Men are from CustomerLand, Women are from VendorLand

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Don’t assume customers want a relationship with you

In a recent Harvard Business Review blog article, Matt Dixon and Lara Ponomareff argued that customers might not want a relationship with the companies selling products to them.

That seems to go against the current groupthink in the Social-anything circles: companies need to engage with their customers at a personal level and provide a delightful customers experience.

Dixon and Ponomareff offer examples of people lining up at the ATM machine even when there is nobody at the counter inside the bank or going for the self-service kiosks at airports even when nobody is the check-in counter. Most customers these days demonstrate a huge appetite for self-service, yet most companies run their operations as if customers prefer to interface with them live.

In a #scrm Twitter conversation, Mitch Lieberman (@mjayliebs) and several people argued that customers do want relationships with vendors when that is necessary for discovery of the problem/solution. I totally agree with that.

So, what is the root of the controversy?

Usually, when customers engage with vendors, it is because they believe the vendor can help them solve a pain. Their primarily objective is to get a problem solved.

Usually, when vendors engage with customers, they want a relationship that helps them to upsell, cross-sell after the first transaction. Their primary objective is to increase revenues.

When partners in a relationship have different goals, problems can arise. So we need to align those different goals. Thinking of that, I had crafted the title of this posting.

Prem Kumar (@Prem_k) said I was preaching to the choir because Social CRM is exactly about aligning those objectives. He also said that differences in perspective is not only between customers and vendors, but could also be different geographies, demographics, B2B/B2C, etc.

I agree. My point was that we (even in the #scrm world) often lose sight of the motivations of the parties and it is important to remind ourselves.

As Munish Gandhi (@munishgandhi) said in the recent Global Social CRM meeting, key to culture transformation is tangibly align with the mission of helping the customer.

If companies are to be successful engaging with their customers, they need to learn to put the goal of helping before their natural goal of increasing revenues.

Martin Shneider (@crmoutsiders) highlighted that, instead of assuming, just be flexible to entertain multi-levels/types of engagement.

Thanks to @mjayliebs @prem_k, @munishgandhi @berkson0 @crmoutsiders for the enlightening discussion.

This article was originally written for and posted at

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