Do companies really understand what relationships require?

Dr Nichola Raihani
University College London

Companies need to learn more about what reciprocity in relationships truly means. Evolutionary biologist Dr Nichola Raihani analyses the very one-sided view of relationships practised by many businesses and warns that people have expectations of fair treatment that companies ignore to their cost.

Personification. Humanisation. Consumer relationship marketing. Brands are increasingly exploring new ways to connect with consumers by developing relationships that persist beyond the immediate transaction.

The function of any relationship is to ensure repeated interactions. In the world of brands, this means ensuring consumers come back for more.

For example, in response to criticism that the brand 'lacked emotional attachment, personality and flair', Eurostar recently rolled out its flagship 'Avantage' customer service training programme. As the head of the programme put it: "We need to have loyalty in a competitive world, so people come back to us and feel a strong bond with Eurostar." How successful is this approach?