Most people who stumble on this blog probably remember the TV show Cheers.  It was a pretty good show where the manager, Woody, sort of knew his patrons and developed human relationships with his loyal visitors.  There have been different shows pop up in the wake of Cheers, inspired by the communal business feel and relationships between patrons and the business.  I’m watching a show right now in Germany (ahem, Bavaria) called Dahoam is Dahoam, where the setting is similar–folks in the community know each other and stop in regularly to visit the local restaurant “stammtisch.”   The loyalty exhibited by many Germans to the stammtisch has always interested me…

It turns out that people tend to really gain benefits from being loyal to all sorts of relationships (spouses, jobs, teams, etc). Even as our society seems to try and make it more difficult for people to stay loyal to anything across any walk of life—research indicates there are benefits for people who stay loyal and maintain stable relationships (see this interesting new article from the Wall Street Journal)

Small businesses have traditionally been closer to customers and have an advantage when it comes to knowing who their regulars are and developing loyal relationships with them.  Large-scale traditional manufacturers (and even retailers) struggle to understand/know their consumers intimately.  But this needs to change in the era of the empowered, social (and increasingly untethered) consumer.

Forrester recently completed a study that covered 4 things for big companies/business leaders to over- invest in for the coming decade of increased consumer  power where loyalty will only become harder to achieve.

  • Real-time intelligence
  • Customer experience and customer service
  • Sales channels that deliver customer intelligence
  • Useful content and interactive marketing

The only thing I would pull out and emphasize in the above list (lumped under interactive marketing) would be mobile as we’re seeing incredible tablet and smartphone adoption by consumers, while investment in the space is still shockingly low.

Real connections with real humans that really last (and build businesses)

Points 2/3 in the list above highlight the need for big businesses to put more focus on empowering, educating and training front line staff and customer facing units.   Businesses will need to put their best people need out front  if they want to deliver best in class experiences and build business relationships that are lasting.   CRM systems will need to become more sophisticated and companies will need to find smart ways to combine digital intelligence with front line human intuition.

Being data driven is going to be critical as we move into this decade…but those companies who can be data driven and expertly build real relationships with humans will come out on top.