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Keeping the Customer Satisfied

May 29, 2020

To say that “times they are a-changin” would be the grossest understatement of the last 20 years. Even before the pandemic-inspired shutdown strangled our economy, business as usual had been disrupted. Likely forever.

What the pandemic has probably accelerated is the dramatic rise in online shopping. While Amazon certainly created the category, we have reached a point where anything you want can be delivered to your front door.

This does have dramatic implications for radio. And it all comes down to a quaint term – customer service.

You’ve probably seen the ads for RockAuto.com. They are animated spots with a clever song that tells you to order all your parts online. This is certainly a threat for companies like AutoZone and O’Reilly. However, can RockAuto install your wiper blades for free – while you wait? You can buy groceries online, but will that allow you to talk directly to the butcher and get custom cuts? Did those skinny jeans you ordered actually fit?

Retail is slowly coming to the realization that the customer experience is often more important than price. And, there is no “experience” associated with online shopping beyond a mouse click.

Which brings us to radio.

For decades our medium has weathered the assaults from 8-tracks, cassettes, and multiple CD changers. These devices gave consumers complete control over their music selections. The one thing they lacked, however, was the element of surprise.

Anyone who has spent more than ten minutes in a programming chair is well acquainted with the complaints about repetition. My favorite one was: “I can predict what the next song will be.”

Not true, but perception is reality.

What separated radio from those automated systems? The element of surprise. The human touch. Contact with the real world.

The pandemic has forced radio – in many cases – to react on a more human and more local level. As Amazon has completely changed the retail experience so has COVID-19 wreaked havoc on radio listening.

For now, drive time is a fantasy and the definition of “at-work” has been turned on its head. We think – and hope – that once the shutdowns end and life begins to return to normal that radio will regain its previous stature. The operative word here is “hope.”

This presents radio with an opportunity – and a challenge. Do we go back to our old habits and just assume people will respond as they always have? Or, do we use this disruption as a catalyst to make serving our listeners – and our advertisers – a central part of our mission?

We can no longer “out music” Spotify or Pandora. We cannot beat You Tube at the new music game.

What we can do is surprise our listeners on a regular basis. This can be with content, music selection, and community involvement. I am not advocating the dissolution of formats. After all, we need brands so people know what we stand for. It’s what we do within our brands that will set radio apart from the competition for ear time.

Have you taken a moment to wonder why podcasting is on the rise? Could it be because podcasts are about content? They are there to entertain. They fulfill an emotional need for a listener.

Isn’t that radio’s job? We have the talent, the expertise, and the platforms to make this happen. Will we?

Please share your ideas below or reach out to us here.

-Steve Allan, Programming Research Consultant