Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Loyalty is a mug’s game, apparently - all of the institutions I’ve supported want rid of me!

There’s a news item today about how customers who’ve stayed with big energy companies have lost hundred of pounds by not switching to another supplier. That seems to sum up modern Britain – businesses, churches and political parties are absolutely obsessed with attracting new customers while assiduously ignoring or actively antagonising existing ones (what used to be called "loyal customers", but are probably now referred to in interal memoranda as "mugs"). Over the last few years, my political party, my church, my daily newspaper and my bank have all given the impression that they can't wait to see the back of me.

Yesterday, I wrote about the ongoing suicide of the newspaper I’ve read - except when I’ve been abroad - every day for the last 28 years (here). In what is presumably an effort to reach out to younger, less right-wing readers, The Daily Telegraph has got rid of just about every journalist who was worth reading, has wantonly destroyed what was once the liveliest online blog section of any British newspaper, and seems to be desperately trying to turn itself into a news-lite rag for young metrosexual urbanites of a vaguely Cameroonian persuasion who think politics is, like, a bit of a drag, yeah? (Oh, hey! A gallery of celebrity-selfies-of-the-year - cool!) It’s as if its management can’t wait for the vast majority of its existing readership – i.e. traditional conservatives past the first flush of youth – to bugger off.

In this, the Telegraph is simply following in the footsteps of the Conservative Party under David Cameron, which has spent much of the past decade seemingly intent on alienating its core voters by supporting policies such as gay marriage, positive discrimination, and all manner of green bollocks. This has gone down extremely well, of course, leading to membership halving since Cameron became leader, a failure to win an election against the worst prime minister in living history in 2010, and, currently, the inability to gain a consistent lead in the polls against a Labour leader who makes Michael Foot look like a superbly effective campaigner. For the next 12 weeks, Cameron will be making right-wing noises as he desperately tries to tempt traditional Tories back into the fold. Today, the man who appalled loyalists by setting his face against grammar schools, has suddenly decided they’re a jolly good thing after all– well, I’m as convinced by this grotesquely cynical volte-face as every other Tory deserter will be. It’s as if a former friend who’s spent years dissing you behind your back, refusing to invite you to parties, and blanking you when you meet in the street suddenly turns round one day and bellows, “Mate, how have you been? It’s so great to see you! Where've you been hiding?” I don’t know about you, but my reaction would be to tell them to go and do one.

As for the Church of England – where to start? To be fair, it was a Tory-loathing, Labour Party PR agency when I became a regular churchgoer just over 20 years’ ago. But – fool that I am – I rather hoped that, with the demonic Thatcher out of the way, it would eventually become a more inclusive, tolerant organisation, aware of the political sensibilities of the majority of its membership, and willing to make some attempt to show sensitivity towards those of us who aren't minded to swallow the crude, babyish notion that Jesus was a sort of prototype Guardian-reading leftie social services director. But how wrong I was! Yesterday, The Church of Latter-Day Marxists issued a 52-page booklet packed with their standard socialistic cant, and loftily informed the Prime Minister that Thatcherism was dead (which probably didn’t come as a great surprise to him, given that he helped murder it). Last week, the Church made references to Satan in its services optional in order to render them more “accessible” (to whom, God alone knows). Not surprising, really, because who needs Satan when you’ve cast Mrs. Thatcher as Beelzebub for all eternity? If the Church is – as it claims - politically neutral, why does it expend so much energy anathematising conservative and right-wing beliefs? Let’s face it, if you’re in favour of the free market, you’re going to hell (not that hell exists, of course – mustn’t scare off potential converts by coming over all authoritarian and judgmental).

As for my bank, which I’ve been with for an uninterrupted 44 years, I only remain a customer in order to annoy them (and because I really can't be arsed to shift my account to a rival outfit who would no doubt treat me with similar indifference) – they’ve spent years making me feel as if they’re doing me some sort of favour by accepting my money and paying me derisory interest on it. I suppose it’s never having been overdrawn and never having asked for a loan that makes them so utterly uninterested in my custom. (ME: “Yes, you might be able to help. I was wondering if you had any accounts offering a better rate of interest than I'm currently getting.” CUSTOMER SERVICES ADVISOR: “Er…” Long sigh. “Not really.” ME: “Would you recommend I invested with someone else?” CSA: Another sigh. “Well…”)

Look, I'm 62, which means I might be around for another twenty years. I've paid off the mortgage, I'm in the black, I'm a Christian, and my political views aren't in the least extreme. Is it really not worth anybody's while to be nice to me for a change?


