“As you journey through life, take a minute or two to think of the other fellow: He may be plotting something.” – Hagar the Horrible

I love a beautiful sunrise as much as the next guy. But you’ve got to draw the line when that sunrise comes with a price. In my case, that price involved waking up on a Saturday morning earlier than I do during the week so I could go through the inevitably painful process of getting my driver’s license renewed.

This particular trip seemed adamant on throwing in every imaginable bureaucratic cliché. There were over 100 people waiting in line for the place to open. It did so twenty minutes late. There were only three available booths. Seven were closed. And I had to get stuck behind the guy who kept failing the eye test despite being granted multiple attempts.

Fixing the system doesn’t seem all that complicated. A combination of separate entrances for separate objectives, more staff who take pride in what they do (and less who unabashedly yap away on personal phone calls), and longer operating hours on the weekends (08:00 to 10:00 seems ridiculous) would all help restore efficiency to what probably used to work well. But will that ever happen? Complaining about problems in education or healthcare gets noticed; something like this might not. And so we simply accept the red tape as a fact of life and do our best to move on.

Since this blog isn’t for political rants, I’ll phrase the question like this: Does it matter if consumers hate your service if they have no other choice? I like to believe it does. The fact that the global economic adjustment has seen many established businesses crumble doesn’t mean the incumbents won’t be tossed aside as soon as things get better and new players come along. It’s the same with contracts. Something tells me I’m not the only one who’ll switch mobile phone providers as soon as the overpriced package expires. There are probably thousands of consumers held hostage by hundreds of brands suffering the same quiet revolt and on the verge of suddenly breaking free.

To Your Shelf Be True

The same thing happens every time you go to a store and find your desired brand out of stock. I always find it amusing how they apologise for the “inconvenience” caused. Either that or they don’t even realise someone wanted something that wasn’t available because they incorrectly assume that an empty shelf means a perfect match between supply and demand. And so, instead of making a fuss about it (which would be a good thing simply because it would make them realise they’re missing out on more sales) some go elsewhere, find a better deal, and never come back. Or perhaps they’ll simply drift from one to another because their choice isn’t important and their feelings aren’t strong either way. Whatever works at the time wins.

Brands need to understand that just because we’re using them does not necessarily mean we want to. They also need to understand that just because we aren’t using them, does not necessarily mean we don’t. Some banks are very good at this. They’re prepared to offer attractive options to students and graduates in the hopes that attracting new customers and building these relationships now will prove worthwhile in the future. And even once they’ve established that connection, they continue to reward it because they know that doing so has an effect on all. They understand that loyalty (which is mostly about behaviour) isn’t the same as commitment (which is about deep connections in the mind). If only governments were as smart.

(For more, see 'How Effective Are Loyalty Reward Programs in Driving Share of Wallet?', Journal of Service Research, Vol. 9, No. 4, 327-334)