The Growing Intimacy of a Company’s Relationship with its Customer

Written on 20 July 2018 by Ella Moran

For a company, a good relationship with its customer can be the best thing for profitability: ensuring return sales, customer advocacy, cost reduction and a boost in competitive differentiation. In 2018 – the focus is certainly on the customer: with companies spending more money than ever before on user experience, co-creation and human centred design.

The mainstream nature of social media has also spawned a new era of customer-company relationships: Social content marketing in an over-saturated market, where individuals are exposed to 4,000 to 10,000 advertisements each day. As a result, brand signals are diluted and individuals engage in a subconscious screening of content interruptions. Brands are struggling to bridge the gap to inform consumers of products – and instead – individuals are turning to more trusted sources for product recommendations: the people around them. A customer’s value is no longer limited to their contribution to revenue, but is in their network and community influence. Because of this, the company’s relationship with the customer is more important than ever, with a mutual value feedback-loop evolving and customers becoming brand evangelists.

To imagine the future of customer relationship management, it is important to analyse the industry trends that are driving our future predictions. A few key drivers have converged:

  • The increasing availability, accuracy and insightfulness of data
  • The oversaturated advertising market and the power of human advocacy
  • The increasing competitiveness of markets
  • The increasing power of technology

How will these trends impact the future?

Companies will design to delight their consumer:

The user experience of brands will no longer be defined by a transaction, but an end-to-end experiential process that induces delight. The ‘delight factor’ will become integrated into the design of all products. Brands will truly establish a sense of care for their customers, adopting an almost maternal role. Customer loyalty will evolve: Consumers now mutually seek ‘company loyalty’. In return, people will become ambassadors for the brands they love, not necessarily just the brands that provide them a referral incentive.

How might this look?
  • Smart-shoes that sync with your smartphone and tell you your average speed, calories burned, number of steps and your distance travelled by foot each day.
  • Carefully curated alarm clock ringtones that slowly lead the user into consciousness in a non-abrupt manner, with an understanding of when the user is at their optimal waking time and at a lull in REM sleep.
  • Digital to-do lists that provide users with particularly satisfying completion alerts
How might this spark controversy?
  • As standards and expectations rise considerably, do we become an entitled generation?
  • Do customers stop being delighted by delightful experiences?

Mass personalisation: An oxymoron?

Mass personalisation will become the industry standard, both in marketing and experience. Processes will not simply be customer-focused, but each customer interaction will be defined by the customer themselves. This will be possible through extensive data mining with refined sorting technologies, likely as an offcut capability of artificial intelligence. Brands will have an intimate understanding of their customers, and will adjust the product package accordingly.

How might this look?
  • Notifications from your local grocery store when your average basket of goods is at its cheapest, with the option to have this basket delivered / ready for pickup.
  • A group of individuals go to a restaurant and are greeted by name, with a dish recommended by the chef to their taste palate.
How might this spark controversy?
  • Trust and transparency – Do we trust behemoth corporations to have an in-depth understanding of us as consumers and as people?
  • Will they provide the necessary transparency regarding their use of data?
  • What would manipulation of this data look like?
  • What will happen to equality: will treatment vary between demographics?

A community sense:

The company-customer relationship will be strengthened by customer-to-customer relationships, with the company product at the centre. Brands will become facilitators for connections, which will see a more meaningful integration of products into our lives.

How might this look?
  • A ticketing company finding you someone to go to a show with based on similar interests
  • Netflix hosting discussion forums/chat functionality for you and people with similar interests. Human recommendations rather than algorithmic suggestions.
  • Spotify that autonomously forms a playlist for the group of people listening
How might this spark controversy?
  • Are we diluting human relationships? I.e. are we turning to relationships with those similar to us; at the cost of diversity?
  • Are we becoming even more reliant on companies and granting them more power?
What kind of job titles might such a future realise?
How can companies prepare for such a future?

In 2018, it is important that companies ready themselves for richer, more meaningful and intimate relationships with their customers. Brands will hold a more important role in our lives and in defining who we are, so businesses must invest in their customers. If businesses don’t start to value the relationship, they will drive their customer to a competitor.

Companies need to be adaptive and resilient with their business model; designing their products with and around the customer, with a strong understanding of who this is. Don’t just give customers referral incentives, give them meaningful reasons. Encourage your customer to become a brand evangelist, and if they aren’t already – what’s stopping them? Don’t just aim to satisfy, aim to delight.

About the Author

Ella Moran

Ella Moran

Creative Intelligence and Innovation Consultant

Ella has a background in Creative Intelligence and Innovation and Economics and is particularly interested in thought leadership and studying human behaviour.

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