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As Customers, We Always Have A Choice!

Imagotchoices By Guest Blogger, Mary Schmidt, Marketing Troubleshooter

Trap: Companies thinking they've got a captive customer, with no choice, so they treat those customers like walking magic money jars. 

Example:  Airlines.  Their customers have to fly, right?  They've got NO CHOICE!  Hmmmm...not so fast there, fellas. 

Headline:  Less flying costs American economy $26 Billion.  "Many travelers believe their time is not respected and it is leading them to avoid a significant number of trips," says Allan Rivlin, a partner at Peter D. Hart Research Associates. "Inefficient security screening and flight cancellations and delays are air travelers' top frustrations.

Question:  Have you ever tried to travel for more than a couple of days with only 3 ounces of anything? Even us less frou-frou femmes need things like hair gel and hand cream. And, I've got contacts so that means another bottle.  And so on and so forth.   So, if it's more than a weekend trip, we're probably going to have  to check at least one bag, maybe two if we've got multiple types of events to attend. (After years of travel, I'm a super power packer, but three ounces is - well - three ounces in a little plastic bag.  Not much I can do with that. You can't roll up a plastic bottle of saline solution.)   

Which brings me to the announcements that the airlines are starting to charge for everything from checked bags to pillows. Most recently, American Airlines announced it's charging $15 a bag for one checked bag.

Of course, the airlines are assuming that we'll grumble and keep flying.  We've got no choice, right?


1. We can decide the face-to-face meeting really isn't needed.  Sure, face time is important - but if you're already working with the other people and have met before, you can handle the discussion via some phone calls, emails and file sharing.  I've done full-blown multi-million product launches using the good old-fashioned telephone and email. If you're working with seasoned pros, it doesn't matter if they're sitting across the table from you or are across the world.

2. We can choose to handle the meeting via videoconferencing.  If it's a small group and you've all got Macs, this is as easy as enabling your nifty little camera.  And, there are more options every day for PC screen sharing and webinars.  So, we can choose to stay home and save both money and aggravation. 

3. We can choose to drive. Yes, even with the rising gas prices.   For example, by the time I drive to the airport, pay for parking, go through security, get on the plane, fly, get off the plane, take the shuttle to the rental car agency, check out my car, and drive to my Mom's house...I might as well just drive, period.  Takes about the same amount of time and while it may cost a bit more at the pump, I've also saved a lot of aggravation.  And, I control my schedule and can stop whenever I want to along the way.

4.  We can choose to just not go. Sure, the kids would love to go to Disney World, but I'd bet there are plenty of things to do within 50 miles of your house.  And, you can sleep in your own bed at the end of the busy day. 

So, remember - your customers always have a choice!  It's not even a matter of competition.  They can simply choose to not buy from anyone.


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Mary Schmidt

Good point re trains. One thing I miss about living on the east coast was the easy access to trains for travel all up and down the eastern seaboard. I could hop on in Philly and get off in NYC, ready to work or play. No muss. No fuss. No Manhattan parking! (Note: It also took less time than taking a shuttle from the Philly airport to JFK, even before 9/11.)

Hey, maybe the holodeck technology will happen sooner rather than later! ;-)

Ardith Lowell

Hurrah, hurrah for Mary! Thank you for your entry. To quote that famous line from the movie Network, and as an alert to airlines and other so-called service companies, "we're mad as hell and we're not going to take it any more" (at least I hope I quoted it correctly).

You’d think the huge increase in train travel would send a message to the airlines. And that’s just one example of the fact that no right-minded consumer will pay for flat-out abuse by such service companies. We’ll all look for alternatives when backed into a corner.

I’ve been a huge advocate of webcasts, webinars, and the like for some time. They are convenient, interactive, highly economical, and if you miss the original broadcast you can review it after the fact. What a concept!

As for personal travel, who knows, airline stupidity may just inspire programmers to develop the next generation of virtual reality and make it simple for vacationers to get away from it all without using those sardine planes.

Karin Choi

Since we are talking about Choices I had to chime in. Don't forget some trips could well be served by taking the train. It is fun more relaxing, you can move around, enjoy some sights, even have a sit down dinner in a booth. Some of the hassles of air travel like parking and renting a vehicle at the other end but you wont have that transfixed-been-staring-at-the road-too-long feeling when you arrive. It is a greener option, and well, yet another option for travel needs.

Yvonne DiVita

I am so with you, Mary. The airlines need a big shake up from their customers. I am traveling to visit my granddaughter...via air, future, I may schedule my trip with the extra time to drive, even with the high gas prices.

I'd rather pay for gas than deal with cranky airline personnel, poor seating, no service, and that long, long wait at the airport...hoping your flight won't be cancelled.

And, I don't think I'm alone. So, airlines... listen up - we're mad as hell and we're not gonna take it any longer.

Thanks for bringing this up so I could rant.

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