Forget Relationship Management and Focus on Relationship Health
Despite all of the technology that has emerged, especially in the last five years, little has actually changed in regards to our interactions with customers. Before you leap to disagree, take a look around and observe not only the market in general but your own business. In fact, don’t just observe.
Answer the following questions to better gauge how things have or have not changed:
- Are in-person meetings less important than they used to be?
- Are actual phone conversations less important than before?
- Do you have the same level of personal interaction, regardless of method, than you did five years ago?
- If so, is that personal interaction with more or fewer customers than before?
- Overall, are your relationships more or less meaningful than they once were?
- Have you prioritized the quantity of your customer relationships over quality?
Relationships Are More, Not Less, Important Than Ever
These are not insignificant questions to ask. One thing certainly has changed in the last five years; customers have more means than ever before to make an impact on your reputation. Therefore, as the personal audience of each customer has grown, the importance of how you develop relationships with them has intensified. Is that really important? What is at risk here, after all, is the difference between the illusions of your customer relationships versus your real customer relationships.
Let me pose another question: If marketing efforts focus on interacting with customers and potential customers and sales efforts focus on engaging those customers and potential customers, and you had to choose only one to employ, would you choose 100% marketing or 100% sales? With the tools so widely available today, it’s relatively easy and affordable to broadcast marketing messages. But what does it accomplish if your messages aren’t resulting in customer engagement?
Sales and Marketing: Not an Either/Or Proposition
In reality, it’s not an either-or proposition. We really need both interaction and engagement. And the scale needs to be kept in balance. Finding that balance requires an overlooked dimension that I call Relationship Health. After all, neither interaction or engagement results in sustainability if the relationships aren’t healthy to begin with.
From magazines to self-help books, blogs to newsletters, so much of today’s business conversation is devoted to the universal topic of “managing” relationships. But when was the last time you actually concentrated your time, energy, and effort to the health of your customer relationships? If you’re like most of the professionals I meet, it’s probably been longer than you’d like to admit.
In truth, none of us are really able to manage any relationship. By default, that entire perspective would indicate that you are able to impose something on someone else, regardless of whether or not it was voluntarily or involuntarily received by the other person. Maybe one can manage those whom they formally supervise, but aside from that, is it realistic to apply the term manage to other relationships? What about relationships with customers? I would argue not.
However, we can apply the management effort to ourselves. We can manage our own time, our own thoughts, and our own actions. And, in doing so as all of that applies to the customer we should then be better able to focus on what really matters between us the sellers and them the customers or the buyers. In essence, we can focus on the health of the relationship.
The Prescription for Healthy Customer Relationships
How is measured? What is the prescription for a healthy customer relationship? Nothing beats time, attention, and authenticity in an effort to develop and maintain customer relationship health. There is no harm in using all of the available tools to assist in this process, but the most important thing is to maintain the right focus, on relationship health. In the process you’ll avoid an imbalance between interaction and engagement. With that balance in place, you’ll find your relationships are not only healthy but they are mutually beneficial.