Customer Relationships: A One-Sided Affair

When I hear brands talk about ‘customer relationships’ or how they listen to the customer, more often than not it just comes across as empty rhetoric. A relationship implies two-way communication and cumulative learning over time – something most companies struggle with due to their sheer size, internal silos or a myriad of customer touchpoints. As a result, our experience with most brands is largely transactional and impersonal.

In order to remedy this problem, and provide a more consistent customer experience, marketers sometimes turn to customer relationship management (CRM_. According to Gartner Research, $75b was been spent on CRM systems in the past decade. $75b is not a small amount. It’s enough to buy everyone around the world a hot lunch* – which begs the question: Has customer experience improved in proportion to spending?

I’m not convinced.

I do, however, stand by the potential of CRM done right. That’s because CRM is not just a software or tactic – it is a consistent organizational effort to build a strategic, loyal and profitable customer relationships. At Media Experts, not only do we help our clients grow their customer base, we ourselves can benefit from rich databases in designing effective media strategies. Maintaining such databases requires a culture of learning and an ongoing commitment to the customer. Even creative agencies can profit from being able to craft the perfect message at the perfect moment!

It all comes down to this: every customer is not the right customer and if we can identify and retain the best – we should. Every customer is also not the same and therefore it makes sense to differentiate.

Differentiating customers from one another is not just an option anymore, it is increasingly an expectation. For example, even something as simple as remembering my preferred language every time I visit the ATM can signal respect. If I usually ask for the receipt – chances are I probably will do it again. Some customers may not want to earn interest on their deposits due to religious reasons. The list goes on…

Moral of the story: Let’s start with being likeable and remembering the little things. Maybe then one day we can call it a relationship.

* 75b / 7b = $10.7 per human being on earth = a hot meal at your nearest McDonalds