1. Operational Excellence – “The best price and easiest to do business with“
- Examples include Wal-Mart and FedEx. These organizations don’t focus on delivering the best possible product, or having the closest relationship with their customers. They win by being very efficient at delivering standard products at the best price.
2. Product Leadership – “innovation that delivers the best products“
- Examples include Apple, Nike, and Intel. These organizations win by delivering new cutting edge products with new features. They create a buzz when new products are introduced into the marketplace.
3. Customer Intimacy – “deep long lasting customer relationships that deliver customized results“
- Examples include Nordstrom and Marriott. These organizations win by understanding their customers and delivering exactly what they need, often in a customized way. They empower front line employees and make customers feel singular.
The organizational structure you install is essential to maximizing customer intimacy. Depending on your customers’ needs, either a generalist or specialist approach may be most effective. Listen to your customer base and they will tell you what type of sales structure they prefer. If they desire “One Contact” to take care of all their needs a generalist sales representative is the answer. If they require deep domain knowledge, specialization is likely to be more effective. No matter what structure you select, there are a few characteristics that traverse organizations that successfully deploy a sustainable customer intimacy strategy.
- Empowerment of front line employees including sales representatives and customer service reps
- Flexibility: They don’t have “one size fits all offerings”
- Responsive to changing customer needs
- Multiple feedback mechanisms to capture customer experiences
- Corporate Strategy aligned with your customers’ long-term strategy
How do you know when you have accomplished customer intimacy?
- Customer retention metrics have consistently improved
- Customer Satisfaction survey scores have positive trends and are World Class compared to industry benchmarks
- Market share improvement
- Customer lifetime value metrics increase
- Customers ask for advice on topics outside your area of expertise
- Customers are asking how they can expand the partnership
- Customers consistently provide you with referral business
If customer intimacy is the value discipline you are pursuing, you need to align your organizational culture with your customer base. Sales, Marketing, and Customer Service need to collaborate to ensure every interaction leaves customers feeling special. Make customer intimacy metrics the focal point of all departmental goals and the vision that drives decision making throughout the organization. The marketplace will continue to increase in complexity, but deep customer intimacy remains one of the most powerful barriers to competition. To sustain best in class customer intimacy, your sales strategy should be driven by ever-changing customer needs.