By focusing all their customer relations on getting that final transaction, companies are thinking too small.

BiggerPie.jpgEarlier in the year, I reflected upon an article that appeared in Harvard Business Review. The title of my article was: "It Is About The Relationship Not The Transaction."

The theme of both centered around creating shared value between the buyer and seller, customer and organization. The focal point was pricing strategies, often poorly formed and ill-considered strategies (otherwise it would have been a boring article).

Companies focus on extracting value (think airlines and baggage fees), instead of creating shared value. Unfortunately, they do not consider the value of the relationship with their customers, beyond just a transaction.

Looked at from another point of view, if the objective is to make sure to grab a larger share of the pie (think wallet), instead of making the pie bigger (think repeat buyer, co-creation, referral value), then the company is missing an opportunity.

value is not the fixed pie that most companies imagine; rather, it can be enlarged through collaboration with customers, such as when a firm provides a well-crafted discount that not only boosts sales and encourages referrals but also promotes the brand and builds loyalty." Marco Bertini and John T. Gourville "Pricing to Create Shared Value

There is a sense (theory?), not completely proven that engaged customers cost less to retain and are more loyal. The belief is that engaged customers shift to higher-end products or like to "accessorize." My approach here is that of guarded optimism, human nature being what it is.

Customers can be engaged for many reasons, most of which are self-serving (a slightly jaded viewpoint, I admit). That said, if customers are engaged, they will "call it like they see it" which is valuable to the entire organization.

Enter Social Customer Service (Interactions)

In this context, I am defining Social as those interactions that are communicated via public channels. The real word is "Digital," but that is for another day. In other words, an email to customer service is not social, any more than a phone call.

Organizations who are willing to engage via social (aka public) channels are likely to better leverage the benefits associated with these interactions. The rewards, however, may or may not be monetary (at least not first degree measures). In the end, customers are looking for two things: answers and value. If customers are able to find either, they (we) are happy.