The following letter was sent on July 11, 2007. I will let you know the outcome. In the meantime, be sure you are not, “The Company Formerly Known as Customer Service.”
I attended your concert on July 7, 2007. Being a working professional and not able to get much free time, I was naturally excited to spend an evening seeing one of my favorite artists. I arrived at the Target Center at 8:00p.m. for the 8:30 show time. You can imagine my surprise when, with only thirty minutes to showtime, the doors had not even opened.
This was a particularly hot night, even for July in Minnesota, and I was not looking forward to watching a concert drenched in sweat. When the doors finally opened well after 9:00 I was relieved that the show was about to start. I found my seat and sat, and sat, and sat. When the lights eventually dimmed to start the show I asked the man sitting next to me what time is was. “Ten o’clock,” he said. When I commented that a 90-minute delay was ridiculous he said, “Yeah, but that’s the way Prince is.”
When you took the stage I waited to hear the one opening line from you that would have started the concert right, “Sorry for the delay. I appreciate your patience.” Instead, you started playing as if nothing had happened.
I have attended concerts by a few dozen major artists over the years. The longest delay any of them had was thirty minutes, and at that show an announcement was made over the PA apologizing to the audience and assuring us that once the technical difficulty was fixed the show would start. I kept wondering what kind of attitude must exist in a performer that he could ignore the very people he asked to pay hundreds of dollars to attend his show.
When I bought my ticket to your show, you and I made a promise to each other. I promised to pay the fee, attend your performance, and support your career, which I did. You promised to provide a show as stated on the ticket, which listed a showtime of 8:30. I kept my promise. You did not. If my company makes a promise to a customer and does not deliver, we acknowledge our mistake, apologize, and find a way to make it up to the customer. You did none of these things. In fact, you asked even more from us during the show. “Call your radio stations. Tell them that it’s okay to play my music even if it isn’t on a major label.” It was disconcerting to think that you would ask us to work further on your behalf after we had been ignored, standing on the street for an hour and a half.
Hardly a conversation goes by these days without hearing about how service in America has become a joke. The customer is ignored and mistreated, and there seems to be nothing that can be done. Sadly, most of the people I know do nothing about it because they have simply come to expect poor treatment. Perhaps because I run my own business and am held personally accountable to my customers, I see it differently.
A friend said, “Well, Prince is a pretty busy guy, especially since he had three concerts that day.” I replied that you make a promise based on what you know you can deliver, not what you think you might be able to do. And frankly, I know working parents who put in just as many hours taking care of their families and working two or three jobs to pay the bills. If they are late for work they get no latitude. And they don’t have personal assistants, managers, limos, chefs, and an office staff to help them through their day. Another friend said, “At least he gave a great concert when it did get started.” My reply was that if I take my car to a mechanic and he is three days late in returning it, I don’t forget his tardiness simply because he did the job I expected him to do in the first place. I have been told that I am being unreasonable, that major concerts always have the risk of delays. I think back to the dozens of other concerts I have attended where the likes of B.B. King, Janet Jackson, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Eric Clapton have all found the stage on time, so I have to believe my frustration is reasonable.
I am sure you did not build the kind of organization you have without holding people who work for you accountable for their actions. If I pay for a service and the service is not delivered as promised, I get a refund. I am not asking you for a refund. All I respectfully ask from you is the courtesy you failed to show me on July 7th—an apology. And I am writing this to you personally for the same reason people come to me if they have a complaint about my company, the person in charge is the one ultimately responsible. And I am not interested in a letter of apology dictated to an assistant, or a form letter with a computer signature attached. If you can keep me waiting for an hour and a half, I figure you can place a thirty-second phone call sometime during your day.
I have been told that I am crazy for writing to you, that there is no way I will receive any response at all, much less a phone call. Perhaps they are right, it wouldn’t be the first time one lone customer was ignored by a major corporation. As I looked out over the Target Center trying to find anyone else who was as upset as I was, I noticed that once the concert started, people chose to forget everything that made them angry as we stood sweating in the street. I chose not to just let it slide, and if writing in futility is the way I choose not to be ignored, then it is worth it—even if the assistant who reads this throws it in the trash. Perhaps if more customers in America took the time to voice their grievances we wouldn’t have the climate of bad service we have now.
I hope you change my mind about you and your organization. I hope my phone rings with an unexpected voice and an unexpected message. I also hope you tell your staff that the fans who support you are not disposable, and neither is their time.