John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


The Customer Should Be King

Posted on June 26, 2008



            I take a point of personal privilege to make a point about how some big businesses are responding to increased costs.  It is stupid to diminish the quality of the product in order to make a product more competitive.  I will give you three examples.


            The airlines have decided to nickel and dime their passengers.  They make them pay more for luggage.  They make them pay for the food and then only offer tasteless food.  They fly crappy planes and then they pack all the customers in.  They are doing their best to make the flying experience as miserable as possible.


            Sam Zell purchases the Chicago Tribune, but discovers he doesn’t have enough money to make enough of a profit to pay off his creditors.  So he decides to cut costs.  How does he do that?  He lays off staff, demands bigger graphics and smaller storie.  The result:  his newspapers are unreadable.  Once again, the customers get a bad product.


            Last year, NBC decided that it will only offer reality shows during certain hours of its nightly broadcast as a way to cut costs.  So NBC only offers Howie Mandel and his “Deal or No Deal” or some other variation of that theme night after night.  But from low quality programming comes lower ratings, so the effort is ultimately self-defeating.


            The answer to the airlines question seems simple to me.  Charge higher prices.  The oil companies certainly get that dynamic.  They are making money despite higher costs.  Instead of diminishing quality, and hurting your product brand forever, keep the quality and charge a fair price.


            With the newspapers, dumbing down the papers will not help the product in the long run.  Of course, the government doesn’t help either, with its antiquated cross-ownership rules.  But the worst way to attract readers is to peddle an inferior product.


            Same with the NBC conundrum.  High-quality content does not have to cost an arm and a leg.  But please, stop insulting the customers.


            Maybe it is just me, but I still believe that the best way for a company to be successful is for them to offer quality products to their customers at fair prices.  And if you can’t do that, maybe you should just get out of the game.