Good PR, it's everyone's business

Posted 05.16.06

Most large corporations and governments know the importance of public relations. Government departments have employees whose only job is to answer letters of complaint from the public, and major manufacturers take unhappy customers very seriously.

But there are exceptions, and we seem to have quite a few in Gatineau, QC.

A friend, who has a fairly common French name, told me that she was given the wrong prescription at a local pharmacy recently. Fortunately, she discovered the error when she opened the container at home and realized the pills didn't look like the ones she had been taking. Checking the bottle, she saw that the address of the other patient was in Val des Monts.

When she returned to the store, she asked why the pharmacy clerk had not verified her address before giving her the wrong bottle.

"We don't have time to do that!" was the curt answer.

My friend was furious that no one even offered an apology. What if this had been a new prescription, and she had taken a potent drug that interacted with her other medications and made her deathly ill?

That store has just lost a valued customer, and since she has told many of her friends about the incident, they've lost even more.

We've all encountered rude store clerks from time to time, as well as receptionists whose manner, on the phone or in person, appears to indicate that your inquiry is an unwanted interruption in their busy schedule. What do they consider more important than treating callers with respect?

Public relations is everybody's business, and it can often make the difference between repeat business and lost customers, between satisfied citizens and voters who remember how you treated them when election time rolls around, between brand loyalty and shoppers who can no longer rely on the high standards of certain manufacturers.

Years ago, when stores and local companies were run by families who genuinely cared about their business, the term "public relations" was unknown. But it was practised, nonetheless. Those were the days of personal service, of free delivery, of "goods satisfactory or money refunded."

Several savvy multi-national corporations carry on this proud tradition. These are the places where you're greeted with a smile, where someone says, "May I help you?" and perhaps, even, "Can I carry that out to your car for you?"

The next time you encounter that pleasant experience, take the time to find the manager and tell him or her how much you appreciate their customer service. Write a note or an e-mail to a politician who answers your letter promptly, to a company that gives you good service.

And if you work in an environment where you meet the public, on any level, remember that public relations is one of the most important aspects of your job.

Barbara Floria Graham is the author of the 20th anniversary edition of Five Fast Steps to Better Writing and Mewsings/Musings. Her website: www.SimonTeakettle.com

Copyright © 2006 Barbara Floria Graham/Log Cabin Chronicles/04.06