I came across The Information a year or so ago by following links from Techmeme. It was a subscription site with reporting and stories from the world of tech. I subscribed to the free trial, but then did not pay the $399 annual fee to continue the subscription. I thought the relationship was over – and for a time it was. A few weeks ago, “The Information” reactivated the relationship by sending me daily updates on the Creator Economy. And as I got used to reading those, it made me an interesting offer: to continue, would I like to subscribe for the first year at a 50% discount? I agreed, and The Information and I had started a new relationship. They probably don’t know anything more about me than an email ID. I hope they get to know me – the cost of losing me after a year will be almost $400 a year!
All The Information needed to do to maintain the relationship was a few well-crafted emails that would probably have cost them less than a few cents through the interim when I had not yet activated a paid subscription. This is true for every brand and yet so few do it. Most don’t even notice when we move on – and of course, by then it is too late.
My son switched his phone from Samsung to Apple recently. Samsung doesn’t even know. They never got to know him when he bought the phone a couple years ago, and they don’t know now that he has moved on. Why would they not work harder after making such great products to build a relationship with the very people for whom they are building? Yes, there are hundreds of millions of such customers, but surely, ignoring them and not even making an effort to create a digital relationship cannot be the standard operating procedure.
Vodafone hasn’t even noticed that I, a huge consumer of their data once upon a time, barely use their data service. If they check their records, they will find me a loyal customer for 20+ years – who duly postpaid for their highest data slab. Now, two years have gone by, and I hardly have any data consumption. No alarm bells? No calls, messages or emails to inquire? Obviously, I have switched data to a second SIM (Jio, in my case). Will it be long before I port my number also? It would probably cost Vodafone a rupee a month to create a beautiful relationship with me, but…
About two-and-a-half years ago, we moved on from our Honda Accord – and Honda probably doesn’t even know it. They never really got to know us. Their service centre had my wife’s mobile number, but that’s about it. They never knew me or my son – all of us who made a say in the decision about the next car. And Honda and we were together for so many years. Did they get to know us as a family? All they had to do was to ask. They could have built such a beautiful relationship – telling us about their cars and more. If they had asked, we would have told them how much the car was part of our lives, how much we loved their leg space in the rear seats, how much we wanted to get a new Accord. They don’t even know, but we had even visited one of their new tech centres in Tokyo during one of our vacations! But, they don’t even have my email address, because they did not ask. A few rupees invested in a relationship, and perhaps they could have persuaded us to stay with the brand.
The fields of broken relationships are full and getting fuller by the day – like landfills in the world. They don’t have to. The choice is with brands and marketers, and so far most of them are voting for the new rather than the ones who are with them. They are in a game they cannot win – as precious profits are handed on a platter to the tech giants in search of more, rather than as rewards to the ones who can actually give them more.