Don’t Be Netflix & The Importance of Transparency

People hate change. When change comes out of nowhere, people freak out. When Netflix changed its prices, people complained. A lot.

Now Netflix has apologized and made more changes. People are complaining again.

The apology is nice, but it comes too late. The new changes to splitting the brand is a topic for another discussion, but it’s a big change. People weren’t ready for something like that. To some customers, it came out of nowhere. Where were the emails saying “hey there’s going to be some changes”?

When people are informed — clearly and consistently — they tend to accept what happens. I learned this lesson well while working at Disneyland. Yes, I worked for the Mouse. No, it’s not the happiest job on Earth. Yes, I’ll try to stay on topic…

Minnie MouseOne of the jobs I had was Character Host. This is the person that hangs out with the characters in the park helping with crowd control, making people form a line to see Mickey, taking photos for the family, making sure that Buzz Lightyear leaves in 20 minutes so he doesn’t miss his next mission from Star Command.

Yes, Buzz has to leave. He can’t stay there forever. Co-workers of mine often complained that the crowd didn’t seem to understand or were angry when a character left. Do I blame the crowd? No. I never had that problem. I was constantly telling the crowd to line up, have their cameras ready, have pen and autograph book ready to go, and that so-and-so had to leave in X minutes for a such-and-such adventure. And they heard me. Classically trained actor, thank you… yes I can project.

They got a countdown. “Leaving in 10 minutes…” in 7, in 5, 3, 2, 1. Last group. “Ok, Minnie has to get back to check on the cupcakes she baked for Mickey!” No one ever complained. They knew what was coming.

Change is inevitable. Companies need to change products or practices every now and then. That doesn’t mean it needs to be a surprise, especially when it’s an unpleasant one. These changes are always meant for the better, we need to know that. Give people the info — and something to look forward to.

“But don’t worry Minnie will be back in 20 minutes!” …and they was much rejoicing.

Do you have any stories of how transparency (or a lack thereof) has affected you?