Anonymous said...


Good post. For those like me who hate RSS newsreaders, they can receive alerts by clicking that button instead of RSS.

Mack Collier said...

Lewis I do the same thing, I have RSS alerts set up that lets me know anytime anyone mentions me by name on their site, or links to my site. It's a great way to keep up with who's linking to you, because I like to go and leave a comment thanking them for the link. Before I was constantly missing links, but now I catch them all.

Anonymous said...

Great post Mack. This speaks to everyone about the value (and simplicity) of blog monitoring. This post is a great sub-note to any social media marketing pitch.

Yianni Garcia

Anonymous said...

it's a shame that such a "hip" company isn't up on their game...


Char Lyn said...

Just to express another side of the story...Perhaps Panera is aware of Jennifer's blog and has a business reason for keeping the new login-once-an-hour policy. Her post was "free advertising" of the new policy and may attract more customers who now think they might get a chance to sit on the couch. 3 one-hour customers will likely purchase 3 times as much food as 1 3-hour customer.

That said, I completely agree that companies should regularly monitor blogs. In a case like this, no response may be more palatable than a truthful one.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Char lyn,

I can't tell you how many times I've been annoyed by people using free wi-fi, taking up a table for four people, sipping 1 cup of coffee while I hold my $9 lunch searching for a place to sit.