Talking with a customer experience leader at a high-tech manufacturing firm the other day, we got to talking about how they often find it difficult to understand, classify and develop the different types of relationships that they have with their customers.
She told me that they have tried segmentation, demographics, psychographics, customer personas amongst lots of other techniques. But, they have found that in the midst of all of the technical jargon and techniques they lose sight of the emotional part of the relationship.
I mused on the possibility that we could learn a lot more about our customer relationships if we reflect on, and compare them to, the different types of relationships that we have had over the course of our personal lives. Doing so, I said, could offer insights on how we can better understand the true nature of the relationships that we have with our customers.
So, what if we applied the typology of personal relationships to help us categorise our customer relationships? Would that help us better understand our customer relationships, where we stand with our customers and how we can develop the relationship?
How about a customer relationship typology that goes something like this:
Can you see your customers fitting into this typology? Would you add others?
However, in any relationship situation, whether personal or business, the most difficult part and the one that can often be fraught with problems is when we try to develop our relationship and take things to the “next level.”
For example, have you ever been in a relationship where you have asked, or have been asked, “So, what is this? What is happening here? What are we doing?”
This often happens when one of you tries to establish the rules and norms of your burgeoning, developing or changing relationship through a need for clarity, understanding and future planning.
In business, as in our personal lives, understanding and developing the true nature of our relationships with others requires honesty, communication, openness and commitment.
I wonder how many firms have done that sort of hard, emotional work when it comes to their customers. If they haven’t, might they think that they are “married” to their customer when, in fact, they’ve just had a one-night stand?