Continuing the discussion around a relationship strategy from my earlier posts, It’s The Relationship, Y’all! and Why Your CRM Strategy Should NOT Focus On Your Customers, Barry commented that relationships are created by satisfaction of some mutual need.
He’s right. There is a direct connection between the customers’ needs and your ability to forge a relationship with them. If you can’t meet or exceed their needs, there’s not much point in either side wanting a relationship with the other.
I’ve had several comments for people such as Wim Rampen and Graham Hill arguing that customers’ needs are where the focus should be.
I agree with them that the customers’ needs are paramount. I see the needs as the end and the development of relationships as a means to that end. Where we differed was in how much emphasis should be placed on the relationship. I believe, “You can’t identify their needs if you can’t build an effective relationship. You can’t build an effective relationship if you can’t communicate with them. Once you understand and abide by their communication preferences, it’s easier to build relationships.” Those relationships make it easier to identify and meet needs.
But it occurs to me as I’ve thought about this discussion that my stance may be accurate in my particular organization, but not necessarily true of others trying to achieve customer-centricity. In my last post I mentioned my dislike of “blanket statements” and I realized that I was making a blanket statement myself.
Here’s my new paradigm. Graham, Wim, and others are right in that the customers’ needs are where your focus should lie. However, I believe that, depending on your brand awareness, your customer base, and other variables, how you arrive at that outcome may vary. My organization, for a dozen reasons I won’t go into practices relationship management. That’s one way we drive loyalty.
Other organizations may be better off focusing on the customer “experience.” Graham mentioned Disney. I’m wondering if destination organizations such as Disney and those in the hospitality industry (Starbucks) shouldn’t focus more of their resources on the experience than other industries. After all, it’s the visit to Disney World you should remember, not the various communications you received in between trips.
But other organizations might need to devote more resources to staying in contact with the customer in order to keep their brand fresh in our memories. For example, I’m an organic gardener. I only order seeds once a year. It behooves a seed company to provide me with some additional value throughout the year by letting me opt in to receive a newsletter that helps me become a better gardener. So, the experience may only occur annually, but I might receive a quarterly or monthly newsletter to keep the brand “top of mind.” In this case it’s the relationship that’s important. I can buy seeds from a dozen seed companies, but I’ll be more loyal to the one who provides additional value when I’m not buying seeds.
Other organizations, especially those that practice account management, may use a blend of these. Coca-Cola may work at crafting the experience for the consumer (they’ve been doing this since the 1880’s) but they also have account managers for Walmart, McDonalds, etc. You can bet those relationships are important.
In the Roman empire all roads led to
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