What’s up with your customers?

ATT Wireless has been airing a TV commercial that’s simply joyous. It’s a bunch of happy mobile customers doing their thing –strolling along, walking the dog, calling friends and saying ‘Hi’, ‘Howdy’ Whatcha doin’? ‘What’s up?’

I think of it as a Web 2.0, ‘next generation’ spot. Totally social. And ATT’s message is unmistakable: “staying in touch is good for relationships and you don’t need to log on to Facebook to do it, friend – just use that wonderful little gadget in you pocket and stay wired to your friends”.

As a customer relationship wonk I’ve been thinking about this campaign and wondering why more companies don’t apply this kind of thinking to their business relationships. Instead, when customers hear from their suppliers they expect a sales pitch – and that’s what they get. Accountability has become king, and the king says maximize the revenue of every marketing dollar. And do it now!

Investing in the brand is OK. But nobody seems to be investing time or money in staying in touch to build relationships – though research says strong relationships are an intangible asset that will build sales and profits. Back in the day, before we got so mercilessly efficient, some business people were more far-sighted. An IBM sales executive told me of calling on the CEO of one of his big mainframe customers, who was surprised when no sales pitch was made. “I just want to get to know you a little better”, said the exec, “so that when we have a problem, or an opportunity, we’ll be able to discuss it on a first name basis.”

So here’s my question. When was the last time you called up a customer to do a simple ‘relationship check’? Or to discuss a hot new development in your industry? Or to point out a blog post or article of interest? Or to find out what’s going on in your customer’s world first hand?

Are you tracking your customers’ behavior, so that you can ask the right questions when you make the call? Do you know your customer well enough that his or her reaction to the contact will be “these people really understand me and my business.”

Think about it. We believe you simply can’t know enough about what’s up with your customers.

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