Imagine the following situation.
A man sees an attractive woman at a party. They talk and decide to have a few dates. After giving all the right signals for being a loyal, caring, trustworthy and relationship-oriented guy, he convinces her to spend the night. The next day he is gone and when she calls, it is clear he doesn't want to speak to her....
Three months later, they meet again at another party. The man has no memory of who the woman is and talks to her as if they meet for the first time. He even asks for her phone number because he thinks she's good-looking and perhaps they could go for dinner.
I think you'll agree that unless this gentleman was a truly exceptional lover, his chances of a sequel are pretty slim. Those of actually building a relationship are non-existent.
But when you think about it, this is exactly how many brands behave. They advertise, promote, seduce and sell to get us to trust and believe them. They want our loyalty. And once we have fallen for their charms, we get a box with product and a customer service number which doesn’t really want to return our calls.
What's more, the next time we enter the market place, those without an expensive CRM system, have forgotten all about us, yet don't hesitate to make the same proposition all over again.
Those with the expensive system do remember our name, but only in a transactional sense. They are the guy that disappears after that first night and shows up 3 months later with a bunch of roses, fully expecting things to pick up where they left off.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying things should always be serious. No-strings fun is always an option. But what amazes me is that, in spite of their behaviour, these same brands delude themselves by talking about customers loving them and building relationships.
After all, if they really care, why do I only hear from them if things are wrong or if they want to sell me something new?
Why doesn't anyone call me 2 weeks after I bought that new TV to see if I figured out all the buttons? Why don't I ever get an invite for a chat from the guys who sold me my car until my lease contract is up for renewal? Why don't they call me after I have - metaphorically - spent the night?
So if, in the past 12 months, you or your company have used words like customer love, intimacy or loyalty I would like to challenge you to consider whether the actions of your business reflect those of someone truly committed to building a lasting relationship, or if they are the moves of someone looking for a quick score.
If you can look in the mirror and confidently say it is the former, then I applaud you and strongly encourage you to stay the course. In fact, I'd love to hear from you for a case study (seriously).
If it is the latter, then don't be surprised if at some point you run out of customers to pick up and abandon. Because in the long run, that's what happens when you get the reputation of being a one night brand.
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.
Image via flickr