Do customers want a relationship with brands?
“Relationship-building is the single biggest lie being purported right now.”
Last week, Adam Kmiec penned the line above while trashing the concept that customers actually want a relationship with a brand via social media. And he was right. Based on the way he defined relationship. But he he also compared the brand/customer relationship to romantic relationships and divorce. Last time I checked, brands aren’t asking customers to dinner and a movie with the hope of some late-night extracurriculars.
See, the problem is customers don’t give a crap how you define relationship. They don’t give a crap if you call interacting with them via social media a relationship. And they really don’t give a crap if you conduct that interaction with them via social media…unless it’s the way they choose to interact with the brand in question.
Here’s what I know…Customers want a brand to be personable, helpful and willing to say I’m sorry. Customers do not care what department you work in or what your internal process is to find an answer to their questions. They just want the answers. And they want a brand that is willing help them find those answers and act like a decent human being in the process. Sometimes they’ll ask for those answers via social media.
Is that a relationship? Maybe. For me, it’s more a brand positioning itself as a resource. Adam is right, we don’t need to be friends with our brands, necessarily.
Maybe the problem with the word relationship is it sounds too touchy-feely and too far away from another term that starts with r — ROI. We’ve all heard the case studies that show a correlation between brands that position the company as a resource via social media and overall bottom line success. Zappos and Blendtec, just to name a couple of my favorites.
But maybe talking about relationships isn’t the best way to show that connection to the bottom line. I could get on board with that argument. What I can’t get on board with is the idea that customers don’t expect brands to be personable and helpful via social media. And that they won’t show preference to companies that take the time to listen.
Come to think of it, that does kind of sound like a relationship, doesn’t it?