Service industry companies are always talking about how customer-focused they are and about wanting to build relationships with customers. This is easier said than done! We feel that some fundamental questions have not been addressed:
• What are customer relationships?
• How can they be built?
• What benefits do they bring?
Many programs measure functional delivery, but surely a true ‘relationship’ must deliver customer experiences that are both functionally and emotionally fulfilling.
In the consumer goods market, relationships are created mainly by brand image as the actual experience lacks differentiation, hence the measurement of that experience is less important. Basically, the product is the brand and the brand is the image, which is why communications are so important. Customer relationships in service industries are built in a very different way – good or bad experiences dominate opinions of the brand.
Experiences are the delivery of the brand promise and if the brand promise is not fulfilled, communications will be undermined and the relationship will fail.