Even in traditional manufacturing (and manufacturing-style services), where “careful is correct and rational is right” has long been the managerial axiom, service quality is being recognized as the competitive edge that can differentiate one commodity offering from another. The service tide in which we’ve all been swept up makes it imperative that we pay increasing attention to whatever it takes, one-on-one and one-by-one, to earn the love and loyalty of our customers.
We don’t have the luxury of putting off this transformation. Inspired by their years of experience, well-publicized product quality improvement efforts and heightened service delivery rhetoric alike, customers are getting increasingly emotional, even passionate, about their service experiences. Listen to the raves of the Zappos, Lexus, L.L. Bean faithful and you’ll hear more “love stories” than you’ll find on the drugstore paperback rack. Listen, as well, to the tales of anger and woe told by disgruntled customers, and you’ll find that novelist Stephen King doesn’t have a corner on horror stories.
In this time of passion, how do you use the concept of “customer intimacy” to create long-term loyalty? Start by seeing customer transactions not as a random collection of single experiences, but as an important partnership. Relationships in business, just as those in our personal lives, are built on knowledge, caring, and experience.