Don't Kill Them With Kindness

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How does your brand build a relationship with your customers?

There’s been a long-standing saying. It goes like this: Kill them with kindness. The brands who are nice, likeable, transparent and direct will win. It seems right. It feels right. It may be the wrong way to go. Case in point: My car lease was up recently. Like many of us, the process of buying or deciding on a new car is complex. While we’re all looking for the right car at the best price, I’ve also decided that a high level of service is critical for my personal choice. I want an engaged sales rep, a smart and empathetic service experience and the like. Now, in the world that we live, it’s not hard to see how these dealers rank, which sales reps to connect with (or avoid). Candidly, my experience was great. I’m satisfied. 

Still, they want more.

I was told by sales rep that I would be receiving a post sale survey by email, and that it’s very important that I fill it out. They then quipped that a “10/10 would be great and a 9/10 is considered a failure.” At first, I thought it was a toss-away line, they then went on… and asked me to commit that I would respond with a 10/10 for them and, if not, what they could do (live and in that moment) to get me there. I was taken aback, so I just confirmed that everything was fine. Like the rest of us, the emails pile in, and we tend to move matters like this down by the bottom. Sure enough, the follow-up survey came in. I took a quick peak, and they were requesting 30-45 minutes of my time. Yikes. I didn’t have time. The email sat there. A few days later a follow-up email. A day after that, another one. The next day, a call from the dealership. Another email. Then, a call from the sales rep asking when I might have the time to complete the survey, and how important it was to them. I felt guilty. Finally got to it. Then after 15 minutes, I realized there was no end in sight to the questions and details that they were requesting. I abandoned. More emails. More calls. The calls were not annoying. The emails were not rude. They were gracious, thankful and kind. Still. Eventually, I got through this survey. What came next shocked me. Two emails thanking me for completing it, and asking if there was anything else they could help with. That was then followed up by three phone calls (one from the dealership, one from the sales rep and one from the store manager).

Sometimes being overly kind is just as bad as being bad.

There is some kind of strange sales and marketing strategy in play. It’s actually, less of a “play” and more of a playbook. All digital communications and physical contact is following a script. You can feel it. You can sense it. It doesn’t make the brand look kind and caring. It makes it look like they’re trying to check some arbitrary internal boxes to ensure that they maintain their rating, and that bonuses can then be pursued. The effort didn’t seem to benefit the customer. It seemed to be in place as an engine of internal validation. Too bad.

Don’t confuse the brand needs from the consumer needs.

Surveys and follow-ups should be in place to better understand how to serve the consumer. Every touchpoint is an opportunity to build loyalty. If the real intent is selfish and, ultimately, to serve the brand, it will be noticeable. Brands often reach out in an effort to be helpful and kind. Often, the consumer finds it annoying and overbearing. Marketing is an orchestra. It’s many instruments that need to play in sync in order for it to be pleasing and engaging for the audience. It’s not easy. This brand did nothing “wrong.” They’re probably more engaged in customer service than most brands out there. Still, not leading this from it being a benefit to the consumer, but rather a way for them to validate themselves makes their kind efforts come off as trying too hard and sending way too much communication.

You don’t always have to kill your customers with kindness. You don’t want to overkill it.