Everything Matters …

I have grown a little frustrated with business’s current love affair with cost cutting. Increasingly, little thought is being given to the impact on the brand. Just this week, I observed four examples that come to mind.

First, a restaurant I frequent that earned a deserved reputation for its wine list was out of several popular reds. The manager’s directive to the employees? “It doesn’t matter, they [customers] will just order something else.” My note: It does matter, and maybe they will order their wine somewhere else.

Second, my health club started using a cheaper detergent and the towels are scratchy. And they lowered the temperature of the pool by five degrees. Since the people who made those decision don’t actually work out at the facility, or overhear the talk in the locker room, I can understand their belief that “it doesn’t matter.”

Third, standing at the counter of a premium-priced golf course, I overheard a customer complaining to the pro that the round was excessively slow and the rangers (whose job it is to police the pace of play on the course) didn’t seem to feel they could do anything about it. The customer said he wouldn’t be back. The pro just said, “Oh well, nothing we can do about that,” as if losing one customer doesn’t matter. But, it doesn’t matter only if there is an endless supply of golfers waiting to get on this course. There aren’t. By the way, don’t expect to see that golfer’s buddies at your course, either.

Lastly, perhaps a small thing, but it is a case of the disappearing amenities at hotels. Sure, I can carry my own Q-tips, and if I want more than one cup of coffee, I can call room service. But I notice they haven’t lowered the price of the room. And pardon my cynicism, but I have to believe that the option they offer of not changing the linens every day is based more on a desire to cut costs rather than saving the earth.

In my mind, a brand is built on a historic value proposition that builds a certain loyalty. If you start messing with the perceived benefits, those adjustments can’t do anything but hurt the long-term interest of the business. I understand the need to be frugal, but I wish decision-makers had a better sense of what matters in the customers’ eyes.

Am I just feeling a little grouchy today? Or have you noticed this as well? At what point is the brand compromised?

Mike Neiss posted this on July 25, 2008, in Branding.
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