Hammer and Tong is a new daytime cafe on Westgarth St located in the space of the former Brix restaurant that opened on 11 February. Like Bar Paradiso on Greeves St, which took over the space of the former Felice’s, Hammer and Tong has not wasted money removing an excellent existing fitout and replacing it with something else. It seems to have done only a minor refresh.
Instead they have moved in and started trading, which is smart. When the doomed SOS in the CBD was replaced by the equally doomed 100 Mile Cafe, for example, the latter wasted thousands of dollars unnecessarily replacing a very slick fitout, which was not smart, economically efficient or environmentally sustainable.
The coffee and service were great when I went yesterday for breakfast. I was very satisfied with my meal: corn fritters with a fried egg, which was served with sour cream, avocado and chili jam. Unlike other versions of this dish that I have eaten, such as at What about food (Carlton), Madame Sousou and the former Shire (both in Fitzroy), the fritters are round rather than flat like pancakes.
What impressed me most however was what happened when I went to pay. The staff member serving me checked my order and proceded to charge me for the fritters and a coffee. I had had a second coffee that had not been added to the bill, and I let him know that.
He thanked me for my honesty and said that, as I had not tried to get away with being undercharged, he would not charge me for the second coffee. This suggests that Hammer and Tong has invested in hiring experienced staff, which should serve it well in quickly sorting out such issues and ensuring that customers have a positive experience.
Hammer and Tong’s online marketing approach has been less successful. It has a single splash page website, and active Facebook and Twitter accounts. Unfortunately, like its Westgarth St predecessor Brix, it has failed to publish its menu on its website. This is a fundamental marketing failure that annoys many customers.
On 12 February someone asked to see their menu on Twitter, but two days later as I write this review it still has not been published. First impressions count, and online media can be updated quickly and easily, so this seems like an obvious oversight.
Hammer and Tong have hired an agency to handle their online marketing, but I don’t know who is responsible for the menu issue. Maybe the cafe did not supply the menu to the agency to publish, or maybe the agency didn’t advise them how important this is or didn’t consider it important enough to do immediately.
I doubt that the staff of an external agency can ever accurately or authentically capture the personality of a business client online. This can only be done by an employee who works within the business and is able to accurately translate its culture into an online presence.
I believe that social media undertaken by an external agency is necessarily less authentic and therefore less effective than when it is done by an internal employee. Consequently, should a business decide to hire an external agency to handle its social media, it is best to keep this arrangement private.
Knowing that a social media presence has been outsourced to a PR agency does not benefit customers and therefore should not be disclosed. An informed client would require its agency to act discretely to maintain the image that the online voice of the business comes from within, as this adds to its authenticity.
This is merely my own opinion of course, but I find it easy to pick bad PR agencies. They’re the ones that fail to get the basics rights and insist on inserting themselves into the story at the expense of their client.
When your agency tweets about how it is managing your online presence, you can watch the money you have invested go down the drain. Customers want (the illusion of) a direct relationship with the business. By exposing the outsourcing, the agency has trashed this illusion and this demonstrates that it does not understand the psychology of social media.
Customers don’t want to be managed. They want to be related to. Indicating that talking to customers has been delegated to an agency says ‘we’re going through the motions but we don’t really believe in this social media stuff’. Customers don’t like being patronised like this.
Jess Lim is a potential customer who asked a reasonable question, but she did not receive adequate service in a timely manner. Like many other potential customers, she’s probably not going to consider coming until she’s seen the menu. Me, I can walk a couple of blocks to look in the window, but if she’s driving across town to visit the hip new cafe she’s read about she wants to know what she’s getting before leaving home.
I genuinely tried to give Tribe Communications a fair go in writing this post by visiting their website to find out more about them. Unfortunately this did not work as the website listed on their Twitter and Facebook accounts was offline on 14 February 2013 because their hosting account appears to be suspended. An agency that can’t keep its own website functioning is one that I would not employ to work on my online presence.
Many businesses face a dilemma with their online marketing. They recognise that they do not have the expertise internally and so make the legitimate decision to outsource it. Due to their lack of expertise, however, they are unable to determine whether the agencies they hire know what they are doing and are unable to measure the efficacy of the advice and services they purchase.
Hammer and Tong appear to have done well with what they have direct control over: the menu, staffing and service. I think they could do better with their online marketing by obtaining other advice.