  1. I'd say Amen to that but, well...

    My bank is the same (Lloyds - in case the bastards are reading). I was standing in a branch the other day staring around while someone attempted to pay off the national debt in pennies, when I suddenly realised it was only interested in female customers. All of its advertising and marketing was aimed at younger women. All of it.

    Energy companies - check. Phone companies - check. The National Trust - check. Car makers - check. It's a long list.

    The funny thing is that business research has shown over and over again that the most important thing a business can do is hold onto its existing customers as they are unbelievably cheap. It is marketing and advertising to get new ones that costs money, so a business should begin by nurturing the supporters it already has.

    It's amazing how many businessmen know bugger-all about business. Archbishops and bishops included.

    1. I suspect the real problem is that companies set themselves up to generously reward employees who sign up new customers. It's the sort of go-getting, dynamic, testosterone-fuelled, hard-sell, manly, easily-measurable activity that gives executives a sense of purpose, and allows them to report impressive pro-active-sounding headlines at board meetings. "Wow, the customer acquistion section has really been balls-out this quarter - treble bonuses all round!" Rewarding employees for not losing customers sounds a bit passive and girlie, given that it requires doing essentially unmanly housewifey stuff like nuturing and caring and listening and generally being nice to people. When it comes to the Conservative Party and the Church, though, I suspect it's more to do with the ever-widening gap between the political views of the leadership and the members - we're just not left-wing enough for our masters' tastes. We're an embarrasment to them.

      The most successful company in the world currently is Apple, and they reached that position by acting as if they actually liked their customers and were willing to listen to our concerns. They achieved this by designing things with us in mind, and by employing nice, young, enthusiastic, helpful staff in their stores That reputation is slipping and the formerly autistic Microsoft's reputation for customer care has improved - but, simply by being very, very nice to me when I "switched" six years ago, Apple has me hooked for life. Not a difficult lesson for businesses to learn, you'd have thought.

  2. The Rev Spacely Trelliss18 February 2015 at 21:39

    Our Church is a broad Church, which welcomes a wide diversity of opinion, including yours in limited supply. When Jesus ventured into the Temple to rout the money lenders, did he asketh about the value of the Shekel against the Euro and suggest they came back when there was a better exchange rate? No. For he knoweth not of such things. The Lord is not a capitalist.

    "Unto the poor and verily unto the rough sleeping Romanian asylum seeker shall thou giveth, even forsaking thy mobile phone, Ipad and other electronic devices of a more personal nature, verily I say, and also unto thy wallet, trousers, spare change and even unto the socks that embraceth thy feet."

    These are the words of the Lord. Well maybe not exactly, but the basic point is that you needn't bother with the detail, cos Welby and me, we got it sorted.

    1. Indeed, father. For was it not written, "And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a hedge-fund manager to enter into the kingdom of God." I think the message here is clear: in order to get everyone into Heaven, we must make everyone very VERY poor by supporting the EU, the Green Movement, eye-watering levels of personal taxation, vastly expensive and utterly pointless government spending programmes, an an almost inconceivably humungous public sector and a requirement for all businessmen in the 45% tax bracket to make a pilgrimage from the City of London to Canterbury at the end of every tax year on their knees, dressed in sackcloth and ashes, to beg forgiveness for raping the earth and exploiting the poor, while their homes shall be thrown open to be plundered by Romanian immigrants, Asian rape gangs and members of the anti-globalisation community. Thus shall be built the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth. (But, as a bishop, I get to keep the chauffeur-driven car, natch, for am I not engaged in God's work, and should that not bring with it a few perks. I mean, that's only fair, isn't it?)

    2. Careful, old chap. More of that sort of talk and you'll be ordained.