Monday, December 16, 2013

Blogger's Block

I promise I really have been meaning to sit down and blog about the misadventures that occurred this fall on the farm.  However every single time I would sit down to do so, I would freeze.  The words would escape me and the post would feel forced, like I was just writing crap to be writing crap (as opposed to what I'm doing right now).  I felt if I couldn't just sit down and write the story, if it felt like I was pulling it out of my mind like pulling teeth, then the post would be awful and no one would want to read it (assuming it gets read now!).  Therefore, I didn't post.

However now that I've had almost a month's reflection and blog ideas are again bubbling in my head, I thought I'd tackle one of them.  Which idea is the lucky winner you ask?  Public Opinion.

Last year, in 2012, we had a representative from Groupon call and ask if we wanted to work with them on a deal for our corn maze.  Being from a relatively small town (as opposed to Raleigh and points westward) I was skeptical.  I had heard of Groupon from TV and other attractions such as ours around that used them.  I had never personally used them though and wasn't sure if other people in our area would (then again I'd never been to a corn maze before we opened our own, so obviously I'm used to taking leaps of faith).  We figured what the heck?  We'll try it.  If it doesn't work we don't have to work with them again.

Overall our experience was what I'd call so-so.  We didn't make much off it but we did get our name out to areas who would previously not have known about us.  We figured it was worth the advertising.  What we didn't count on was the ability of the purchaser to rate us.  Of course we knew they could but it wasn't until they started coming in that we thought about the impact of someone reviewing our farm.  Personally, I'm not a reviewer.  I'll give you a couple stars or whatever, but I'm not the type of person who is going to take the time to write a review.  However when I go online to purchase a product I read those reviews.  Especially for something I've never bought before, a company I'm not familiar with, or something for my kids.  What I've never thought about until I was on the other end of the deal is how the person who created that product feels upon reading them.  Now I'd imagine if you were reviewing a Graco stroller the inventor of said stroller probably doesn't care.  They aren't going to go home that night depressed because some user a thousand miles away found it hard to use or difficult to clean.

But when I read a review that someone wrote of my farm, I take it to heart.  Now I know you have to read them with a grain of salt.  After all, there are 'those people' who you are unable to satisfy.  If we brought them here on a limo and let them in for free and gave them the a list treatment they'd still complain.  It's still hard though when you've put everything into something; all your nights without sleep, the times you couldn't take your kids to that birthday party, all the days where you ate fast food, or the laundry didn't get done, or your baby had to take a nap in the car because you had no choice.  When you invest your time, energy, and money and give whatever your are doing 110% of everything you have, for someone to say that wasn't good enough stings.  Now, don't get me wrong.  I never want someone to say they had a good time when they didn't.  I know we're a small farm, still (and always will be) centered on agriculture and not how many more amusement attractions we can add to the place.  If it gets done, it gets done by me or The Husband.  I know that in some ways when I speak of some of our 'competition' it's not comparing apples to apples.  I've been to those places too (shh!  don't tell anyone!) and I know what they have.  Our motto is Rome wasn't built in a day and our role model (a little place near Beulaville that some of you may know Christmas lights in North Carolina...for now!) didn't become what it did over night.  We love that some of our customers have been coming since the beginning and have seen us evolve and continue to evolve.  Still, if someone came to my farm and had a bad experience I want to know it even if it does hurt just a little, so we can improve.  If we don't know what we're doing wrong we can't fix it, especially if it's a service issue (I can't stand how customer service seems to have just disappeared!  Everywhere I go it seems like the person waiting on me is too busy playing with other employees, or checking their phone, or won't even speak to me.  It's like they've forgotten that I'm paying their salary.  I can assure you, I haven't forgotten that my customers pay my salary and if you come and don't get excellent help you let me know!).  And then you get the good reviews too and it makes you feel great to know that someone came out and had a good time.  That's the whole point of our operation, is to get people back out on the farm having a good time with their friends and families.  Those good reviews are what makes it all worthwhile.

So this year when we partnered with Groupon we were ready, and when we started getting reviews, mostly good, some still bad, we made sure we addressed it so we got less and less bad reviews and the ones we got were about things we had no control over.  In the end we've grown a thicker skin and realized you can't please everyone.  You do the best you can with what you have, you try to provide the best experience and service possible every time, and let the haters hate.

After all, tomorrow is another day!

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