Saturday, May 16, 2009
There's a terrific scene from a 1996 movie called "The Big Night," a movie that features, among others Tony Shaloub and Stanley Tucci. Here's the plot summary from IMDB:
"Primo and Secondo are two brothers who have emigrated from Italy to open an Italian restaurant in America. Primo is the irascible and gifted chef, brilliant in his culinary genius, but determined not to squander his talent on making the routine dishes that customers expect. Secondo is the smooth front-man, trying to keep the restaurant financially afloat..."
In my favorite scene from the movie, a customer orders spaghetti with a side order of risotto. Primo refuses to prepare the dish because it is simply wrong. You don't have spaghetti and risotto together. You just don't.
It's always seemed to me that this scene has a lot to teach us, especially in the internet era where "the customer is in control."
Contrary to prevailing wisdom, customer control kills businesses. There was a time when newspapers and network news were run under the aegis editorial control, ie. serious news and information was covered. Then came the pandering to the lowest common denominator and wars were forced off the front page for the likes of Miss California's breasts or Alex Rodriguez's needle-marked ass. Viewers got what they wanted, then later they found out that really wasn't any good and they turned off.
The same pattern has held in entire industries. Consumers demanded low prices from airlines. Airlines complied. Sacrificing everything that made travel bearable, service, reliability and, I believe, eventually speed and safety. Retailing has also followed suit. It is impossible to get service or find what you want in any number of big-box outlets. Eventually people will find other places to buy books, or electronics or pcs, like Amazon.
My point is quite simple. Yes, you have to listen to customers. But more important you have to have your own beliefs, standards and core values.
Posted by George Tannenbaum at 10:48 AM