Netflix CEO’s humble pie email is exemplary for corporate America

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The CEO of Netflix has sent an email to customers that serves as a shining example of how big business can do a great deal to start to rebuild reputations by simply being humble.

“I messed up. I owe everyone an explanation,” the email from Reed Hastings begins. “It is clear from the feedback over the past two months that many members felt we lacked respect and humility in the way we announced the separation of DVD and streaming, and the price changes. That was certainly not our intent, and I offer my sincere apology. I’ll try to explain how this happened.”

As you probably know, people went bonkers when Netflix unbundled its mail and streaming service and pushed through a 60% price hike for the combo of the two back in July.

The company has seen erosion in subscribers and its stock has been pounded in the wake of the misstep. But the greater damage was that the company’s hard won reputation as a fan favorite was ruined in a moment.

I think Hastings’ apology move is a classy one. And though I can’t tell the future, I believe it’s important for the health of the company that people not dislike them, so this is a good step in that direction. A CEO communicating in a humble way is so important.

The Japanese have a totally different corporate culture. When a company messes up over there, the CEO personally apologizes because it’s his (or her) name on the door. I think a little more of that kind of humble pie from impersonal U.S. corporations would go a long to restoring trust in corporate America.

As far as Netflix goes, the price changes they put in place back in July are baked in the cake: You’ll still pay one bill for streaming and a separate bill for DVDs through the mail. My family has opted for the streaming only and we rent $1 DVDs from RedBox if we can’t get something we want online.

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