When a restaurant owner recognizes a food critic in their restaurant, the critic gets extra-special treatment. To be a good restaurant critic, you have to be anonymous. Otherwise, the critic's "picture is posted in every four-star, low-star, and no-star kitchen in town" and they get special service.
Restaurant owners understand the power of the press -- and go to extreme efforts to ensure that influential customers have a wonderful experience. This isn't rocket science -- it's good business!
Why is it that online businesses don't do the same? They should! One of the first things we did after we launched Half.com was create a VIP list, containing the email addresses of all influential reporters, competitors, potential acquirers, analysts, and investors. (Bloggers didn't exist back then - but they would qualify as well). We then had our system alert us whenever a VIP created an account, purchased an item or listed one for sale. When a VIP purchased a CD we'd have someone from our customer service group telephone the seller to confirm that it shipped promptly. When a VIP listed an item for sale, we'd monitor it to see if it sold. And if a (hypothetical) reporter listed a (hypothetical) book for sake, and it didn't sell quickly, a relative of a (hypothetical) Half.com employee in Oklahoma might (hypothetically) purchase the item...Resulting in a (hypothetical) story in the New York Times.
Half.com offers a good service -- just like most restaurants serve good food. But, doesn't it make sense to be on your best behavior with influential customers?
Do you have a VIP list for your company? Do you know what experience journalists, bloggers, analysts and acquirors are having with your product?