What “The King and I” can tell us about relationship building

admin/ August 30, 2017/ Customer experience

“Getting to know you
Getting to know all about you
Getting to like you
Getting to hope you like me…”

Did you ever catch “The King and I”, a romantic musical starring Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr, featuring the song “Getting to Know You”.  Written by Rogers and Hammerstein, it’s an enduring hit about the developing relationship between two unlikely, but determined characters.

The lyrics reflect how liking someone is critical to building a good relationship with them and it’s the same with business – we simply like to do business with people we like, people like ourselves. The better we like and understand each other the stronger that bond becomes. (Equally potent is the converse of this statement, of course!).

How important is relationship building?

Customer relationship building is now considered a strategic imperative at Board level, as technology and access to vast amounts of meta-data enable us to understand our customers better through psychometrics, analysing their emotional responses and buying behaviours to help predict what they’ll want next week, next month, next year and in doing so build stronger relationships.

Okay, at this moment in time, such analytical rigour is likely to be beyond the reach of many smaller businesses but learning how these techniques work will put them in good stead for a future driven by new technologies and fast changing markets as these tools will become more accessible and affordable.

It should be a no-brainer

Feedback from major research projects (e.g. Forbes and Aberdeen), suggest that while building strong relationships with customers is a no-brainer, businesses struggle to do this as many are encumbered by inflexible, siloed internal structures, practices and mindset, legacy IT programmes, and political barriers to sharing data. A more holistic approach would work better.

This necessitates putting the customer first, bringing all the cognitive strengths of the business together, which takes time, guts and drive from the top. Their message must be crystal clear. Objectives communicated down to ground level, with everyone knowing their part in achieving success. Add a real willingness to share data and work together, remove obstacles to collaboration, let all sections work more freely to the same, agreed, (whole) business goals, then the reward is stronger customer performances, greater brand loyalty and reputation, the building of trust and perception of authenticity with customers, and healthy revenue streams and bottom line.

I’ve worked in a company like this, and it was an amazing experience.

Never confuse what is urgent with what is important*

Why is a comprehensive customer relationship building programme so hard to deliver or sustain when it is so sensible? Perhaps senior execs are just too busy doing the urgent stuff to give it their full attention! Perhaps customer relationship building may not be one of their current, personal (bonus-related) KPIs that the Board measures them on, but the urgent stuff is?

It isn’t going to get any easier as markets become broader and more specialised, as technology and use of data take a firmer hold, and multitudes of small businesses look for ways to become increasingly agile and competitive.

Don’t get left behind

The message for small business owners is to look seriously at customer relationship building as a keystone strategy, and start doing it better than the big boys.

The systems and tools are already out there, and smaller businesses can cherry pick what suits themselves the best, adopting a more holistic approach that improves internal cooperation and out-manoeuvres more inert competitors.

I wonder how the poor old customer is viewing all this? That’s the subject of my next blog.

Gerry Westwood,  CambridgeSpace Blog

* Lifted from an episode on the West Wing TV Drama.

Keywords:  customer relationship building, removing internal siloes to doing business, internal and external customers, predictive analytics, holistic marketing,