Tough Topic Business of Beer & Customer Relations
As I discussed last Monday everything connected to beer is a business. What type of business depends on your relationship to beer. If you are a store, bar or restaurant you sell to consumers. Distributors have to convince those outlets to sell the beer they distribute, and brewers must convince distributors to carry their product. However, one group matters more than any other in that heap, customers.
The customer is more important than anything. If we are not buying a certain product no one will sell it. The key to getting the customer to buy into your product is building a relationship. We live in a time when social matters. I already wrote on brewers in social media, but interpersonal relations matter too. I buy local but I also buy from international faceless corporations. I buy from Amazon but not Wal-Mart. Heck, I would even buy beer from AB if it intrigued me.
One product I do not think I will buy again is Goose Island. The company has a tragic inability to foster strong customer relations. Years ago I met John Hall for the second time. He started fishing for compliments. I threw him a bone and then I explained an issue with the Clark St. brewpub. Without blinking he told me it made a bunch of money last year so he must be doing something right. Well, if he had got his head on the issue he might of made more. After they had their near closing scare they made some serious changes to the brewpub. Unfortunately, they were not responsive to customer complaints, and even started to have what many believe were contaminated draft lines. Finally, they sold to AB. That in and of itself did not mean I would not buy their beer again although it did piss me off. How they handled the situation is what irked me.
The final straw came last week. The Chicago Beer Society sent out a notice that Greg Hall would speak on the AB sale. I stayed for a while and I never heard him speak, although I waited two hours some say he did show up eventually. What I did see was John Hall come in 90 minutes after the event started, shake a few hands with people he was obviously acquainted with and go drink a beer with a bunch of suits at the bar. Many in the room were concerned about the sale. I would not of classified the atmosphere as hostile, but this is the group is some of your biggest and loyal customers. Many people ask these people for their opinion on beer. Goose Island had a chance for a major PR victory here. Instead they blew it off.