A few months ago, I was interviewing a Senior VP customer of my client, and asked her, “Do you have a relationship with [my client]?” She replied, “Well, yes, we have a commercial relationship…” I cut her off (probably a bad thing to do in an interview!) and said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t explain myself well. Do you have a relationship with my client?”
She stopped, thought about it for 10 or 15 seconds, then responded. “Actually, I don’t. A few years back I did, but not anymore.” She continued, “You know, I get a call from a competitor each week. And now it’s easier to take those calls. Because, since I don’t have a relationship, I don’t feel like I’m letting anybody down.”
My client – who was in the room with me – listened to this exchange, and the power of her client’s comment stuck with her. She realized that you can make the experience easy. But without a relationship, it might not matter.
The Importance of Relationships
We all know the three Es of experiences – it needs to be Effective and Easy, but also needs to drive positive Emotions. But we often forget just how powerful those emotions are, and how much they can overshadow the other two. bvb
The challenge is: how do you create these strong relationships? The process varies. For B2B companies, it’s critical not only to have a relationship between your company and your clients, but you also need to have multiple strong relationships in case your primary contact leaves your company and tries to bring your customers along with.
This relationship requires two things: the right people, and time to give the customer attention. It doesn’t show up in your process maps – in fact, we’ve seen relationship-strengthening activities removed through “process improvement” – but it can have a far stronger impact than any tweaks you might make.
Who is Doing it Right?
Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) companies can’t use their people to create relationships, so they need to find other methods. I really love Pacific Shaving’s approach. I first discovered them through Target, but Target no longer carries them, so I ordered direct. I was pleasantly surprised to find this inside my package. It’s a little surprise and delight that furthers my connection with them, cementing me as part of the tribe of like-minded men who prefer caffeinated aftershave (yes, you read that right!).
Johnston and Murphy tried something similar but fell far short. Their request for me to tweet my shoes will go unfulfilled because they never took an effort to build a relationship with me. There’s nothing welcoming me as a customer or creating a connection. Just a request for me to do something for them.
I’m an even bigger fan of Carved’s “baseball card” approach.
When I ordered my case from them directly, they included a card with the designer stylized as Audrey Hepburn and information about her on the back. I love that she can play any woodwind instrument! If only she wasn’t a Pittsburg Steelers fan, my love would be complete. Seriously, though, this card cemented my future loyalty.
This approach isn’t restricted to CPG firms – we’ve considered doing the same thing at HoC. It’s important to do whatever it takes to form the relationships needed for a strong Emotional experience. Because that’s what cements loyalty.