Thursday, May 22, 2008

3 Proven Methods to Drive Away Your Customers

by Karen D. Swim

Are you looking for ways to alienate your customers? Do you want to achieve brand visibility by being the most reviled in your industry? Well if this is your goal, I have just the solution for you!

Yesterday, American Airlines announced that it would begin charging $15 for the first checked bag. This in essence means that there is no free luggage, at least not on American. However, kudos to them for being the first U.S. carrier to charge for all checked bags. Go American!

You too can be just like the airline industry. Listed below are 3 proven methods to drive away your customers.

  1. Treat your employees badly. When employees are undervalued they will respond by handing your customers as gently as a sack of rotten garbage. Don't worry if you are a solo practice with no employees, you can eliminate the middle man and offer rotten service directly.
  2. Ignore a problem until it gets so big that you almost have to shut down your entire operations, causing a delay to every customer you are currently serving. This one method alone can not only drive away customers but crash your entire business.
  3. Cut back on expected services, lay off staff and raise your prices. Now this method is absolutely priceless. I get chills just thinking about the repercussions.

Airlines have been so successful with these strategies that customers are all buzzing about how to avoid flying with them. Analytical customers are even questioning if the new policies are discriminatory.

The real beauty of their plan is that I suspect it has been in the making for years. Is it possible that these major businesses failed to make internal changes to sustain leadership and now conveniently blame their failure on the economy?

Do you have surefire tips for driving away customers? Share them in the comments!

Disclaimer: No customers or employees were harmed in the writing of this post. Please do not implement these tactics. This post is meant as a tongue in cheek lesson of what not to do. The author takes no responsibility if you choose to disregard this warning and try this at home.


liveslessordinary said...

LOL love the disclaimer, Karen! In the UK the buzz is all about BA after the terminal 5 fiasco at Heathrow. I try and avoid Heathrow if at all possible, which generally means not flying with BA, as it is just generally an unpleasant place to go through. Those shots of the piles and piles of luggage that got held up in the backlog must have damaged their (both BA and BAA) business. There's just no way it couldn't have!

Roland Hesz said...

The only problem now, that with this high kerozin prices, they had to raise something - and this was the least hurting thing.
I expect the rest of them follow in the footsteps of low cost airlines, who have been charging for luggage for a long time now.

Not defending them, just pointing out that oil prices and gasoline/diesel prices are shooting real high.

Of course, airlines are messed up almost everywhere.
Weird thing is that Southern Airlines (I think that was the name) could close a profitable quarter again. Maybe they should share their tips with the others.

That said, I am wondering if taking the bus to England and France would actually be a better choice by now with all the hassle.

Words For Hire said...

@Amy, LOL! Thanks! Air travel was once too expensive for the masses and then it became "easy" to fly anywhere. I wonder if we will see an evolution yet again where prices will be much higher, there will be fewer flights and less people traveling by plane.


@Roland, I don't actually blame them for raising prices. The oil prices are impacting transportation and food. For years, everyone scoffed at Southwest Airlines but their business model has enabled them to profitable every single quarter. That is proof that there is a way to do things differently in the industry.

Anonymous said...


Excellent post.

This also applies to big companies to drive away their own employees.

Start taking away small benefits, start treating staff like crap, and increase workloads. ...see how long this will last until everyone polishes up their CV and starts looking towards greener pastures.

In a way, employees are like airline passengers...sometimes caught on a bad flight.

- Friar

Ellen Wilson said...

@Amy - I've been through Heathrow during the change. What a mess. All I can say is if you want to fly over the pond take Virgin Atlantic. I love that Airline. You can get pretty good deals over hear with them over here anyway.

@Roland - You can check online and compare prices for buses. The underground that goes from England to France is pretty expensive. I think I paid something like 100 pounds for the trip. And that was just a one way.

Those little jet planes have good deals sometimes, like RyanAir. They are always offering discounts.

@Karen - I won't pay extra for bags. That sound ridiculous. But who knows? Maybe all the airlines will go this route.

I think companies who do this kind of thing drive down wages, moral, and generally create a crappy environment. Which is real dangerous for an airline. Who wants to crash!?

Words For Hire said...

@Friar, "In a way, employees are like airline passengers...sometimes caught on a bad flight." This is a keen insight and an awesome analogy. Hmmm, you may have inspired another post. :-)

@Ellen, I nominate you travel director! :-) Great cost saving about the cost of gas...the Speedway by my house is now at $4.05, others hover just under $4 but Speedway sets the pace and the others follow.

I would not want to fly on a plane with employees who are being treated poorly! I've also learned the inside secrets of how flight attendants treat passengers badly - they even have code phrases for it. I definitely don't want to fly with grumpy pilots. Bad food I can take but keep the plane in the air!

Brad Shorr said...

No question airlines are struggling. It's not a question of making money, it's a question of limiting how much they will lose. That said, you're leading with your chin when you introduce small charges. People loathe being nickel and dimed. When the banks were being squeezed, they started charging those $1 and $2 fees for processing ATM transactions, etc. It made people angry. They switched banks. Instead, I think they could have raised interest rates a quarter percent, made more money, and kept customers happy. Similarly, you would think AA could simply raise its fares an average of $15 and avoid all the inevitable rancor.

Words For Hire said...

@Brad, please forgive the delayed response, somehow your comment got lost in my email. Stupid email! I completely agree with your reaction. We all know that price increases are a part of life but there is a way to handle them that makes people feel better about you as a company. The bank example is an excellent one! The airlines continue to nickel and dime consumers (food, luggage, etc) rather than just raising rates. A a result the rules are confusing and consumers are unhappy.

Brad Shorr said...

Karen, in the time between my comment and now, American Airlines (and I assume others) have jacked up their prices, giving us higher fares AND ticky-tack add on charges. Is it any wonder the airline industry is in total disarray? It wouldn't surprise me to see government-run airlines in a few years.

Words For Hire said...

@Brad, we knew it was coming with Memorial Day kicking off the summer travel season. In less than a week airline prices rose and gas is well above $4 per gallon. Amazing how things changed so fast!

sexy said...