the myth of brand loyalty in modern times

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There was a time when the consumers were duly respected for being loyal. Let’s talk about good old days when the technology based services were not available. We would usually buy stuffs from fixed shops or providers. Like I remember having the same milkman and newspaper hawkers, or going to the same grocery or apparel shops for years.

In no time, this used to build a bond so strong that, even if we delayed repaying the bills even for few month due to certain reasons they would not stop delivering milk or newspapers. Even the shopkeepers used to give credit even when not asked for. I remember often when I had to buy something, and I find myself short on cash, shopkeeper uncle would say “koi baat nahin kal de jana” (don’t worry, pay me the next time you visit).

Now with high dependency on online services, that bond is broken with the mindset of saving as much money as possible. Still that inculcated behavior comes into play very often. Like most people prefer one service over the others even by paying a little higher amount. Like I often buy groceries from bigbasket, even if amazon or grofers are providing the things bit cheaper.

However, I realized, these companies don’t really care about you the way old school providers did, no matter how long you have been associated with them. Recently, I ported out of Airtel after being on the network for about 6 years on my current postpaid plan (17 years overall). I had been asking them for shifting to a lower value plan, but they would say “family plan” can not be changed to “individual plan” (which was the lower rental plan available back then). Every time I call them they will tell me “new plans are coming up soon”, and that again shamelessly, even when I requested a port out just a few days back. An additional amount on already inflated “unlimited calls” plan, for calling “special” customer care numbers, was my tipping point. Though they offered me a flat waive off in next bill, but no thanks. I mean, enough is enough.

This is not a single odd incident. This has been the pattern all along. Earlier last year when I closed my 7 years old citi bank account, they didn’t even bother to ask why I am terminating the association. In another incidence couple of years ago, Ola had banned me from making new bookings citing the reason “I had been frequently cancelling the ride”. I had been cancelling the ride at the airport because it was again and again pairing me with the same driver who was like 40mins away. I had been using the service frequently enough from last 5-6 years for them to know I was not a bot, and that day ola left me stranded in the middle of the night by banning me from making further bookings.

While certain companies do care about their services in general, like ola had otherwise been helpful on other occasions, so have been Zomato, Swiggy, Amazon and other providers, but the fact of the matter is, your being a new customer or a 10-15 year old loyal customer does not make much of a difference for them. At least that has been my experience so far.

To conclude, I would say two things. One, don’t just abandon your good old local offline service providers in favor of cheaper services of online companies, at least not until you have very strong reasons to do so. Two, you don’t need to oblige to these service providers, because when the time comes, they wont, no matter what, because for them, you are just a customer-id, not a real person 😉

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