The Value of Cultivating Relationships

Information has never been so abundant as nowadays. Data mining, purchasing behavior, personal data, just to name a few, are at the reach of any company, waiting to be used and be delivered to customers.

With all this data, the creation of bespoke products/services is real and companies should not push customers to purchase products with conventional marketing strategies. All the contrary, now marketing efforts should be oriented in cultivating relationships between organizations and its customers with the purpose to increase their lifetime cycle, elevate trust and heighten brand loyalty.

Old fashion marketing approaches tend to push the product towards the consumer, employing mainstream and conventional channels of communication, where the goal is to convince the customer to buy the product. Yet, when a firm cultivates a customer-driven marketing strategy, communication is two-way,  customers are heard and their issues are expressed freely. Thereby, the data can be collected, reviewed and analysed by the organization in order to find solutions.

Over time, customers have understood that none organization will improve and deliver a personalized service efficiently if they are not involved in the communication process, therefore most customers are now willing to be co-producers with their product or service provider as they want to obtain the maximum value of their investment. So, companies should consider any feedback as an opportunity to take advantage of.

For instance, IBM collects information of their customers to pinpoint its needs with the purpose to find out what other solutions can be offered. IBM’s service-oriented architecture and metrics are no longer focused as a short-term product sales, instead they measure its customers in a long term plan, exploring what else can be added as an extra value so that the customer’s life-cycle can be extended within the organization.

While the relationship with customers mature, its needs can change. Therefore, the collected insights and feedback can be used as an opportunity to sell a different product so that the revenue per customer can be maximized. A way to leverage the relationship, is by monitoring their behavior during the course of its life-cycle. Enquiring every now and then their satisfaction, and depending on the response, offer new solutions.

However, explain this approach in writing is much easier than in a real context. Firstly, all the departments within the organization has to be aligned communicationally as any dramatic change or internal reinvention can fall apart if the message is not delivered effectively. Changes in the C-Suite will happen such as the appointment of a CCO (Chief Customer Officer). Roles and responsibilities in the management level will change. For instance, Product Managers will have to change their approach and develop their products according to the customer requirements. And finally, the customer department will have to be fully responsible of the functions that will determine the success of the customer experience:

  1. CRM .- This tool will be the major weapon to gauge customer needs and behaviours.
  2. Market Research .- The analysis will be based in customer’s inputs.
  3. Product Development .- The CCO will have to be involved in the creation of new products, providing insights about customers or segments as every product have to be tailor-made to its needs.
  4. Customer Service .- Apart than provide high quality of service, the customer department should be focused in cultivating long-term relationships.

It is clear that the transformation will not be an easy task to implement, rather, arduous. Many executives may not even agree with the changes and will battle to follow traditional methods, though the message have to be consistent and driven from top to bottom because sooner or later, it will be the best way to fulfill customer needs.

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