Customer Relationship Management – From Courting to Convergence
As we all know, successful businesses are built around solid relationships and therefore your approach to good customer relationships is key in having an edge over your competitors. When was the last time you received service that was so mind blowing that you felt compelled to put pen to paper and write a letter of thanks?
Sadly this is all too rare these days and expectations of what good service looks like have certainly increased over the years- and rightly so. But what of the customer relationship beyond the initial transaction and how it develops from there?
Marketing analysts Jim Sterne and Matt Cutler looked at this relationship and broke the customer life cycle into five steps:
1. Reach 2. Acquisition 3. Conversion 4. Retention 5. Loyalty
Basically, if you can gain a potential customer’s attention, display your offering, secure the deal and keep them as a customer, this will then help to encourage future potential and happy customers.
Let’s consider the customer relationship from the context of a romantic relationship. Nothing too mushy, honest, so go with us on this one…
Looking for a relationship, whether romantic or business by nature begins by “marketing” yourself. If you are going on a night out hoping to meet someone special, you will make sure that you look your best with the aim of attracting someone. If we assume we are looking for something a little more longer term, we are likely to be a little fussier about where we go and who we would like to meet. It is just as likely however that we meet that special person when we least expect it, in the unlikeliest of places or circumstances.
Looking for new business relationships is a similar ball game, where you want to make the right first impression and will be looking for openings and opportunities to meet potential customers and make that initial connection through marketing strategies. But it is wise to always be on alert for new opportunities as you just never know who or what is around the corner.
This is the stage of the process where you have had your first date. Let’s not get carried away with a ring though, you haven’t even changed your Facebook status to ‘in a relationship’ yet.
There is a limited level of commitment from your customer at this stage. They have worked with you once but that doesn’t mean they are averse to working with your competitors if a better offer comes along.
OK, so to coin an old fashioned phrase, you are now ‘going steady’. You’ve been together for some time now, and things have been going well - you’ve even met their parents! You are still making an effort at this stage, being mindful of what you say and how you dress, always looking to impress.
Your customer has been happy with what you have done for them and they appear
to be loyal to your business. There is however still a chance that they could leave you, so it's best not to rest on your laurels. Like with any relationship, it always needs investment!
Now it’s getting serious. Perhaps you are living together or taking a walk past a certain jewellery shop. You envisage spending the rest of your life with this person and quite frankly it feels good.
Your customer is going to be loyal to your business and is highly unlikely to take their business elsewhere. As with any relationship, there is still the need to maintain it and make sure that things don’t go stale. Like with personal relationships where flowers, nights out and communication help to keep things moving, having a plan of scheduled meetings or action points will help to maintain the business relationship and show your commitment and continual investment in the relationship.
Coming to a point in your relationship where your other half is such an integral part of your life is considered to be the highest level and can also be achieved in a business sense. This is the best place to be in terms of a business relationship, as it means that you have got to a stage where your client trusts you and what you offer has actually become an integral part of your customer’s business plan.
The likelihood of them leaving you for a competitor is highly unlikely at this stage, as you have earnt the respect and trust of your customer, and after committing so much to this business relationship it would not be an easy decision to move away to start the process all over again!
Why not consider your business relationships from this perspective. Consider your top five business relationships and ask yourself where they currently fit into this model. Remember this is not just about being friendly or knowing the names of your client’s kids or dog, it is about adding genuine value to that client so that they cannot even contemplate operating without your input.