Jeff Judy

Jeff's Thoughts - June 13, 2007

Relationships: Your Idea, or the Customer's?

When you refuel your car by pulling into a convenient (and reasonably priced) gas station, "paying at the pump" with a credit card and getting out of there quickly, do you ponder what's lacking in your "relationship" as you stand there filling your tank? When you pick up your dry cleaning, or send off a check for your newspaper subscription or cable bill, do you think, "If only this company would build a relationship with me, instead of just cleaning my clothes (etc.), my life would be so much richer"?

Chances are, you are a regular customer of some businesses where you're not the least interested in a "relationship." Perhaps you order certain supplies online because it is fast, convenient . . . and because nobody bothers you afterwards. Maybe you just don't want to spend time with these businesses analyzing additional needs, reviewing your situation, hearing about what else they could do for you. You just want clean, simple, efficient transactions, because you know what you want, and when you want it.

Now, as I travel around the country providing training and consulting, I meet one management team after another that believes "relationships" are the key to the future. They hold relationships in much higher esteem than "transactions", believing relationships are the secret to greater customer loyalty, more efficient cross-selling, and enhanced efficiency.

The funny thing is that at many institutions, the more they talk about relationships, the less they talk about the customer! I hear a lot about how relationship banking is good for business, and a lot less about delivering great customer service in every interaction, whether it's part of a "relationship" or not.

What if some of your customers don't want all of that? They just want efficient, no hassle, accurate service. What does "relationship banking" mean to them? Could you be throwing away business because you have a "one size fits all" approach to your market?

Instead of saying, "We want to build a relationship with every single customer," how about saying, "We want to work with every single customer the way that customer wants to work with us"?

Go ahead and present the benefits of a more complete relationship, and make sure you can deliver those benefits if your customer buys into what you've said. But when you find those customers that just want to manage their own transactions, with efficiency and good support from you when it is needed, can you make them happy?

Customer loyalty comes from working with customers the way they want. Listen to what you say to customers, and to what you say within your own organization. If you spend more time talking about what you want your customers to want than you do about what they actually want, you're probably disappointing a major segment of your target market.