smith+co on
customer experience
Shaun Smith
  • By Shaun Smith
  • Feb 19 2014

How much are you loved?

Now that the hype of Valentine's Day has passed, we thought it a good idea to quietly reflect on the very nature of relationships.

Every brand wants a relationship with its customers. We want them to like us; even love us, and love only us - forever. Customers too want to be loved, but do they think about their interaction with a brand as a relationship? It seems they do. The annual Edelman survey found that increasingly customers are choosing brands on emotional and relationship-based criteria. Customers in the future will choose their brands like they do their partners.

Let’s explore this a little further. What if we were to take the criteria used to judge human relationships and apply these to brands?

In the run-up to Valentines Day, the media was full of ‘Do you love your partner - and does he/she love you?’ quizzes. Trust, honesty and feeling valued and understood all featured predominantly.

Not surprisingly, these are also the fundamental ingredients for a great customer experience. So, inspired by these, we’ve put together a few simple questions of our own that can be applied to the relationship that you, as a customer, may have with a brand. And who better to take the test as your imaginary loved one, than that old smoothy - your bank.

Do you feel that you partner values you?

Banks are not shy when it comes to values. Their websites, their literature, their leaders - are full of them. At least when it comes to professing them. They are a veritable Romeo to the customer’s Juliette when it comes to declarations of intent - but do they really put the customer at the heart?

An interesting survey conducted by The Financial Brand a few years ago did a brief analysis of the common values shared by 50 banks. The most common core values cited by banks are depicted in the Wordle diagram below. The more common the value, the larger it is (the colors don’t mean anything).

So where does the focus on you, the customer, appear? Ok, integrity is important but it is like saying you want a pilot who is professional or a surgeon who is sober. We expect it; it doesn’t lead to our having a valued relationship with them.

Do you trust your partner to be loyal to you?

Long-term commitment. That’s what relationships are based on. And what’s the exact opposite? Well here’s Wikipedia’s definition of a one-night stand:

’..... A single sexual encounter with no implication of further relations between participants. This is regardless of whether a one-night stand was originally intended by either participant to be a one-night stand, or whether further relations between the participants subsequently arise. The term has been defined by critics as “sexual activity without emotional commitment or future involvement”

Sound familiar? The way that many brands, particularly banks, market credit cards for example, encourages promiscuity rather than loyalty. The benefits decline rapidly once you are through the courtship period.

Do you trust your partner to be honest with you?

The promises we make to each other, and the promises we keep….

February 2013 - Barclays introduced a new corporate brand promise “To help people achieve their ambitions in the right way”

February 2014 - Barclays pays bonuses of £2.4 billion to its top bankers, despite slump in profit.

Nice promise; wrong people.

Do you feel that you and your partner communicate openly and that you can discuss your feelings and the things that are important to you?

So imagine you’ve been in a relationship for 20 years, and during that time your partner has never asked you about your feelings, your hopes, your likes and dislikes?

Not totally unheard of in the world of banking. Take for example, one of my colleagues, who had been stuck in a dead-end relationship with her bank for 20 years. Even when the marketing whizzes told her that they were with her ‘For The Journey’, strangely enough, they never stopped once to ask her where she was going.

So when the bank announced its split from TSB last year, she was really rather touched when the bank’s ‘Welcome to the new Lloyds Bank’ brochure landed on her doorstep. ‘At last’, she said…..



“What can we do for you?” the brochure said; she is still waiting to be asked. But then, rhetorical questions are so much easier to answer.

So are there any eligible partners out there?

A few. One of the banks that has ‘felt the luurve’ is First Direct. It has not only achieved the highest Net Promoter Scores in its sector, but more importantly, has happy customers writing about their relationship.

So how much are you loved?

For more on delivering your brand promise and creating experiences that customers love, take a look at our Customer Experience Knowledge Bank