Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Mistaking customer inertia for customer loyalty

Take the case of a health insurance brand. Ten years back it had an attractive product covering an entire family's health at an attractive premium which consumers lapped up. Every year, the company would increase the premium corresponding to the age and the consumer would pay up noting the 'no-claims' gain.
The brand did not communicate regularly with the consumer except sending the odd birthday emailer intermittently. The only thing that was regular was a premium reminder and methods of auto-renewal which the customers wisely refuse.
Ten years passed by. The health insurance brand begins to believe the customer will remain with it no matter what. "We have exemplary service! we return claims fastest. We permit cashless transactions. We have the widest network!"
Emboldened the brand launches a TVC in which it highlights the gritty nature of its consumer and lauds his spirit. "We understand your spirit and will to run a marathon in the Siberian cold. We're here for You! Attaboy!"
The brand now begins to believe in its own story more than the customer. "This is our brand, these are its values, its tone is helpful, understanding etc." The customers watches mutely, not registering the brand or its message, not even knowing that he has a policy from that brand.
Hubris sets in. "Customers will pay a premium for our superior service and polite call-centers!" Believing in its own self-indulgent world, the brand does the unthinkable. It raises its premium.
The customer is shocked to receive a premium intimation that's double the expected amount. First thing he does is to call at the helpline. This is what he hears: "You've enjoyed our superior service for so many years! you should pay up!"
"What service? I never used it! I haven't interacted with you for 10 years except to pay the premium! Is this how you reward me by doubling my premium?"
"Sorry sir" the haughty voice replies, "We aren't like the others, if you fall ill you'll realize how well we take care of you."
After 10 years the customer is jerked out of his inertia and makes a few calls. In today's world options are dime-a-dozen. He gets many cheaper options, spends no time in shifting. The due date passes by and the brand makes frantic calls, "You haven't paid! you're putting your health at risk!"
Nope, dear brand you have.
The ease with which people are replacing their toothpastes, groceries, noodles, soaps, shampoos etc. from MNC brands and their duplicate desi versions to a young upstart company like Patanjali underscores this point.
Maruti and Hyundai service stations, famous for their humongous service bills are finding their customers driving to Mahindra First Choice Any Car Service which offers an equally good service and has a very transparent billing system.
Brands make the terrible mistake of considering customer inertia for loyalty and begin taking their customers for granted. "Customers will pay a premium, Customers connect with us. Customers love us." Brands, hide behind these empty statements do nothing to continuously demonstrate the worth they place on their customers. Finally they make the terrible mistake of overcharging their customers. The customer accepts small changes or if there's no option s/he bears it. However the moment there's an option, they switch.
Don't take my word for it. Simply go by the reactions of Vodafone and Airtel to the launch of Jio.
Today a brand has to continuously adapt and change to keep offering new benefits to consumers. Don't seek loyalty when you've not done anything to deserve it.