It’s a Business Decision
by Jay Ewing

Those words seem to be the forgiver of any brutal decision in the business world. It is the reason given to employees who have worked tirelessly for a company for decades, only to find out at the 12th hour, that they are redundant. It is the battle cry of new executives who come into a company, and cut service related entities to preserve the Almighty; the “bottom line”. You can fill in any other metaphor that you would like to. 

How did we get here? How did we arrive in such a callous world, and how can it be fixed?

I would put forth that first and foremost; business is too big. And we, the consumers are ultimately the ones responsible for that.

I am guilty of driving this as much as the next person, but I am going to change; today.

Here is one example. I love Starbuck’s coffee. You can buy a bag of coffee at one of the ‘Superstores’, for $5.86. That same bag costs $9.00 at Starbuck’s own stores. By buying in bulk (12-15 bags at a time), I have been able to save @$36 every time I purchase them at the Superstore. In doing so, I am forced to wait in line at undermanned check out stations for 15-30 minutes. If by chance, I want to ask someone a question, it is impossible to find someone who can help me, and if there is indeed someone that I find, chances are that they don’t speak English. I’m done supporting this giant.

There is a fabulous new grocery store in our area, called Sprouts. They sell only groceries. They are not a superstore; but they are a super store to shop at. They have staff that can help you in any area of the store and advise you, with any questions that you have. Their produce is first class and their meat department is superb. There are 6 grocery stores that are closer to our house, but going to Sprouts is such an enjoyable experience that it is actually something that my wife and I look forward to. It is more expensive to shop there, but you are also getting much more value for your money.    

Will the Superstore miss having me as a customer? Absolutely not. Does Sprouts value me as a customer? Absolutely yes.

My favorite cartoon is one of an ant that is about to be stepped on by an elephant. You see the elephant’s foot raised above the ant and the ant is flipping the elephant off. The caption reads, “the last act of defiance”. One ant can’t do very much to influence this world; but an army of ants, can.

Years ago, I was the customer of a very large cell phone provider. Had been for 7 years. One day, I was reading the newspaper, and saw a full page ad for the exact same service plan that I had, but one that was only available to “new customers”. The plan was almost half the rate that I had been paying for 7 years. Quite naturally, I called the company to find out why, they were offering people who were not even customers of theirs yet, such a better deal than people like me, who had been loyal to them, for years. I think that the first representative that I spoke to was somewhere offshore. Perhaps if I had been able to speak whatever language they spoke, it might have been a less frustrating experience, but before long, I realized that we were going nowhere, fast.

Feeling, ‘Clousiaen’ on this day, I researched where the phone company’s, US offices were. And so began my phone odyssey, with a battery of company bodyguards. A disinterested receptionist, followed by a neophyte “customer service” representative (who probably doubled as the mail room clerk); to an officious customer service “supervisor”, and so on.

After two hours of climbing the ladder, I made it all the way up to their Vice President of Sales. He was gracious and articulate but by now, my blood pressure was at a Vesuvian level. The VP, offered to refund the past 9 month’s worth of bills (the promotion had been running that long) which was a substantial peace offering, about $1600. I declined. He was somewhat stunned and asked why? I told him this “in my opinion, your most important customer is the one that you already have. Your company positively disagrees with this, because to attract new customers you are offering them a plan that is significantly lower than the one that is available to your existing customers, and this has become a matter of principle”.

The VP was incredulous that I turned down $1600 (and I will admit that this was in the formulative stages of our company and that money was significant). I went on to say that, I was determined for my voice to be heard, and felt that this was the only way for that to happen. More elephants and ants. I switched phone companies and the phone company, declared bankruptcy, later that year. Maybe they had created an army of ants.

How could these scenarios be avoided? Pretty simple, really. If the phone company had offered that new plan to members first, imagine the kind of loyalty that would have inspired in those people. If the first customer service person that I spoke to had the training that the VP did, and had been ‘empowered’ by the company to take action and actually ‘help’ their customer as opposed to being merely a blockade, I may have stayed with them. 

At some stage, there will be an army of ants and they will sing in deafening voice. It may not be in my lifetime, but you can feel the early platoons being drawn up. Like the great line from the movie, Network, where Peter Finch cries out “I’m tired of this s___ AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANY MORE”. As a society, a collective voice will be heard. But only at such a time that we no longer feed the corporate juggernaut. When not only our voice will be heard but our actions, will speak with thunder. Are you there yet?

Jay Ewing is the Director of Instruction for the Bird Golf Academy - the ultimate golf learning experience®. Visit for additional information or phone: 623 882-2054 or fax: 623 321-1823.

Many more articles in Customer Service in The CEO Refresher Archives


Copyright 2007 by Jay Ewing. All rights reserved.

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