In the Business Model Canvas, there are four sections that all have to do with getting the product or service to the customer. We’ve covered the Value Proposition, Customer Segment and Channels thus far. But now it’s time to talk about the last bit: Customer Relationships. The main question to ask here is: what sort of relationship do your customer segments want? Then you’ve just got to figure out what type you currently have, and what type you need to add on.

Of course it’s never just as simple as adding something on to your business. You have to look into cost effectiveness and business model integrity. If right now, for example, you only have email ticket support, but know that your audience wants/needs phone support, you are going to have to evaluate some key issues. Is it cost effective to hire on new team members? Does it fit more with your business model to have phone support or chat support? Whatever your customer relationships are, make sure primarily that they reflect the rest of your business model and the customer’s need.

  1. The Type of Customer Relationship: So what type do you have, what type do you envision, and what type does your customer need? Somewhere in these three answers, you will start to have an idea of what sort of relationship you need to build with your customer. Face-to-face versus automated, or both, is a big issue right now for a lot of businesses. Sometimes it feels like you have to push 17 buttons until you get to a real person, which aggravates a lot of people. So it’s important to define what relationship you can offer and what your customer needs you to offer. Here are some types and issues of customer relationship to consider.
    • Personal assistance
    • Dedication
    • Self service/FAQ are you going to help them find what they need?
    • Automated service
    • Communities: In this day and age, companies can be very successful at developing communities around a particular product (like the iPhone 6!).
    • Cocreation: Also a successful technique today. Create a new product or service WITH your customer–then you offer exactly what they need.
  2. The Areas of Customer Relationship: Remember that, most likely, your business has several areas of operation–and the same customer relationship is not necessarily relevant to each area. Define your customer relationship at each stage for the customer: Awareness of your Business, Evaluation of Your Business, Buying in, and Receiving product/services. And then of course there is an ongoing relationship: bringing them back in to your circle repeatedly and inspiring later sales. For example, at the awareness stage you might be bold and shouty, but at the evaluation stage, serious and comparative. And then when they are receiving support, friendly and technical. And maybe the awareness stage is all about social media marketing for you, but the evaluation stage might involve a personal phone call or inviting them to an email list. Each area needs to have intentional thought behind it.
  3. The Phases of Customer Relationship: As time goes on, you might enter different phases of relationship to your customer. For example, if you have a membership program, then eventually you will build a two-way trust element to the relationship. They feed into you, and you feed into them. Or if you run a coffee shop, then your baristas will eventually want to graduate the customers into higher levels of familiarity and friendliness. You would want you business’s customer relationship with these people to increase in familiarity with time. The relationships will necessarily change as long as you have repeat customers (and I hope you do!). The question is, how will you control that change?

The key is to always remember that relationships are human. You need to manage your business’s face to the customer accordingly. If you’ve identified your value proposition, you know your customer segments and you have your channels going, I promise you that you will learn, by either tripping, falling , or stumbling, what kind of relationships your customer segments want. But with intentionality, you can start on the right track!

What is your biggest irritation in customer service? And let me know any questions you have about developing customer relationships in the comment section below!

Join me every Monday for business tips!