Gallery Furniture is an iconic furniture store in Houston, TX – 100,000 square feet of furniture, mattresses and – most importantly – amazing customer experiences. Millions of Houstonians can easily recall owner ‘Mattress Mac’s’ (aka: Ian McIngvale) catchy (and often kitschy) ‘Saves you money TODAY!!!!’ commercials – truly a piece of Houston pop culture.
This is the kind of place that you look forward to shopping at. Drop your kiddos off at the supervised play area, have a (literally) free lunch, check out Elvis memorabilia and be taken care of to an incredible degree by customer service people that actually LOVE their jobs (which is to help make you happy, not to just sell you furniture).
Last night (Thursday, May 22nd), the store caught on fire, leaving no one harmed (phew!) but destroying $50 million worth of merchandise and bringing the once-bustling furniture center to its charred knees (see photos here).
What happened (and continues to happen) with their public relations and Social Media outreach is pretty rocking – we are mighty impressed their Communications and PR teams and hope that other companies can look to them for inspiration on dealing with difficult situations and putting the customers first:
- Fast fast fast response time – Mattress Mack and team hit the ground running before the blaze had even been put out. Customers immediately knew that everyone was safe, where they could go to buy furniture tomorrow and how they could get in touch with Gallery Furniture.
- Quick Web site updates – the Gallery Furniture Web site was immediately updated with news of the fire and a link to Mattress Mack’s Twitter profile
- Community discussion – a forum was set up for customers and well wishers to express their sympathy. When you are so passionate about your customers, you want them to connect to you in good times and in bad. This is powerful.
- Stick with what you know – just hours after the blaze, Mattress Mack recorded a post-fire commercial/message (which he is well known for). It’s already showing up in various spots online, as people share it with friends and family. The branding and messaging remains the same – in good times and in bad.
- Online response tools set up and ready to go – While some organizations wait until crisis time to set up their online communication vehicles (bad idea), Gallery Furniture had a handful of Social Media outlets already in use and ready to go to communicate with their audience:
- Twitter accounts already up and running – Mattress Mack (www.twitter.com/MattressMack) and marketing guy Gil (www.twitter.com/gilv) had already been using the tool and started building their own networks. Readymade as-it-happens communication channel! This will be perfect for their re-build.
- YouTube channel in place – While this hasn’t been upated yet, having a video-sharing mechanism ready to go will be great in continued post-fire outreach and provides a fun place for folks to see the old building in commercials from decades past: www.youtube.com/galleryfurnitureblog
- Mattress Mack’s Blog – If you take a look at Mack’s blog (www.mattressmack.com/macks_weblog), you’ll find it a pretty good representation of what the man and the company are all about. It’s not just a ‘yay, we have furniture and you should totally buy some’ kind of Blog, rather it’s a Community-focused and Story-driven tool. This will be the perfect place to share the experiences of re-building from a fire and growing a company stronger and more tight-knit before.
- Gallery Furniture on Facebook – they currently have a Page set up in Facebook (www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=37886684658), while not super active it will serve as another ready-to-go spot to send updates on the re-build and to connect with customers in a place they feel comfortable
Amazing what being passionate about your customers and planning ahead to connect with them (even in the hardest of times) will do. We salute and whole heartedly support Gallery Furniture as they re-build and keep the city as well furnished and connected as ever.
Be sure to drop them a message on their forum and keep them in your thoughts – boy, suddenly we feel like doing some couch shopping this weekend!! (and to be sure we are super-clear, Gallery Furniture is NOT a client — but we just darn appreciate the role they play in our Houston Community and the smart Communication tactics they’ve made so far to support their Customers!)