The Seven Deadly Sins of Customer Relationships

Why organisations are making some fundamental mistakes in how they introduce and manage their digital customer relationships. The specific issues, the root cause, and what we can do about it...

This post is part of a series about why today’s digital customer relationships are broken, and what we can do about it. If you’d like to receive regular updates like this about the future of customer relationships, feel free to subscribe:


Have you ever lost your bag, wallet, or purse and had to spend hours contacting companies about your credit and loyalty cards, your driver’s license, and other important documents that need to be checked and replaced?

It’s highly frustrating and can take weeks to get it all sorted. Or perhaps you’ve spent hours on the phone to a call center to explain that you’ve moved home and you need to update your account information?

It’s in moments like these that you realize just how many organizations you have relationships with. You’ve probably interacted with dozens in the past few months alone. We all do our best to keep on top of this admin by having drawers and folders of paperwork, and perhaps a list of all the usernames, pin codes, passwords, and account numbers we use to access these services. 

If you take a step back, you’ll see that this whole thing is a mess

It’s all manual. It’s wildly inefficient. Open to fraud.

And it’s easy to get lost or stuck as an account owner, to lose some critical information, and be forced to follow a painful process for each different company just to get something simple done. How many times have you sat in frustration on a call repeatedly stating who you are and what you want to a series of different people?

It’s worth looking at how dysfunctional these relationships have become as they have become digital. Unwieldy apps. Online forms. Faceless chatbots. Consent checkboxes. It’s happened slowly, quietly, and yet it’s having a huge impact on customers’ lives, and we all just accept it because we don’t have an alternative. Like a low-grade headache we can’t shake.

Keeping customers, not just measuring them

As life has moved online, companies have become increasingly obsessed with measuring customer activity: from tracking ‘customer engagement’ (what does that even mean?) to things like ‘session length,’ ‘click-through rates,’ ‘dwell time,’ and even ‘virality rates.’ Yet every business school in the land will tell you that building a great company is not just about a one-time sale, but about building sustainable customer relationships that deliver long-term growth

It’s not just about measuring customers, it’s about keeping them. Yet the more I look at how businesses design and manage their relationships with customers, the more I see dysfunction, waste and a collapse of consumer trust. In fact, I see a number of core business behaviours that are causing this waste, this dysfunction. Seven to be precise. Let’s call them:

The Seven Deadly Sins of Digital Customer Relationships

Lust, Sloth, Wrath, Gluttony, Greed, Pride, and Envy

In this series I want to spend some time looking at each Deadly Sin and, in turn, explore why organisations of every size and shape are making some fundamental mistakes in how they introduce and manage their digital customer relationships. 

In each section we’ll look at the specific issues, the likely root cause, and what we can do about it.

Spoiler alert: The ideas and solutions around ‘self sovereign identity’ (SSI) present not only an opportunity for businesses to build smarter, more secure, and more scalable relationships with customers; they will also enable them to rethink how they build trusted digital relationships from the ground up.

That’s quite a bold statement, and it’s a tall order for sure.

But bear with me: there’s a real chance that SSI can address the very real damage being done to digital customer relationships today and can build a brighter future for customers and businesses everywhere. 

Ultimately we’re all customers of some kind of business, somewhere, and understanding how our digital relationships can be improved will be worth it, especially the next time you lose your purse or wallet and need to contact all those companies.

Trust me.

First up: Lust.

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Feel free to jump head to the other sins: Sloth, Wrath, Gluttony, Greed, Pride and Envy. Finally, I’ve summarised the seven sins and the related Self Sovereign Identity opportunities here.

Feedback is hugely welcome! Do comment here, or feel free to message me at @jamiedsmith.