Choosing a Customer Relationship Type

The type of customer relationship that is right for your business depends on your customer acquisition costs, customer retention goals, and need to up-sell the customer on add-on or related products in the future. When considering different customer relationship types, I find it helpful to consider a list of common customer relationships to guide me and my client’s thinking. To that end, here are six common customer relationship types that most businesses might offer to their selected customer segment. Review the following common customer relationship types and determine which one is most appropriate for your offering:

1. Personal Assistant – When you buy a new suit or a new car, you rely on a salesperson to show off the product’s features and benefits. In this case, a personal assistant (frequently called a salesman or saleswoman) who has no long-term connection with the customer after the sale is an appropriate customer relationship type.

2. Dedicated Personal Assistant – At my bank, I have a private banking relationship where a specific and dedicated banker is assigned to my banking and investment relationship. In many businesses, a customer is assigned to a dedicated account manager who is familiar with the customer and manages the relationship.

3. Self Service – Most supermarkets are a good example of a self service customer relationship where you as a consumer are left to your own devices to locate the product and make your purchasing decisions without any assistance from the business.

4. Automated Service – Amazon is an example of an automated service where an application makes recommendations based on previous purchases and upon what similar buyers looked at or purchased. Another example that comes to mind is LinkedIn. LinkedIn helps you make connections by asking you “Do you know these people?” The key to an automated service comes from the ability to make recommendations for you.

5. Communities – I used to use the Avid video editing tool that relied on a user community to provide support. When I was having a problem I could not solve myself, I went to a message board and either searched the database for an answer or posed the question to the community of users and checked back later to see if I got any responses. Community customer relationships rely on non-company users to remain actively engaged.

6. Co-Creation – YouTube is an good example of a customer relationship that uses co-creation because it relies on its user base to create content. Co-creation businesses invite their users to be part of the process, such as when Amazon encourages customers to write reviews about products they bought on the Amazon.com.

What customer relationship does your business use?

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