Companies that successfully implement customer intimacy are rewarded with a higher level of loyalty than for good service alone. And loyalty means better business.
The key here is insight, though: learning about what truly makes your customers tick, innovating to align with this knowledge. And then making it work to move beyond a purely transactional relationship.
Getting intimate gives you that edge
How does customer intimacy help your business distinguish itself? First of all, knowing your customer better helps you design better products and services. More insight into what customers are looking for, and what their issues are, helps you to custom-tailor a product’s features.
Of course, companies have always tried to anticipate customer needs that way. But intimacy goes beyond that. It means understanding needs and desires before the customer could even articulate them.
This kind of intelligent problem-solving allows companies to innovate faster. Products are continually adapted in reaction to these insights and therefore continually improving.
Having a deeper understanding of ‘your customer’ means moving beyond a purely transactional relationship. What would it mean for your business to really look at what other problems your customer is trying to solve than getting information printed and distributed in a profitable way?
A bank that helps you rent a bike
Let’s dive into a genuine example of how major Belgian bank-insurer KBC - yes, you read that correctly, we’re about to talk about a bank and its exceptional application of customer intimacy - uses their mobile banking app to
- get closer to customers by making their daily lives easier
- add services not directly related yet linked to banking
- shape the relationship with their customers that way
- and align their brand perception with their company values
- to reinforce loyalty
- and gather feedback and data to improve and expand their efforts
KBC’s customer-centric model is based on the values of trust, convenience and proactivity while they position themselves as a strong advisory player. Their mobile app is a key vehicle for their customer intimacy strategy and their continued effort to build a strong customer focus.
They live their values to create a credible, meaningful relationship.
In this case, through technology.
Linked to your bank account the app allows you to rent a city bike, park your car, pay your train, bus and tram fares. Monitor the balance and payments of your meal and service vouchers. They were the first in Belgium to incorporate non-banking services.
The app sets out to compete with Google, Apple and PayPal trying to edge into the financial supply chain by eliminating intermediates. It increases KBC’s share of their customers’ time and attention as well as the “on us” transactions of customers on their KBC accounts.
Spending more time with customers allows KBC to gather customer intelligence and improve their products and services.
A genuine case of the no-effort approach
KBC Mobile is hyper-focused on convenience, allowing customers to log in with Touch ID or facial recognition and take care of almost all of their banking transactions. Customers indicated being very pleased with the app.
KBC went beyond ratings and used feedback regarding functionalities to make improvements to it anyway.
Digital entrepreneur and author Steven Van Belleghem is a fan. “KBC puts the ‘no-effort’ approach into practice,” he says. “KBC Mobile app recently let me park at the Q-Park car park without a ticket. I simply drove in and out using number plate recognition and beat the queues at no extra cost!”
This integrated approach is smart because users no longer want a thousand different apps on their smartphones, and KBC is helping them solve this problem.
Customer intimacy requires an organizational move
The KBC Mobile app is an unexpected case because, as much as the goal of any company’s app is engaging customers, a well-functioning app does not signify or provide customer intimacy in and of itself.
A customer intimacy strategy must be woven into the very fabric of an organization. KBC successfully aligned their organization behind the values of customer intimacy with an agile, integrated team motivated by responsive management.
Putting customer intimacy into practice doesn’t have to be a complex exercise though. It can be as simple as offering good online customer support or having live contact with your clients to get to know them better.
The key is feeding the insight gathered from your customer engagement back to the drawing board and engaging your team to implement new approaches.
Van Belleghem points out that it’s no longer necessary to choose between customer intimacy and operational excellence. “With what technology is capable of today, this is now a false choice. You can have both.”
“The proper technology in place with the properly trained and well-disposed human touch can help neutralize the negative emotions of your customers, and bring out more joy in the experiences they have.”
Whether it be in the banking or the printing world, the principles are the same: gathering insight on and meaningfully responding to customer needs has to be built into every interaction, end-to-end and top to bottom.
Valuing customer intimacy behind the scenes helps businesses to design truly customer-centric solutions. So perhaps then it’s not so unexpected after all that they keep their customers closer.
HERE’S THE THING
- Look at the service you provide your customers today.
What would it take to move beyond the mere transactional?
- What needs could you identify?
Besides helping them print and distribute information?
- Would you be able to help them digitally/technologically?
Take your customer’s point of view, not yours.
- Have you asked your favourite customers yet?
After a call? In an online survey? After a good meeting?
- Which data would you want to gather later on
to improve on your offering?