I have noticed a strange phenomenon recently among service providers. Some of them seem to think that the mere fact of providing services to a customer for money creates an actual personal relationship with their customer.
A recent example of this phenomenon came to my attention when a friend got dumped via the following message from his personal trainer:
Hi mate. Just tried to give you a call. I think we should break up. :-). you’re right recently I have lost interest in training you. As a paying customer you deserve better than this. So rather than let this slide any further I think we should go our seperate [sic] ways before it gets bitter. I am completely happy to help you find a new trainer and info you need. If you want to discuss it give me a call. Sorry abut this but I think it is the best solution. — ‘Tommy the Trainer’
See the strange mix between the personal and the professional? For instance the smiley face at the end of a sentence saying “we should break up” as if there is some personal level to the relationship; or the notion that it might get “bitter” if the break-up does not occur now.
It’s fascinating. My friend thought he had a professional relationship with his service provider, whereby money was exchanged in return for guidance in a fitness workout. Clearly, by the nature of his communication, the service provider thought differently.
A professional services relationship, not bound by contract, could easily be severed by a quick phone call to say something along the lines of “a change in circumstances means that I’m no longer available to train with you”. Somewhat impersonal, but perhaps less confused in the message?
This highlights a real problem for marketers who are so in love with relationship marketing. What if your customers simply don’t want a relationship with you? What if your customers don’t even want a relationship with your brand or your product? What if they just was good service at a price they can live with?
Perhaps it is more important to think about the customer relationship from their point of view? Perhaps differentiation on features and benefits that customers care about is more important?
One thing that’s likely is that ‘Tommy the Trainer’ has just bought himself quite a bit of negative word of mouth advertising with that text message. It’s very likely that he’ll become the poster boy for bad PR in the local personal training scene in the leafy northern suburbs of Sydney.