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Blog: Building Customer Relationships One Interaction at a Time

Blog: Building Customer Relationships One Interaction at a Time

Overview

Companies and their customers continue to have very different perspectives.

Companies want to establish meaningful long-term relationships with their customers while consumers want every interaction to be efficient and valuable.

Successful customer-oriented companies know that customer relationships can only be built one interaction at a time. Thus they are re-aligning objectives around the customer interaction and realizing that they're only as good as their last interaction.

Consumers don't necessarily want a relationship with a company or service provider. Instead they expect their needs to be understood and met during every interaction. Organizations that can achieve this - with each and every interaction - will be rewarded by a customer's loyalty. Unfortunately, even one poor interaction can ruin the customer "relationship," even those that have existed for years.

It is time to change the course of customer interactions. This article will discuss:

  1. The important of interactions
  2. The challenge behind delivering an "optimum" interaction every time
  3. The need for real-time management of interactions
  4. How to achieve optimum interaction results by leveraging, not replacing, existing customer investments

It's the Interaction That Matters

In just ten short years, the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) industry has been created, defined, and redefined. It's been viewed from a functional perspective - sales, service, marketing; a technological perspective - operational, collaborative, analytical; and a targeted perspective - 360 degree view, customer experience, customer centric.

What's common to all of the above views is that they describe an organizational perspective of CRM, and not a customer perspective. Since CRM has been recognized as a significant part of corporate strategy, customers have changed radically.

Today, there are dozens of product choices available at the click of a mouse as well as the proliferation of mobile devices and PDAs. Consumers are empowered in ways they simply weren't before. The concepts of "instant gratification" and "personalization" are no longer the exception; they are the rule. If a consumer can't get what they need or want immediately, it's pretty simple to find other alternatives.

"Both CRM [Customer Relationship Management] and CEM [Customer Experience Management] are subject to a fatal flaw. Both strategies assume that customers can and are willing to be managed. While there are exceptions to this rule, in general, customers do not want to be managed. Customers want to do business when they want, where they want, how they want and the way they want."

The Challenge behind Delivering an "Optimum" Interaction By definition, customer interactions are both complex and unpredictable. Furthermore, an "optimum" interaction means different things to different people, particularly customers.

The Complexity of Interactions: Organizations maintain massive amounts of information about customers stored in databases and analytic warehouses. The challenge is in synthesizing and bringing this information - or the necessary components of it - to the forefront during interactions with customers. Furthermore, customers interact with companies across multiple channels, creating a complicated web of information needs. And last but not least, these interactions are often handled by customer-facing employees, adding yet more layers.

Too frequently, companies rely upon customer-facing employees to be the point of integration. With hiring and employee turnover challenges as well as training on hundreds of customer systems, it just simply isn't feasible. It is this final element, the human involvement, which brings us to the next component of customer interactions: their inherent unpredictability.

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