Why developing customer relationship is so hard

Ron got my attention with a lovely post on this topic. He has some very thought-provoking points on various facets of building customer relationships. He picks-up a quote from John Gottman who says:

“Good relationships aren’t about clear communication — they’re about small moments of attachment and intimacy.”. He gives an example of  a ‘small moment’ that built a relationship with  a customer –

An IT executive traces his loyalty to USAA back to a single phone call. He called the firm to cancel a credit card and insurance policy. The rep said “I hope I’m not overstepping my boundaries, but we’ve found that many customer often cancel products because of events that aren’t related to USAA like a divorce or other family matter. We’ve set up a special department to help customers with these kinds of matters, is this something we might be able to help you with?” Since he was in the middle of the divorce, he took USAA up on that offer and has been a loyal customer since.

He further writes, Gottman also says that:

“Successful couples look for ways to accentuate the positive. They try to say ‘yes’ as often as possible.”

He writes – Gottman’s comment echoes my sentiment that building a relationship isn’t simply about saying “trust us” but saying (and demonstrating) “we trust you.”

How can one institutionalize this process? – My view:

Companies don’t necessarily disagree with this philosophy but the truth is getting it working in the trenches(in the marketplace across channels) – that’s always the challenge. Companies need to build a robust Customer Interaction Architecture (CIA) that can capture this "pain point’ and ‘enable’ it with tools and triggers to make a difference. I certainly believe every  transaction or complaint or query is an opportunity to build a "Small Moment Customer Interaction Architecture (SMCIA)’.

To make this happen, there is a need to increasingly integrate technology with every marketing processes.

1 Comment

  1. Well, can’t agree more. But don’t you think companies can do better by blending marketing process with a liberal dose of integrity, before they could integrate marketing with technology?
    For starters, companies can be a bit transparent about their cost structures and stop gouging customers in their hour of crisis, like in that example of USAA empathizing with the man in the middle of a divorce.
    Try telling that to enterprise IT vendors like Oracle, SAP, HP etc. Their ERP / CRM products fully amortized over a decade and across clients numbering in thousands, still sell at their introductory premium price levels. Add to that 22% AMC and cost of frequent upgrades, consultant and SI fee that shoots the customer TCO through the roof. At the customer’s end (assuming 500+ users), it adds up to $1,000 per user even today. (Guess you’re a CRM customer yourself so do the math) That’s how Larry Ellison keeps buying 6 or 7 companies every year. Now it seems the trend has rubbed on to SAP’s Henning Kagermann (acquired Business Objects) as well.
    I would bunch up India’s IT vendors like Satyam, Wipro, Infosys, TCS, Cognizant and HCL Tech (SWITCH) under this league. So far they’ve been gouging a 25% margin from their US clients in BFSI verticals. Now that those clients are going through subprime hell, SWITCH vendors are not chivalrous enough to shed their margin fixation. That would’ve been their clients’ “not-so-small-moments” of delight! Instead they worry about foreign vendors like IBM, Accenture and EDS operating at 7-8% margins, poaching their employees and snatching their meal from under their nose. (IBM swung Bharti’s $1.5 bn, 3 year IT infra maintenance deal, while SWITCH were busy looking westwards.)
    Next thing I heard was Infosys went ahead and revised its guidance downwards. But not its margins. That’s gallant, indeed 🙂


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