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What job boards can learn from NetFlix about listening, communication, and humility

NetflixNetFlix has been busy in the past few months. First they effectively jacked up prices by charging separately for streaming and traditional DVDs. Then they launched a 2nd site for those of us who chose to continue receiving DVDs.

Um, what? Did I ask for any of this? Did they even try to break it to me softly.


So I did what hundreds of thousands of others did. I dumped streaming and started looking into alternative DVD options. After several weeks and lots of public abuse, Netflix threw in the towel – at least on part of the changes. Qwikster is no more.

Now, NetFlix is a success story – at least until pretty recently. They had a great idea, they executed well, and they delivered good value for the money. So where did they go wrong?

A) They quit listening to their customers. Instead, they looked at their numbers, which said that the status quo was hurting their profits. You know, most customers can be reasonable about such things – if they know what’s going on. But…

B) They quit communicating with their customers. First, you stop up your ears. Then you stop talking. Pretty soon, you look like you’re out of touch…which you are. NetFlix learned this the hard way. Nevertheless…

C) They became infected with ‘we’re so successful, how could anything we do be wrong?’ disease. After all, they had been ‘winning’ for a long time. How could they possibly make 1 – or 2 – wrong decisions? And that streaming technology is just so cool, how could any of their customers NOT want it?

I think that job boards (and really, anyone in recruiting) could learn a few things:

  1.  Bleeding edge can be painful. OK, streaming may not be bleeding edge to you – but I bet it is to at least a large percentage of NetFlix customers. Think about this before you try to cram a new technology down your customers’ throats.
  2. Listening is hard – and important. Sometimes it means asking questions you don’t want to hear answered (like “does our user experience suck?”). But if you don’t listen, you’re telling your customers they’re unimportant – and you’re cutting yourself off at the knees.
  3. Communicating is best done frequently, honestly, and repetitively. So what if you have to say something 3 or 4 times for your customers to hear? The same is true with your teenager, yet you don’t give up on him (I hope). Tell them what you’re doing, and why. And don’t dump it on them all at once.

Humility can help you out. It’s hard to ignore your customers AND push your own agenda if you’re truly cultivating humility.

Think about it.

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