When Leaders Forget The Goal – The Dilemma Of Annoying Your Customers


Forgetting The Goal – A Leadership Dilemma

Everywhere consumers turn today they see examples of poor leadership. They may not recognize these little inconveniences as leadership voids, but they are voids nonetheless.

While the lack of true leadership in American business spells trouble for employees and middle managers, a byproduct of this missing leadership is the consumer annoyances we see more of in everyday life.

It seems that business leaders are forgetting the goal. When they focus too closely on a particular business issue, and they fail to weigh the solutions to that issue against the goal, they create unintended negative consequences.

Delta Air Lines – Commercials To A Captive Audience

I was on Delta flight yesterday from Atlanta to Tampa that was unique in one respect: all of the passengers in my area of the plane were in agreement about an annoying occurrence caused by poor Delta leadership.

To be fair, I love Delta Air Lines. Ninety percent of the flights I book, I book on Delta. In fact, I’ve written about Delta before. (To read that post, please follow this link). However, Delta is showing their desperation and they’re taking advantage of their customers at the worst possible time: when they can.

There is no more captive audience than passengers in an airplane flying at 30,000 feet. Delta, like all airlines, knows this. Unfortunately for me and my fellow passengers on this particular one hour and ten minute flight, the Delta flight attendants made no less than four PA announcements explaining the features, advantages and benefits of the American Express Delta SkyMiles credit card.

The PA system in a commercial airplane should be used to explain safety features, provide important instructions to the passengers, and announce periodic arrival gate and time information. Using this as a marketing tool to sign up a few credit card customers was objectionable to the group sitting in my area, and should not be allowed.

Many of us where watching satellite TV, movies or listening to music on the in-air flight entertainment system. Every time the flight attendants made a new credit card announcement, they interrupted our entertainment. They forgot the goal.

What Is Delta’s Goal?

Delta Air Lines, like every other for-profit company in the world, has a primary goal of making money for the owners. Certainly, signing customers up for American Express cards drives some revenue for Delta; though Delta didn’t give enough consideration to the annoyance factor bestowed upon their frequent flyers. What Delta gained on this flight in credit card customers, they lost in respect from the frequent flyers in my section.

I’ve always believed that if a situation works in the absurd, then it stands a chance to work in real life. If Delta is that desperate to market to their captive audience in such an annoying fashion, why stop at four credit card pitches in seventy minutes? Why not remove the movies from the in-seat entertainment and just run seventy minutes of commercials that cannot be turned off? I’m sure Delta would make millions on that venture – they would eventually, of course, lose all of their business flyers

It’s Not Just Delta

Have you been to a Toys R Us or Radio Shack in the last ten years? Each of these retailers greets you at the cash register not with a “hello,” but with a request for personal information. I understand that they want your phone number or email address so that they can market to you, but it annoys consumers and may explain why neither one of these ever cornered their piece of the retailing world.

A softer approach, one that asks if you’d like to receive coupons or advance notice of specials, would provide Toys R Us the necessary information from those consumers who were truly interested in these offers. A win-win.

One of the chain haircutting places (I won’t mention which one, because I don’t want to give them any press, good or bad) basically demands that customers provide their name, phone number and address before they get in the barber’s chair. Are they crazy? I just want a haircut. I’ve only been to this retailer once, provided a fake name, phone number and address, and I’ve spent my money somewhere else since then.

That’s typical of consumers. We won’t complain, we simply won’t come back.

If the leadership at these retailers truly understood the goal, took a long view of their business and ran some “what if” scenarios before instituting these ill-conceived marketing activities, they’d be in better shape to handle the shrinking economy we face today.