What type of relationship are you looking for? Do you want a fling, a secret affair or even just a one-night stand? Or would you prefer to be colleagues, best friends, or maybe marriage partners? Or perhaps you would like a love-hate relationship or a master-slave connection?
Sorry if that seems a bit personal in a blog that is supposed to be about business (and business English) trends, but bear with me, it is relevant.
My questions were inspired by a fascinating article in the July-August edition of the Harvard Business Review called "Unlock the Mysteries of Your Customer Relationships".
The authors argue that, although firms spend billions of dollars on software for Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and collect masses of demographic and other data on their customers, "many companies don't understand customer relationships at all".
What is missing, the authors claim, is "relational intelligence". This means understanding what kind of individual relationships your customers want and not just thinking of them as "resources to be harvested for the next up-sell or cross-sell opportunity".
For example, some customers just want a single transactional relationship (a one-night stand) and may even be prepared to pay a premium price for this. Others want to be treated as partners and expect to help firms to solve customer service problems, rather than being fobbed off with a voucher or cash payment when something goes wrong. Still others want to be masters and expect companies to act as slaves, carrying out their every demand.
Offering customers the wrong kind of relationship — involving either too little or too much communication and commitment — can cause annoyance and disillusionment, and destroy business relationships.
The authors argue that companies need to use surveys and interviews to try to discover the types of relationships their customers want. And they should listen more carefully to the relationship signals that their customers give them during service encounters.
Armed with this information, companies can see their current relationship profile and devise marketing strategies to offer the optimal mix of relationships. They may also be able to nudge customers carefully towards different types of relationships that better support long-term business goals.
So come on, tell me: what kind of relationship do you want to have with Business Spotlight?
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