I had never even heard of the term “disruption” as a positive before our recent Rhudy & Co.annual retreat, but now it seems I see this everywhere.

Techcrunch.com says, “A disruptive product addresses a market that previously couldn’t be served — a new-market disruption — or it offers a simpler, cheaper or more convenient alternative to an existing product – a low-end disruption.”

Think about Google and how it entered the advertising marketplace previously fairly monopolized by Yahoo! Yahoo’s business model required advertisers to make a $10,000 minimal ad investment. Google offered a self-service ad product for as little as $1. You know the rest.

At our retreat we discussed, “Consulting on the Cusp of Disruption,” in the October 2013 Harvard Business Review.

As a nimble communications company, our business model is solid. We have a select group of incredibly talented people with an ingrained service mentality that serves clients well. But competition is fierce.

As the HBR article stated, “ …a disrupter whose product was once barely good enough achieves a level of quality acceptable to the broad middle of the market, undermining the position of longtime leaders and often causing the ’flip’ to a new basis of competition.”

So how do we stay relevant, compete with new players, maintain excellent quality, and continue to bring new solutions to our clients? 

At Rhudy & Co., we are more than problem solvers. We are proactive thought partners. We are not only invited to communications meetings, but often to business meetings and boardrooms. Our clients look to us to bring fresh, new ideas to the table.

Our team includes seasoned strategists, marketing and public relations experts, but also talented writers who are skilled at helping our clients tell their stories. 

It is thrilling to be the disrupters ourselves. By bringing new ways of thinking, new technology and new solutions to our clients, we have sometimes won business from much bigger players. But we are mindful of the need to stay on our toes and not become too comfortable or complacent.

As the Techcrunch.com article ended, “Understanding disruption is hard. Disrupting is even harder.” 

Sande Snead joined Rhudy & Co. in 2013 and is an apt student in the world of technology and all things new, but she remains a firm believer in power of the hand written note.

How to Convert Cranky Customers to Happy Ones

When employees feel empowered, amazing things can happen.

Just ask Frontier Airlines Captain Gerhard Brandner.

Last week, Brandner found himself in a challenging work environment. With a delayed plane packed with tired and frustrated Frontier Airlines passengers, Brandner faced a potentially angry mob.

His Denver-bound plane landed unexpectedly in Cheyenne, Wyo., due to severe weather and sat on the runaway awaiting its fate from the airline’s maintenance team. Sensing his passengers were tired, restless and hungry, Brandner took matters into his own hands.

He called Domino’s and ordered about 50 pizzas.

Word spread quickly as passengers shared the tasty news on Facebook and Twitter. Social media channels erupted with praise and cheers. Brandner’s quick action instantly became PR gold.

TV crews, like KTLA and FOX News, took notice, and so did People magazine, which proclaimed Brandner as “the Greatest Airline Captain of All Time.” (Captain Sully Sullenberger, who safely landed US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River, seems a little more suited for this title.)

Watch the latest video at <a href="http://video.foxnews.com">video.foxnews.com</a>

One Frontier passenger later told a TV news crew, “the captain said, 'Ladies and gentlemen, Frontier Airlines is known for being one of the cheapest airlines in the U.S., but your captain is not cheap. I just ordered pizza for the entire plane.'”

Clearly, Brandner is one highly engaged employee, even if he reportedly called his employer “cheap” and paid for the pizzas himself. He felt personally empowered to make a difference for his customers. He later told news media, “[the passengers] are my responsibility the moment they step on the aircraft until they get off the aircraft.”

Companies that understand this customer service mentality and empower their employees to take action are going to have more engaged customers. Note to Frontier Airlines: It’s even better if your employer gives you the budget to help make the situation right.

In the retail and service business, exceptional customer services means giving front-line employees budget control to make decisions without having to check with a manager.

Not every airline can pass out free pizza during a delay, but the positive attitude and caring gestures by employees can turn unfortunate situations, like delayed flights, into memorable ones.

It’s the small stuff that customers typically remember … the warm smile, the eye contact and the friendly conversation. A slice of hot pizza also helps.

Jonathan Rhudy first learned customer service as a bag boy working at Ukrop’s Super Markets in Richmond as a teenager. Today, Kimpton Hotels continually wows him with unexpected and creative gestures when he’s on the road. 

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