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Could you eliminate what irritates
your customers most?

On December 14, Blockbuster announced a change addressing what is likely the greatest irritant to those who rent videos or computer games. Effective January 1, in the United States (and sometime in the first quarter in Canada), the company eliminated late fees for movies and games.

“If our customers need an extra day or two with their movies or games, they can take it,” said Chairman and CEO John Antioco in a news release. The company will provide a 7 day grace period after the due date shown on the rental.

This is a big change for the company. Late fees have been an important source of revenue for the movie rental stores. They count on our tardiness. Following Blockbuster's announcement, one commentator estimated that 30% of the industry's revenue comes from this source. In its news release, Blockbuster estimated the late fees contributed $250 to $300 million to its operating income. This “is expected to be offset by growth in revenues resulting from increased store traffic” and other changes the company planned, its news release explained.

As I read about what Blockbuster was doing, I began to think about other irritants that we encounter as customers:

  • automated telephone systems that answer our calls and instruct us to push a series of buttons in the hope of speaking to a person;
  • hold messages that tell us to wait because our call is “important” to them;
  • office hours that are set for the convenience of those who work there, not for the convenience of the customers;
  • lack of adequate, convenient or affordable parking;
  • hidden surcharges, airport improvement fees and taxes that double the cost of advertised airfares; and,
  • difficult to follow return policies and procedures.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if businesses would eliminate the things that bug us, their customers?

But let's not be so fast to toss the first customer service stone. Let's begin by looking at our organizations through the eyes of our customers.

Do we have policies and procedures that frustrate customers? Why do we do things the way we do? Are our practices necessary to ensure our success and viability? Or, do they just make life simpler for us? Are there changes that will make it easier for our customers?

If you remove irritants, you may discover that the customers will come.


Nelson Scott offers several Customer Service Presentations, including Customer Service MAGIC: Changing Complainers into Loyal Customers; What Your Mother Taught You About Customer Service and other Training Resources developed by Service Quality Institute and the Vital Learning Corporation.


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A professional trainer, speaker, and consultant since 1995, Nelson Scott works with organizations that are committed to making the right hiring decisions, developing and retaining productive staff, and strengthening relationships with customers.  Learn more by visiting or e-mailing


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