When customers turn their backs

ONE of the challenges for big business is how to keep churning out double digit profit increases every year.

These results keep shareholders happy and guarantee well-paid executives also get their multi-million dollar bonuses.

Of course, the ones paying the way are the customers.

From time to time some of these clever executives come up with innovative fees to justify squeezing a few more dollars out of the customer.

But sometimes these fees are so cynical that the long suffering, but often apathetic consumer, just can’t ignore it.

In fact, they get angry as hell and kick up such a stink that big business has to think about damage control as its carefully polished corporate image is tarnished.

The repair bill for the public relations exercise might just outweigh the profits earned from the new fee.

Take Telstra’s decision to dump its $2.20 administration fee for people paying bills over the counter.

Telstra CEO David Thodey said he had listened to the community debate on the issue and believed the way Telstra introduced the fee did not align with the telco’s commitment to “put customers back at the heart of our business”.

“It is now clear to me that introducing this fee across our existing plans was the wrong way to encourage customers to move to electronic payments,” he said.

“We designed the fee in a way that exempted more than a million elderly, pensioners and disadvantaged people, but it was still unacceptable to many of our customers.”

Well done Mr Thodey.

But Telstra is trying to get more people to pay bills electronically because humans are still needed to process the over the counter payments - and these staff cost money to employ.

Wouldn’t it be great if the entire business was automated - except for the executives, of course. (That was supposed to be a joke.)

The heart of any business is the staff.

Sometimes big business forgets that, at its peril.

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