CHAMPAIGN — Advertising won't do a business much good — and could even hurt it — if the business isn't providing good service in the first place, business consultant Tim Miles said.
"I'm not saying, don't do any advertising at all. It can be an accelerant for great business," Miles told about 100 business people Thursday at a breakfast sponsored by several area Chambers of Commerce and business associations.
But advertising can backfire on a business providing poor customer experiences, he said.
That's because social media — including Twitter and Facebook — provide transparency that exposes both super and awful customer experiences.
"The best way to trigger social media is a customer experience worth talking about," said Miles, whose book "Good Company: Making It — Keeping It — Being it" advises companies on how to delight customers.
Miles lifted up Disney and Apple as two examples of companies that provide "shareworthy service" — experiences that customers want to share.
Conversely, he said an experience at Best Buy made his mother cry, when an employee talked "way above her head" as she sought help for a computer problem.
"It could be any business," Miles said. "It just happened to be ... Best Buy."
Miles said businesses — and other organizations, including hospitals and schools — need to create systems that measure "customer/patient/student delight" and reward employees for providing it.
Acquiring new customers through advertising and other means can be costly, he said.
"It's far less expensive and much more profitable to keep current customers delighted," he said.
Miles advocated creating systems to train employees in providing good customer service, to measure their performance and to reward or punish them based on that.
Those employees should show 14 "facets" of kindness and professionalism, including attentiveness, empathy, engagement, manners — and yes, even playfulness, Miles said.
A native of Gifford, Miles graduated from Rantoul Township High School in 1988 and majored in finance at the University of Illinois. He later transferred to Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, where he earned a bachelor's degree.
Miles worked for a time as a radio disc jockey and later moved into advertising production. He formed his consulting company, Imagination Advisory Group, in 2005. He and his family live in Columbia, Mo. His parents — Rich and Janet Miles — continue to live in Gifford.
Thursday's presentation at the Hawthorn Suites was coordinated by the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the Rantoul and Mahomet chambers, the Urbana Business Association, the Champaign Center Partnership and the Champaign County Black Chamber of Commerce.