We all know what good customer service is when we see it; or more appropriately in some instances, when we feel it. For many firms it is their stated point of difference, but in their customers’ eyes it is often only a point of contention, or at best a point of parity that does not lead to anticipated revenue streams. Recently a firm in the services sector wanted to discuss this with me, for after three different customer service training interventions there was little change.
It quickly became apparent that while there was operational excellence and product leadership (or close to it), the third of Treacy and Wiersema’s three value disciplines, customer intimacy, was their challenge. So what, you ask, is customer intimacy?
Here the company creates value by detailed segmentation, meeting the needs of chosen customers very precisely. Distilled, customer intimacy is based on the seamless integration of micro-marketing, selling softly, and, you guessed it: developing close relationship with customers. But this requires empowering staff to make decisions close to customers, and developing detailed knowledge of their needs.
For some companies the concept of empowering customer-facing staff to make decisions is a seismic shift that their managers, often out of fear of losing control, may never embrace. Is your firm bold enough to do what it takes to achieve customer intimacy?