Business 101 – Can we listen too much in the Internet era?

September 5, 2006

Business is about Vision. No question. Everyone who has worked even a day with me knows that I repeat the same credo each and every morning and sometimes multiple times throughout the day – in business without vision you have nothing. Still, there is something that comes in a close second to vision…listening.

A business that doesn’t listen to its customers won’t be around long. I learned that years ago from an outstanding sales manager named Brad Johnson. Brad used to hire account executives based on their ability to listen. He’d tell me “Jack, it doesn’t matter how smooth their pitch is…if they can’t listen to their customers, I don’t want them on my team.” Brad was right. Businesses are built on listening. How can you possibly hear what your customers need unless you let them tell you? You can’t.

Still, in the era of the Internet when anyone can hide behind a pseudonym email address and say just about anything they want without any repercussions, does listening hold the same weight?

Last month I received the following anonymous email:

From: Dummy Account

[mailto:dummy-account@cox.net]

Sent: Saturday, August 05, 2006 6:57 AM
To: Chief Titan
Subject: Nobody else listens – will you?

Let me put this gently and with proper respect: You are useless idiots. I’ve sent 6 e-mails to the “wrong/missing channel” address complaining that MASN (Mid-Atlantic Sports Network) Cox Fairfax (VA) channel 102 is not listed. Nothing.

After the third, I began to offer help:  Special-needs people who could probably do a better job (if we cut their Thorazine dose a little).  It’s likely they would drool less than the jerks who keep ignoring the e-mails.  I’ve also asked if I could have Titan’s “stuff” when you go out of business next month due to incompetence.

How about you?  Are you just another American Business scam?  Promise/tout/advertise the best service but in reality ignore customers with gusto.

OK.  How about this.  MASN is owned by Peter Angelos who also owns the Baltimore Orioles (whose games will be carried on MASN next season).  He’s a (reportedly nasty) lawyer.  Should I send a note to his office regarding your inability to list HIS channel?  OR, with a name like Angelos, are you willing to bet he doesn’t have a personal assistant named Guido?  Do you like your kneecaps?  Who starts your car?

Have I effectively communicated my irritation?  Should Titan sleep with the fishes?

Maybe it’s because I’ve played hockey my whole life and I’ve never been afraid to throw my gloves off. Or maybe it’s because my Dad was a career Marine, I don’t know. I do know this…I hate bullies. To really know a bully is to know that they are most likely actually a coward.

In the era of the Internet you can’t have millions of users without attracting a few nuts. So, can we listen too much now? Nope. Have the crazies, the cowards, the impotent dirt-bags put us in a position where it is just better to tune out all customers? Nope. Did this guy impact our business in any way? Sure, though not anymore than anyone else. MASN was already in the pipeline, had been in the pipeline, for inclusion into TitanTV listings. Once Quality Assurance signs off that the feed is reliable then it makes the list. It makes the listings…

Business remains about vision. Business remains about making money and having fun.

Business remains about listening to your customers…You know what? Nobody does that better than us.