Is it really all about the best service at the cheapest price?

Posted by John Aves

Speaking at Advertising Week Europe Philippa SnareCMO of Microsoft UK, dismisses the idea that consumers want to be champions of brands because of an emotional connection. She asserts she doesn’t want an emotional relationship with her insurance company and says that consumers are just interested in the best service at the cheapest price. Does that mean those of us who have working to help companies figure out ways of creating competitive differentiation and consumer mindshare have had it wrong all along?

I don’t think so. Philippa has missed the point on at least three counts:

First she criticises brands for looking for an emotional connection “at the expense of a useful service”. No one in their right mind would suggeEmotional-Connectionsst the choice is either/or. Those companies that manage to turn their customers into real fans provide something that is useful because it meets a consumer need and at the same time strikes a chord and drives aconnection with the consumer beyond the functional. In other words they do both.

Is it really all about the best service at the cheapest price as Philippa would have us believe? Not according to research published in January 2015 by the UK Institute of Customer Services. In a study covering 10,000 consumers across 13 sectors they found that “most customers won’t sacrifice service simply to get a cheap deal”. The ICS found that:

  • 23% of customers are prepared to pay a higher price to get superior service.
  • 62% are looking for a reasonable balance between price and service.
  • 15% are prepared to compromise service for the cheapest deals.

Thirdly Philippa implies there are many sectors that are just not exciting enough to be able to create an emotional connection and she cites her insurance company relationship to prove her point. Lets talk about insurance for a moment. Like most people, I do not want to buy insurance. I resent having to pay for cover which, over the years, I have rarely had to call upon.

However, a year ago when I was in the process of moving house, most of my worldly possessions were lost in a fire when they were in the hands of my removal company. At the time of the fire I most definitely did want an emotional relationship with someone….anyone, at my insurance company. Instead all I got was conflicting advice about the scale of the cover I had in place, buck passing between my insurance company and the removal firms insurers and a lengthy delay before I received any compensation at all – and no other help of any kind. Not a single person even said sorry to hear about what has happened.

So whilst I do not want a cosy relationship with my insurance company when all is well, I do expect them to pull out the stops in my hour of need instead of focusing on rules, regulations and seemingly, quibbling about anything to avoid them taking responsibility and helping. Was that emotional for me. You bet it was and I have told many hundreds of people about my situation and the insurance insurance companies I had to deal with.

The case for differentiation through emotional connection is so strong that I am left wondering why the CMO of Microsoft UK seems to hold this view. Could it just be old fashioned jealousy because arch-rival Apple has so many more people who love their brand?