Why Would Your Customers Resent You?

Article by , May 30, 2020

Is yours a transaction business, or a relationship business?

Most companies insist that relationships are a critical part of who they are. Consider actual behavior for a moment. What little impediments have you added to make your customers feel more like a transaction than a valued habitué? Do your policies help them? Do your KPIs reflect their genuine best interests, or yours?

Travel was once fun. We could run on the plane at the last moment and be welcomed by the flight attendant. We received a beverage, put our seats back a notch or two, and enjoyed the ride. Loyalty was not about complex, ever-changing points systems. It was earned through the experience.

Yes, 9/11 changed the airport part of the travel experience, but it didn’t narrow the seats, reduce leg room, add charges for seat selection or luggage or overhead bins and create a caste system. Airlines did that. We are no longer customers; We became product to be moved, not unlike that in the underbelly of the plane, but more demanding. Only Southwest stands apart in the United States.

Landing safely and somewhere near on-time became the measure of a good flight. Those are important but, like on-time delivery of quality products in manufacturing, the customer should be able to assume those.

COVID-19 pushed airlines into deep financial trouble. Even oil slipping into negative prices didn’t help. They asked governments for hand-outs to stay afloat.

Resentment of airlines thwarts support for financing bailouts. As the companies share their new cleaning processes, we wonder why dirt, trash and crumbs have been acceptable. They simultaneously announce new restrictions on food, beverages and bathroom use, allegedly to make us safer. Sounds like another permanent reduction in service.

Sales falling by 97% for a few months would kill many businesses, but not all. As individuals who live paycheck to paycheck are disparaged, companies apparently are not. Why wouldn’t a company have six months of expenses in reserve? Investment is fine, but only when it doesn’t interfere with day-to-day operational resilience. Liquidity was extensively used for stock buybacks. So now you want us to give you money?

What are the critical assumptions in your business model? How well have you defined the market you choose to profitably serve? Do you understand costs of complexity?

A model that requires each customer individually pay for each element of service and value results in coin-operated tables and WIFI at Starbucks® and restaurants, and dressing rooms at clothing stores.

Don’t wonder why people pay $4.50 for a cup of coffee at Starbucks. The company knows who its market is, what that market values, and they don’t worry about who used a table or the WIFI this trip. The company is happy only serving those who will pay prices that support its ethics. It truly is a relationship business, including the silly lingo that makes customers part of an in-crowd.

Starbucks’ customers do not resent the prices they are charged. They are willing to absorb a few minor up-charges for their mass customized drink, with five pumps instead of the standard four. They feel valued even in a long line.

Do not give your customers reasons to resent you. Instead deliver value that they won’t let a pandemic kill. Partners will support you through the tough times if they know you’ll support them through good times.

Is yours a transaction business, or a relationship business?