On the Internet, whoever owns the relationship with the customer owns the future.
Products come and go, but a relationship can last. Products are increasingly becoming commodities, but relationships can remain unique.
Why does a customer want to have a relationship with a company? For the following reasons perhaps:
- To save time
- To ensure that they consistently get value for money
- To achieve a sense of comfort and security
Why does a company want to have a relationship with a customer? Simple really: To gain that customer’s loyalty. Why does it want to gain that customer’s loyalty? So that it can sell more products to that customer more profitably.
A strong relationship is based on trust. A profitable relationship is based on knowledge. Before a customer will enter into a relationship with a company, they must feel that they can trust that company and the products and services it delivers.
However, from the company’s point of view, establishing trust merely allows them to play the game. To win the game in a profitable manner, they must build up an effective knowledge base on the customer. Equally, they must help the customer acquire a comprehensive knowledge of the company, along with its products and services.
We live in an era where time is scarce and information is plentiful. Every day, information becomes more plentiful, and time becomes more scarce. The first thing a customer shops for on the Internet is a place that will save them time while delivering the information they require.
The proposition that a web site like Yahoo has is: ‘I will save you time while helping you find the information you want.’ Add to this the fact that Yahoo is often one of the first places a person goes to on the Internet, then you have strong foundations for a solid relationship.
We are often told that people aren’t spending much money on the web yet. But people are increasingly spending their time on the web, and time, as we know, is money. Time is the Gold Standard of the Digital Age. It is rising in value just as fast as Internet stocks are, and will continue to rise in value long after many of these stocks have crashed to earth.
If you want to get my attention, show me that you can help me save time. If you can then offer me the product, service or information that I want in a way that I perceive delivers value, you are on the road to building a strong relationship with me.
If I were a company that made great products but had weak relationships with its customers, I’d be worried. If I were a company that was outsourcing the management of its customer relationships, I’d be worried.
The Internet allows us to know our customers better, and just as importantly, for our customers to know us better, too. What we do with that knowledge — what they do with that knowledge — will be the measure of who profits and who doesn’t in the future that the Internet is creating.
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