Good customer service – what we should all be aiming for. Attracting and keeping our customers, ensuring they come back time and again.

However, data, algorithms and perhaps marketing people who don’t quite understand how to use them are resulting in many good customers being turned off and turned away. Not because the product or service is poor, but rather because the marketing or “relationship marketing” is anything but. This isn’t about impolite or disrespectful behaviour. Rather it’s the overkill of “great service” that is turning loyal customers away.

Here’s a couple of examples


(1) I’ve got a good brand of car. I’ve been loyal to the brand for some ten years. Typically I buy new and replace every 2 years. This time, after a visit to the dealership and a test drive, I felt it was not worth the change, the price had increased by 20% over two years, and so decided to hold on to my current car. But of course I’d already shown an interest in the new car, so both the dealership and the brand were not going to leave me alone. I was inundated with a stream of emails, letters and phone calls, all imploring me to take up the latest fantastic deal on a new car.  I was obviously not a loyal customer with a history, rather just another prospect to be mined.

But I wasn’t actually leaving the dealership.  I had taken out a three year service plan when I’d originally bought the car. The car needed servicing and so I returned to the dealership. Not a wise move. After the service I was bombarded with another round of marketing communications, promoting their fantastic service plans. Problem was, I already had one. By about the fifth phone call I started to get mildly angry. You can’t get abusive with the person on the telephone who is just doing his/her data generated job. But why nobody seemed to listen to what I had said or used the data to see whether I had a service plan is beyond me. And the company just did not leave me alone. Chasing me everywhere, mobile; emails; letters. The only way I could see to stop this was to look up the marketing manager’s name, track him down on LinkedIn and politely tell him perhaps his relationship marketing wasn’t anything of the sort. Communications have now ceased.


(2) I visit Dubai a few times a year on business. I always stay at the same hotel. It’s a good hotel, nice rooms, nice pool, pleasant staff and so on. They’re always trying to build their relationship with me whilst I’m on site through “great service”.  But their definition of “great” borders on the sycophantic.  When I return to the hotel at the end of the working day I have to run the “reception gauntlet”.  I will probably be politely accosted by five or six people between that door and the lift (elevator). Each person welcoming me to the hotel (even though I’ve been staying there for a few days), inviting me to check in (that’s because I have a bag full of work stuff with me) and generally trying to find out if there’s anything they can do. It’s a relief to press the floor button.  At breakfast it’s even worse. I love the hotel’s breakfast, a great way to start the day. But I don’t need two waiters hovering around my table so that the second I put a spoon down somebody comes to clear it away. I don’t need waiters asking me every five minutes whether my breakfast is OK.

What am I asking of these providers, both whom I highly rate, both to whom I am brand loyal?

Please leave me alone, not all the time but maybe 75% of the time. I want them to save on their communications and training budgets.

We are customers. We don’t want to set up home with our providers!  We just want good, efficient and friendly service. We want it at appropriate times, not all the time.

Which takes me back to relationship marketing. Relationship building is vital to business sustainability and customers like to be a valued part of those relationships. But it’s got to be done on a more equitable basis. So if you’re managing in consumer facing businesses, just remember that the key performance indicators you might be setting for your teams – the number of people contacted, smiled at etc. during the course of one day, week or year, might actually be causing dissatisfaction, might actually be compromising customer relationships.

So how should businesses reflect on their relationship building activity?

  1. Use data properly – make sure your databases include all the information about your customers.
  2. Appoint a customer data champion – someone who creates systems which don’t make your customers believe that you really have no idea about who they are/what they purchase.
  3. In customer facing businesses make “customer service” a heart felt way of working, not a quasi scientific process.
  4. And, of course, put yourself in your customer’s place. It will make you think. It will make you change.


Market Echoes can help you take a common sense approach to your customer relationships. Please get in touch.


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