Kicking Out Unwanted Customers
Jackie Huba, over at Church of the Customer, has started an interesting conversation about establishments kicking out customers. A movie theater chain, Alamo Drafthouse, posted a public service announcement that was actually a voicemail left by a customer who had been kicked out for texting during a movie.
The video contains a bit too much profanity for me to feel comfortable posting it here, but the video is shown publicly before previews in the theater chain.
The PSA was then picked up by CNN and held up as a shining example of this company being a “hero”, which undoubtedly created a lot of PR for the theater.
Jackie writes that,
standing up for your principles and your best customers, at the expense of bad ones, is a smart loyalty strategy.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with a company standing up for its principles, and I do think it is a good idea for a company to protect the experience for its customers, but this particular case is a bit more disturbing to me.
While I totally get what the business is trying to do in this case from a marketing point of view, I can’t be in agreement with Alamo’s behavior.
They are essentially ignoring their customer’s right to privacy. Just because a customer complains, does not give the company a moral right to embarrass the customer or share that information with others. A paying customer has a special bond with the company that takes his money.
Imagine, what if you were flying on a plane, felt nauseous, and threw up in the bathroom?
Sure, you technically broke a rule on the plane, but…do you really want the airline to add a video of that, or call you out during their safety procedure skit?
No, of course not – you would be mortified. A much more constructive resolution would be a flight attendant understanding your troubles, and trying to make you feel comfortable, and preventing you from being embarrassed at all costs.
Us vs. Them
Creating an “us vs. them” environment is great for branding because it makes your customers feel you are “authentic” and “the real deal”, but it often backfires over time and creates a tyranny of the majority. People in the “us” group end up feeling so stressed about conformity (lest they be labeled one of the “them”), that it really creates a bad atmosphere with a lot of finger-pointing.
What if a customer we’ll call Joe, who just dislikes another customer we’ll call Jane, claims Jane texted when she didn’t in fact? Will you throw her out? What evidence is necessary? It’s a slippery slope.
It’s a much better policy to treat ALL paying customers with courtesy, and if someone is ruining the experience for the remaining customers it is wise to go up to the customer and privately ask them to stop the offending behavior, so as not to embarrass them.
Most customers are not trying to cause a problem – they might just not be aware of your policy, or have an emergency reason for doing what they are doing.
Maybe I’m old fashioned, but the overall purpose of an establishment is to serve the customer, and I can’t help but feel that this kind of behavior gets the establishment further from that goal.