Customer Relationships Are More Than Skin-Deep: Quantifying the Value

There are a lot of businesses that rely on repeat business from existing customers (at Interactive Intelligence, some 60+% of our product sales comes from existing customers). This repeat business might be an existing customer buying more of the same, or a customers purchasing additional product or services that are a part of your broader portfolio.

Along these lines, it’s long been know that it is more expensive to obtain a new customer than it is to retain an existing one. Yet, too few companies really take the time to analyze the relationships they have with their customers. All customers aren’t alike. All customer relationships aren’t alike. One customer might consider you a critically integral part of their business, while another might say, "yeah, I think we’ve bought something from them before."

So what is the right way to measure and value the relationship you have with a customer. Instead of making it one dimensional, I like the three dimension approach that consulting firm Peppers&Rogers uses. They say that companies should look at the following three dimensions of the relationship with their customers:

  • Length of the relationship — How long have you been doing business with the particular customer
  • Breadth of the relationship — How many different products and services does the customer buy from you
  • Depth of the relationship — What is the overall financial revenue impact the customer has with you

What I like about this is it gives a business the ability to affect more of the customer relationship than the simple yes/no question, "Are they a customer of ours?" Now you can look at selling them additional new product, getting them to be repeat buyers over longer periods of time, etc.

Does technology play into this approach? Absolutely. Here are just a few ways…

1. Segment your customer base based upon length/breadth/depth of the relationship and be sure your routing and prioritization favors your most important customers.

2. Implement automated scripts to cross-sell and up-sell, primarily targeted at improving the "breadth" of the relationship.

3. Improve the profile detail you keep about each customer so you can track progress as you work to improve the length/breadth/depth of the relationships.

Bottom-line is that this customer value approach allows you to focus on your most important customers. The adage of "we treat all our customers the same" is a bunch of hooey! You want to treat your most important customers the best. You want them to work with your best agents/employees. You want them to get served first. To do that you need to know who they are, based on a multi-faceted criteria and then you need to use great technology to make sure you’re able to take the best care of them possible.

Any other viewpoints? Any other thoughts about how technology can be used to better serve your most important customers. Chime in! Click on the comment box.

Joe Staples — Soaking up the 101 degree sun in Salt Lake City