Dear CMO,

Last weekend was Valentine. Together with many others, my wife and I celebrated the love that has come to define the 25 years that we’ve been together. But as we did, I also started thinking about that “other” relationship you tell me I should have. The relationship with your company. Your brand.

Reflecting on the way that you treated me over the past few decades, I could only conclude that in spite of all the process-overhauls, consultants, good intentions and business transformations, you don’t really care about me. You’re too addicted to your organizational silos, your KPI’s, your industry habits.

Yesterday, I had little choice but to put up with this. My choices were TV with ads, or no TV. Eat brand or eat cr**. Live with bad service, or don’t buy.

But today, things have changed. This is my age, and I do have a choice. For everything you sell I have alternatives which either cost less, or come with more service. In fact, I sometimes wonder whether I need to buy your stuff at all. So when last week one of your over-worked, under-trained and probably badly paid call centre employees pushed one of my wrong buttons, I snapped.

Today, I am calm again, but I am seriously considering a divorce. Not just because the kid on the other end of the phone didn’t know how to treat me, but for all the other reasons your brand keeps showing it doesn't really care about me. In case you forgot, let me sum them up one last time...

#1 You talk talk talk talk talk … and talk.

When I want to talk, you never listen. But when you have something to say, there’s no shutting you up. You interrupt my movies, my music, my life. Not for something valuable, but just to tell me about yet another life-altering product. And if I try to tune you out because I want a moment to myself, you just shout louder through another medium.

# 2 You don’t respect my privacy

When I visited your website, I didn’t give you permission to stalk me with adverts everywhere I go. And when, in a moment of weakness, I liked you on Facebook, this wasn’t an invitation to start harassing all my friends. And now we’re on the topic, why do you want to know my birthday as part of your data strategy? It’s not like you remember it?!

# 3 You take me for granted

There was a time when you created experiences which swept me off my feet. You turned my world upside down and sparks flew at every encounter. But as time went by, you invested ever less in surprising me. Today I don’t think you even try. But don’t be mistaken, I still want to be wooed. Not every day, but occasionally. And you’re simply not doing it.

#4 You only call if you want to sell me something

In fact, you make it even hard for me to call you. Before you’ll even talk to me, I have to enter all sorts of codes to explain what I want from you. And when after fifty rings you finally pick up, I’m put on hold, transferred and often rerouted to square one. Not to mention that every minute, you charge me for the privilege.

#5 You have a wandering eye

You know, it’s not like I mind that you’re promiscuous. You’ve got to make a living, and that’s fine. But I do mind that every new love in your life seems to get a better deal than I do. Last month you even started giving away for free something I paid for six months ago. And no, a discount voucher for my next purchase will not do the trick.

#6 Your love is conditional and hollow

It really makes me feel warm and cuddly to know that I’ve accumulated another 100 points towards that water heater I’ll be able to buy in 3 years. And by the time I get there you probably change the system so I lose most of my benefits anyway. This doesn’t feel like rewarding me for my loyalty, it’s just an optimised approach to get me to give me more of my money, but not give anything in return. Have you ever considered just saying thank you?

#7 You don’t know me

I don’t just mean that as a figure of speech. You REALLY don’t know me. I walk into your stores or onto your website and each time I come to the conclusion you forgot all about me. Who I am, what I like, what I bought last. And if I want your help, half the time I need to pull out our prenup to prove that my request warrants your attention.

#8 You only notice me when I threaten to leave

Last month, when I said I had enough and told you I didn’t want to buy from you any more, you suddenly took notice. In fact, you called me twice and offered me all sorts of benefits to stay. Things I didn’t even know you had. And while you almost had me fooled to come back to you, it was just too little too late.

# 9 You keep putting my stuff in different drawers

And now I think about it, there’s another thing that annoys the hell out of me. Every time I’ve gotten used to one of your products or propositions, you change it or outdate it by doing an upgrade. You claim this is for my own good. But you never asked me about it. If you had, you would have known that I actually “liked” things the way they were. That I didn’t want to “change”.

# 10 And then there’s all the other stuff you do

Like treating me like I’m stupid enough to believe that eating your cookies is going to make my family healthy and happy. Like using transparent ploys to get me to forward your viral jokes. Like making hollow promises which somehow don’t get fulfilled. Like …

So what do you say? I don’t want to be the lover scorned. If I’m really honest, I still want our relationship to work. And if you’ve read to this point, you probably still care. So here’s my challenge. I won’t leave, if you work with me.

If you truly start putting the interests of your customers - of me - at the heart of everything you do, I’ll give you another chance.

The production age is over. The customer age has come. Get with the times. Make it happen.

If you would like to know more about the topic of customer-centricity: get in touch, ask my colleagues at Futurelab, check out my book "So You Want To Be Customer-Centric?" or join the Linkedin group by the same name.

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