are you disconnected?

Having written an article previously about how connected we all are – please indulge me by answering the following questions:
• When is the last time a service attendant filling your car with petrol engaged you in conversation?
• When is the last time you felt connected to the person behind the counter at a counter service café?
• How many people no longer strike up a conversation with the checkout person in the supermarket – particularly given the self-service option we are being forced to accept?
On the other side of the equation:
• Do you remember going into the liquor store and having the owner greet you by name before telling you that the latest shipment of your favourite wine is coming in?
• Do you remember when the waiter in the café came up to you and struck up a conversation prior to taking your order and convincing you that cake was good for you?
• Do you remember when you stayed with the same bank for a few years because you had a personal relationship with the manager?
I am sure you can see where I am going with this. Well, consider these questions:
• Do you feel any connection to your local service station and is there anything other than location and/or price that keeps you going back?
• Do you feel any obligation to keep using a counter service café other than location and/or price?
• Do you feel any loyalty to your local supermarket – and do you go there for any reason other than location and/or price?
I will wager that your answer to these last three questions is no!
I will also wager that the owners of those businesses are asking themselves:
• How do we build brand loyalty?
• Why do they only come in when I discount?
• How do we attract a wider market?
The answer to all of these questions is ‘connection’ or more specifically ‘disconnection’. These businesses have sacrificed relationships to drive costs lower – leaving customers with little else to attract them other than location (convenience) and price (discounting).
Business has disconnected itself from customers and customers as a result have no relationship with the businesses they do business with.
I am not going to argue here that cutting costs and stripping out processes that cost money is not sound business practice. I will argue however that it kills relationships and leaves people disconnected from the business.
I would certainly argue that businesses that do this type of cost cutting need to find new ways to connect build relationships and develop loyalty – and it is not enough to:
• Install a loyalty programme.
• Tell customers that at your bank – ‘people answer the phone’.
• Bleat about the superior service (whatever that means) you offer.
These things are important – but they are not enough. They do not in themselves build relationships or loyalty. Loyalty cards are a bob a dozen. Automated phones are bad, but a person with no knowledge of you answering is not much better. Everyone claims superior service and few define or deliver it.
So, what strategies are you putting in place to maintain relationships and loyalty while you slash costs?

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