Customer Service

Hollywood Mentality Kills Common Courtesy
Tue., Mar. 19, 2019

Published by O'Dwyer's

By Rene Henry

Traditions and business practices change with generations, but in my opinion there's no
excuse for bad manners and a lack of good old-fashioned common courtesy. Since I retired,
much has changed in Hollywood and I don't believe all for the good.

Too many publicists, agents, producers, journalists and others in the entertainment industry
just don't realize it's rude and sometimes insulting to not promptly return phone calls or
respond to letters, emails and faxes. By doing so, publicists and agents do a disservice to
their clients. They don’t understand that how they respond reflects on their clients in a
positive or negative way.

There are more publicists than public relations professionals serving the industry today.
And, the professional practitioners who lack the savoir faire and understanding of politeness
as Henry Rogers (Rogers & Cowen), Emily Torchia (ICPR), Rupert Allen (ICPR) and Leslee
Dart (42 West). That’s probably why these four represented the biggest stars in show
business.
I had a project several years ago and sought positive quotes from well-known celebrities.
After getting no response from several actors’ publicists I became creative to get what I
wanted. I bypassed them and had friends at networks put my correspondence in interoffice
mail and also went through their parents and relatives. All responded with great quotes and
just what I wanted. Too many publicists today are just flacks.

Emmy-winning producer Don Ohlmeyer, Oscar-winning producer Frank McCarthy and
television executive Shelly Saltman wouldn't tolerate rude behavior. Many in the media are
guilty and could've learned well from Roderick Mann of the Los Angeles Times and Tichi
Wilkerson (later Miles and then Kassel) when she was at the Hollywood Reporter. Failure of
the editors at the Hollywood Reporter to respond to three recent emails prompted this
article.

To me, the epitome of professionalism and good manners was journalist and PR
professional Hank Rieger. He left United Press in Los Angeles after 20 years to head west
coast PR for NBC. Two times he was president of the Academy of Television Arts &
Sciences and had the vision to found the highly successful Emmy magazine. He also was
president of the Los Angeles Press Club, a consultant for ESPN from its inception and one
of a dozen very involved in helping bring the 1984 Olympic Games to Los Angeles. Rieger
had a way of personalizing all of his responses and had self-imposed time deadlines.

The most egregious example of unacceptable behavior that I've recently experienced is by
the head of a professional organization I’ve belonged to for more than 40 years. I first wrote
this individual on June 8 with a couple of questions as well as suggestions for improved
customer service. I followed up with a letter on August 2 in the event my letter was lost in
the mail. Finally, on September 5, I wrote her that throughout my career I never had to write
the paid staff head of an organization to which I belonged more than once to get a
response. I believe some would call her behavior malfeasant or derelict. I’m still waiting for a
response.

Until the era of junk mail, spam and robocalls, I had a policy of returning every letter, email
and call. During my career, job seekers sent me hundreds of unsolicited résumés and I
made a point of personalizing each response. This was during the days of the IBM
Correcting Selectric typewriter and there was no simple form to download from a computer
and modify for each response. It was gratifying to receive calls from some thanking me for
my encouragement and ideas. One individual later thanked me by becoming a profitable
client.

The computer, Internet, email and new technologies have made it so much easier to
communicate today but the reverse has happened. When was the last time you received a
handwritten note? Or someone thanked you for something you did? Event planners
complain that people don't respond and don't even know what RSVP means. Words like
"thank you," "please," "you’re welcome," "excuse me" and "I’m sorry" are missing from the
vocabularies of a generation. I attribute much of the problem to the proliferation of social
media and its negative impact on society.

***
Rene A. Henry spent six decades of his career in PR and is the author of 10 books. In
1975 he co-founded and was a managing partner of ICPR, Los Angeles, then the second
largest PR firm in the West with its business focused on entertainment. He is a long-time
member of both the Motion Picture and Television Academies and is past chair of the
College of Fellows of the Public Relations Society of America.
Category: Entertainment PR


Selected Op/Eds and Commentaries
To access any of the following, click on the headline ...

Hollywood Menality Kills Customer Service, March 19, 2019, O'Dwyer's  Newsletter
Traditions and business practices change with generations, but in my opinion there's no excuse for bad manners
and a lack of good old-fashioned common courtesy. Since I retired, much has changed in Hollywood and I don't
believe all for the good. ...

Customer Service Is Non-Exitent In Government, published by Huntington New Network, June 13, 2015, http:
//www.huntingtonnews.net/115801
Customer service is an oxymoron in government at all levels: federal, state, county and city. It is getting so bad that
soon it will be non-existent.  I applauded Rep. Henry Cuellar (R-Texas) when he recognized this and introduced the
Government Customer Service Improvement Act which passed the U.S. House of Representatives on September 11,
2012. His bill is a sad commentary on society today that legislation is needed to remind public servants to practice
good old fashioned common courtesy and to combat their rudeness, inefficiency and incompetency. ...

Silicon Valley Is Destroying Courtesy, Customer Service, published by Huntington News Network, May 19,
2013, and Jack O'Dwyer's Newsletter
The proliferation of social media and the almost daily introduction of new electronic devices are quickly destroying
good old fashioned common courtesy, the backbone of customer service.  I lay the blame on the tecchies in Silicon
Valley. They have created a generation of people who are all thumbs into their pads, pods, berries, and phones and
oblivious to the world around them...

Customer Service Sells for Cruise Lines, published by Huntington News Network, November 21, 2001
Crystal Cruises is another company that is proving my thesis that many people want and will pay more for customer
service. This cruise from New York City to Los Angeles on the company's Crystal Symphony is sold out and the
travelers are proving that even in a depressed economy or recession that they will pay extra for great customer
service ...

Customer Service Does Sell - Ask Ally Bank, Discover Card, published by Huntington News Network,
September 21, 2010
Customer service has virtually disappeared and is becoming an oxymoron at too many American companies.  
However, there are two believers who are not only winning new customers but raising the concerns of their
competitors. Ally Bank and Discover card believe consumers today want service and both are doing a great job
spoofing all of the negative stereotypes of other banks and financial institutions with clever and humorous television
campaigns....

Government Spokesmen Are Paid to Speak, published by O'Dwyers Public Relations News, April 30, 2008
Government spokespeople have an obligation to the taxpaying public to speak to the media when asked to do so. ..

Return Every Call, Answer Every Letter, published  by Huntington News Network, May 16, 2009; www.
odwyerpr.com, May 27, 2009; and CoSIDA Newsletter (College Sports Information Directors of America), May
22, 2009
Early in my career I had a mentor who told me to promptly return every telephone call and answer every letter.  It
was some of the best advice I've ever been given.  And, over the years, with new technology, I've added faxes and e-
mails to that list. ...

Customer Service Even More Important Today, published May 2009 by Automated Builder magazine
There is nothing magic about customer service.  It's just basic, common sense - street smarts.  Treat people the way
you want to be treated, only better.  Don't just meet, but exceed your customers' expectations. ...