Don’t Hold Your Customers Hostages — Part 2, Monopolies And Blue Oceans

Based on the foundation of yesterday’s article, I’d like to take the narrative even further. There’s the phenomenon called the Stockholm Syndrome. As part of this condition, hostages develop an attachment (some call it alliance) towards their captors as their go-to strategy of survival.

In other words, it’s a game of “I know you’ve got me so I’ll play nice in order to stay alive”. The underlying thought is that the person will do so until she or he is rescued — might as well be alive in order to be rescued.

The consequences go as far as the victims not testifying against the captors. This is why I’m against the word “alliance” as it makes it sound as if those who are captured do it only strategically. No, it’s something against rationality — some say it’s pathological.

What I want to continue talking about today is not psychology and mental health — though we do handle that.

Today’s article is inspired by a conversation with a reader. Addressing this quote from yesterday:

“I couldn’t cancel a monthly subscription of a software product.”

he said:

One thing is to hold our customers as hostages and other is to act criminally.

Business ethics is still a valued asset but we still could hold our customers.

For example, I own a small business (local service), and I know my competitors (they are only 3, aka “blue ocean”), they lack some features that I give for the same price, so, in some aspects, my customers don’t have any option, or pick me, or else (“bluish ocean”). Sometimes the customers pick my competitor and later, they pick me. I had a fight with a customer (a government agency), however, they know that they should hire me because they don’t have a choice.

The given example was at the extreme end of the interval. Truly no one wants to get there because the law will end it eventually. However, as I mentioned, sometimes I see the hostage mentality — this attitude of “we need to get them” (i.e. customers) as in “we need to lock them in harder”.

By that I mean the usual “let’s hide the unsubscribe button 10 clicks away from the homepage”.

What the reader talked about is something that’s very good for himself (congrats on that!) and I’ve talked about it in a previous post here.

The punchline that would apply to him is

If you’re in a monopolistic environment and you’re successful, others will come. You can start building the experience right now in order to widen the gap between the next newcomer and you.

Addressing what the said position, it’s a good situation to be in as a business owner. Yes, you can be a dick and you know it — they don’t have a choice.

However, this kind of hostage holding is different. If you’re nice to them (which most probably you want to be, I get that feeling), it’ll turn into a Stockholm Syndrome.

You know they don’t have a choice but you might as well make it even better for them. Somehow this post is a cross-breeding between yesterday’s article and the one linked above, the monopoly one.

Sure, there might be indirect competition but while “don’t hold your customers hostage” may lead to “okay, let’s be normal”, I advocate towards the total opposite in this case of a blue ocean. Make them feel like kids at Disneyland — and I can’t mention Disney without mentioning experiences.

The reason for that?

Captured people develop a lot of positive feelings sometimes towards their captures. That’s weird and again, psychology is not my field.

But hey, within rationality is the following: you can make people develop a lot of positive feelings around your product/company — even more so if it’s the go-to solution.

And you should very well do that.

About Ch Daniel

I run chagency, an experiences design agency that specialises on helping tech CEOs reduce user churn. We believe experiences are not only the reason why users choose not to leave but also what generates word of mouth. We’re building a credo around this belief.

If I’ve brought you any kind of value, follow me and get in touch here: LinkedIn | Twitter | Email

I’ve also created an infinitely-valuable app for sneaker/fashion enthusiasts called Legit Check that impacted hundreds of thousands over millions of times – check it out at

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Illustration Credits: John Holcroft

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