Are Business Leaders Listening?

by Jay Deragon on 08/25/2008

Are Business Leaders Listening?The conversations about how companies behave, or misbehave, are swelling throughout the social web. These conversations are yet to be threaded together so they can easily be identified rather we find them by chance from other bloggers or friends recommending them.

Imagine the impact of having conversations about any one company threaded together like a magnet of attraction for others with similar experiences to add to the conversations. Once this happens the power of influence will create tremors throughout the Boardrooms (we’re just beginning to see signs of this today) and then just maybe business leaders will begin to recognize the power of the social web and listen.

A Simply But Profound Example ( A Post by Jack McKee Worthy of Republishing)

Jake McKee writesI’ve always believed that you learn more about a person (or a company) when things are bad than you ever learn about them when things are good.Like many others, I’ve complained about American Airlines in the past because of their poor treatment of their customers.”

“Today, however, I was more disgusted by this company than I’ve ever been by any company I’ve ever done business with. Since 2000, I’ve flown 578,814 total miles. I’ve spent literally tens of thousands of dollars with them. I’ve defended them to my friends, and continued to choose them when other airlines were (significantly) cheaper. I’ve cut them slack for poor customer service, for canceled flights, for marginal on-time delays, and hours spent on tarmacs waiting for gates to open up. And through it all, I continued to choose them, continued to spend extra money to fly with them.”

“Last night my grandmother died.”

“I have a committed trip to DC and NYC (ironically to speak about the Cluetrain 10 years later), which is fine since the family and funeral aren’t happening until Thursday. I needed to simply change the departure from NYC to Dallas to be one day earlier at a different time.”

“I called American and politely explained my situation. They had an open flight at the right time. They were willing to waive the typical $100 change fee (with a copy of the death certificate), but they were unwilling to waive the $359 fare difference. (UPDATE: I was more than willing to provide a death certificate and/or the number of the funeral home for the waiver of both fees and told them so) They had a chance to turn a terribly sad chapter of my life into a story about what a great company they were, and they passed it up.”

“Again I politely explained that I have nearly 600,000 miles flow, I’m a loyal customer, that I’ve been Gold or Platinum for years now. “Can we waive the fare difference?”, I ask. I’m not changing the flight, just the times of the flight, after all. The answer from both Mrs. Gibson and her supervisor, Irving was this:

“American reviewed the policy a few years back and decided that since funeral homes, doctors, and clothiers don’t discount their rates, we shouldn’t either.”

“First of all, I was asking for them to waive an unnecessary fee, not give me a discount. Secondly, that’s a stupid comparison. Doctors and funeral homes don’t work on a sliding scale. Clothing is reusable. I could go on with how stupid this quote is, but it’s just not worth the time.”

“When I told Irving, the supervisor, that I’d been a loyal customer for years and that I felt that the “fare difference” (i.e. we charge more for certain times of the day for the exact same overhead) should be waived if for nothing else than because it was the best way American could return the loyalty I’d shown them over the years he said:

“I’m not here to argue with you, sir.”

“And I’m not here to argue with you either, American. In fact, I’m not here to fly with you, defend you, or support you. Not only have I lost interested in maintaining our quasi-relationship, I’ll now actively work to find alternatives to using you. (Hard to do when you live in Dallas, but absolutely not impossible). I’ll encourage others to think twice about using you. All because you were more interested in potentially getting an extra $359.”


“You stuck to your principles, now it’s my turn.”

Can We Help Those Willing and Wanting to Change?

Jack’s ending comments pretty much sum up the attitudes of people tired of the lack of thinking businesses have exhibited for years. We, the suppliers, employees and customers, have experienced and witnessed these behaviors for years have been trying to simply express how easy it would be to simply fix it but no ones seems to be listening. Now its our turn to speak up through conversational rivers and in doing so just maybe we can help those that recognize the need and willingness to change.

Jack McKee’s blog has an appropriate quote from Jack Welch, Former CEO of GE Capital, Never moan. Do not be a victim. Either raise hell and change the game or get out of there.”

What Say You?


Kathryn Alexander August 25, 2008 at 11:55 am

I’ve been working in the area of ethics for over 10 years. At the heart of ethics is relationship – that’s why ethics are important. To act outside of relationship or to act in ways that destroy relationships is – unethical – pure and simple.

We instinctively feel it when money is put before relationship, and that’s what Jack was feeling. Somehow we’ve been dismissed, devalued and belittled. Our pain and our needs have been seen as less important than profit. What act could more self-serving?

In relationships everyone needs to win. In the airline example above, had they stayed in relationship that would have been true. Since they didn’t everyone lost. That loss may translate into a financial loss, but but what was really lost was a chance to build the better world we are all working for (at least most of us are working for). That world only come about when our actions fit/match our desires.

Sadiq Baig February 23, 2008 at 5:25 am

“How can we expand our world and solve problems of scarcity unless we’re willing to converse. Conversations start with a willingness to begin a relationships. That is the entire premise of The Relationship Economy.”

Briliant thought!

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