In today’s world, where the computer is the center of our daily life, where human resources department’s only role is restricted to hiring people, managing payrolls and fire employees. In a world where people are starting to build relationships with robots, one might think that relationships between firms and their customers have already been normalized; instead, the normalization has been limited to articles about the importance of customer relationship that have been popping out from every conceivable angle.
Talking about marketing strategy, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) has become a hot topic. However, it doesn’t mean that it has been understood properly. Indeed most companies are directly thinking about CRM systems and software that in theory manage customer relationship when instead they should take the time to invest resources in defining the various aspects of the relationships they are trying to build. If a CRM system can be really helpful collecting and connecting different data about customers, it is yet not sufficient to understand them. For example, when a customer uses the online service to purchase their groceries from a certain grocery store, CRM systems label this customer as loyal because of their frequent activities and average basket. However, the system never understands the reasons behind this “loyalty”. Attractive prices could be an explanation for customer loyalty, but the practicality of online shopping could be another one. Subsequently, sending a coupon to this customer to compensate for any inconvenient changes in the service would not necessarily be the best way to maintain a good relationship. Companies need to see beyond numbers and data to understand the need and expectations of their customers. I believe that having a monthly objective translated to numbers and a board of directors always focusing on shareholder expectations is not the best environment to develop a good understanding about relationships. A marketing strategy would only have a real impact when the company would have identified what kind of relationships it has in its portfolio and how to address properly the targeted segments. What I am trying to express here is that a customer is a person first and foremost before being a purchaser and they have to be treated as such. If I miss an important meeting because my flight is canceled, the answer of the airline company shouldn’t be “this is your fault you should have taken a previous flight”. A valued relationship is a two-way relationship. Companies should learn to take responsibilities as much as their customers.
Managing relationship equity, it sounds so simple. Isn’t it what we are supposed to live every day with our colleagues and family? Then why is it so hard to apply it at work? Maybe it’s time to stop writing about it and only blaming companies and instead start learning about it in schools, probably, in courses right next to finance and computer sciences. Changing the mindset of students, recruiters and teachers is a vital step in building customer relationships and stimulating business development. Who knows, “Customer Relationship” skills might one day lie next to “Proficient in Microsoft Office” on a young graduate’s CV.