I've recently been reading Join the Conversation by Joseph Jaffe.
As most of you know, one of my many jobs at Humana is to design new products and services that consumers really want and need relative to their health. One of the challenges of that job is that most (OK, all) consumers of health insurance don't really think that they need anything from their health insurer except the prompt and accurate payment of their claims (and perhaps a lower premium!).
But the fact is that we, as the insurer, are in a position to be pretty helpful to people who are interested in health. That's why we've created programs like Games for Health that have been so well-received.
But I digress. I was talking about Joseph Jaffe. In one section of his book, Jaffe documents the exploits of a guy called Tom Locke who decided to write to a number of different companies to ask for free stuff. To nobody's surprise, most of them told him to jump in a lake - or just didn't respond. Jaffe posits that these companies were missing an opportunity to create a relationship with a devoted customer (or to create a devoted customer from one who was merely a customer before).
To be honest, I found myself being sympathetic with the companies who suggested that Mr. Locke should take a hike.
I think that Jaffe is right about one thing; companies should be able to recognize the customers who love them, and LOVE THEM BACK. Example: I'm not a crazy-shopper or anything, but I have found a kind of pen I really like. In fact, I liked the pen well enough to a) buy them on my own, because my company's supplier doesn't carry them; b) go to an inconvenient office supply store because they're the only place in Louisville who carries the pen and c) order 2 dozen refills from the ONLY online source for them (the manufacturer doesn't sell direct to consumers). I even created a page on Squidoo to tell the world about this pen.
The point of all this is that Zebra pens should definitely be loving me. But is there really any reason for Target to be loving Tom Locke? I'm not so sure, Mr. Jaffe.