Sunday, May 22, 2011


I love good customer service.

It makes you feel like a VIP, even when it is just a few less pickles on your cheeseburger. You ask for something different from the masses, and you get it. With a smile.

We all know the opposite. When someone treats you like a faceless, nameless whine at the other end of a telephone.

On a related note, I am writing this from my desk in Sydney, though I should be sitting in LA. Tired, but in LA none the less. United Airlines called me on Friday to let me know that my Saturday flight had been cancelled and rescheduled 24 hours later. They gave only one reason: "adverse weather".

I looked outside at a beautiful May day.

I am no expert on planes, but blue skies, no storms and no wind seems fairly benign. I never did finish that degree in aeronautical engineering, though.

Their response to this point is not worth repeating, safe to say I got a very clear brush off. So I called our travel agent. Another brush off. You see, travel is a 'defer responsibility' culture these days. Why else do you think there are so many travel insurance agencies?

I was left thinking, have they forgotten who keeps them employed?

It reminded me of a Director who asked a question at a Michael Hague seminar I attended. Hague was talking about his experiences providing High Concept script consulting for the big players at the major Hollywood studios. The Director felt compelled to pipe up:

"Does this mean that to use your High Concept method I have to make American-type movies?"

Hague answered it wasn't about being American, but about your story having enough universal appeal to reach the largest possible audience. A diplomatic answer, but an answer all the same. She replied:

"Well that's not the type of movies I want to make"

The audience grumbled their disapproval, but it's a point that I still think about. Is she right?

In Australia, I have heard this same point made by a number Filmmakers. The usual statement is: "I make movies for me".

It begs the question, should an artist create something in response to the will of the mob? Or will the mob follow the artist?

The answer really depends on you. Can you innovate within the paradigm? Can you reinvent the paradigm altogether? Either way is a path to success. More importantly, either way you can keep sight of your "customers", whether they exist today or when they flock to you when they realise how good your work is.

For me, I only know how I felt when United talked to me like a noise that needed to be turned down. I also know I will never fly United again, if I have a choice.

So, the one rule I am sure of is: lose sight of your audience at your peril.