Musings while I was standing in line at a bank to pick up a letter that wasn't ready

Updated: Jun 6, 2019

If you’re like me, when you spend time or money with a business, you just want to feel like they appreciate you as a customer. I recently had yet another experience the Royal Bank of Canada, a company that is either trolling everyone or genuinely has checked out of doing the retail aspect of their business in The Bahamas. I was on a long line waiting to collect a letter (yes, an actual letter) consisting of 3 lines typed on regular paper that wasn't even ready to be collected. I think my hair grew about 1/4 of an inch during this time? Also, did I just spot a Motorola flip phone...?

This is what I wanted to do while I was on the line:

Instead, I decided to share my thoughts on the possible causes of this type of poor customer service.

Sometimes business owners with a monopoly that survives or thrives with a small local base of consumers do so, in part, because the market is typically not very competitive. Sooner or later, people will end up buying whatever you’re selling at whatever price you want to charge. These are what I call 'legacy customers'. They are your customers because they were always your customers but primarily because there just weren't a lot of other options.

The days of the legacy customer are numbered

The hallmark of decades ‘legacy customers’ is seen in some companies that don’t adapt their communication or customer experiences because there aren’t any real market forces at play. i.e. no major competition. They don't see the value of investing in their brand to make it authentic, keep it relevant to customers and differentiate it from the competition.

I also have a few questions for those companies that that change their campaigns frequently:

  • What is the strategy behind the communication and the marketing activities?

  • Are you really listening to what your customers want?

  • What value does the brand add?

  • How does it impact the lives of your customers?

  • Where are the emotional connections? 

Your brand is essentially a promise to the customer. It gives them cues about the quality of your offering and the type of experience they should expect to have with your brand. Of course, sometimes there are less subtle cues on the type of experience you'll have.

Here’s a quick cheat sheet I made to identify the signs displayed in a business that let you know that your experience will be less than awesome: 

  • “The customer is always right” - That’s usually the exact opposite of what will happen. 

  • “Customer service is our number one priority" - Yes, but only after the sales person or receptionist is done with her personal phone call. Or if it doesn't require her to do ANYTHING that's not in her "portfolio".

  • “It’s all about you” - Is it though? Because the service often says otherwise. 

  • Any sign for customers that starts with ‘Do not’ and ends with ‘signed management’ without a comma to spare between ‘signed’ and ‘management’. 

If you promise an amazing experience through your brand communication but the delivery is not consistent with that promise then the brand promise will be broken. And doing this continuously leaves the door wide open to competitors.

So what’s a brand to do?

The advance of technology, the break up of monopolies, ease of barriers to enter some industries and the major shifts in the global retail industry mean that market forces beyond brick and mortar are at play. This 2016 Interbrand study recommends three points to grow your brand and your business. 

  • Align your external and internal brand. If your external message is that you have certain core values and beliefs, it should be clear to your team and the customer experience should communicate that. 

  • Focus - Identify the brand’s strengths and weaknesses in order to leverage strengths and improve on weaknesses to grow your business. 

  • Action - Make the changes.

While consumers in small markets, particularly emerging markets, may not be activist consumers, they completely understand when an experience does not meet their needs. And with more and more global brands creating unique experiences, customer expectations about brand interactions are no longer what they were even five years ago. Customers want you to engage them, build emotional connections and reward their loyalty. Brands in small markets that do this will stand out from the competition, winning hearts and minds and importantly, wallets. 

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I'm a strategic marketing communication consultant who works with premium brands to tell compelling brand stories, guide perception, drive engagement and build loyalty to win hearts and wallets. Find out more about me at, follow me on Twitter @royanndean and Linkedin.

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