This is my favourite topic and, in the same breath, my pet piss-off point. My two insurance agents are like Santa Claus. They come visiting once a year when they have to collect their premium cheques. Through the year, they are nowhere to be seen.
They know I am alive purely because a claim hasn't been made. They have no idea about what's going on in my life. Worse still, they have scant knowledge about my kids or wife. As a result, they have lost business that they could have got had they not waited for their annual sleighs to be delivered to their doorsteps.
Banks are worse. Typically, and you can check this out, any branch manager of a bank makes two calls a day. One to address a customer crib. And the other to cross-sell a product. Hawk-like, all they do is keep an eye on your balance and the moment they see a bob of extra cash in the pot, they come armed with another investment option. Besides that, not a single call to ask whether you're well or whether they can be of any use.
I have often wondered about the origin of this customer apathy. More so, given the fact that you have oodles of your customers' money in your coffers.
There are other categories that are equally tardy. Real estate. Have you ever got a call from your builder after you've bought your home?
Increasingly, blokes like the ones in insurance companies and banks must understand that having a relationship manager and having a relationship are two different matters. They have to come to terms with the fact that the data that they acquire when they opened your account or commenced a "relationship" is about 20 years old and needs some dusting and spring-cleaning.
My banker doesn't even know the ages of my children. How cool is that?
So what really is the point one wishes to make? The fact that all brands are relationships. They require constant conversations, the odd seduction, the little surprises and some TLC.
Had they not made the entire process of changing your number into a thesis in astrophysics, number portability will be an excellent example of how customers will be ruthless with those who don't care.
Indeed, in my estimation, the time has come to understand a defining moment in consumerism.
Customer care can no longer be a division in a company. Customer care is the brand on offer.
The writer is CEO, Equus Red Cell.