Not surprisingly, with a new book out on customer relationships, I’ve been talking a lot about customer relationships.

The good news: Virtually all audience members in my talks embrace the concept that customer relationships are a true competitive advantage, and the key to loyalty and referrals.

The bad news: Most of them (even CEO’s) express frustrations that their organizations don’t act as if customer relationships were of ultimate importance.

It’s not that people within these organizations don’t believe in the importance of strong customer relationships. In fact, relationships get good lip-service support in most companies. The problem is that the happy talk of “we-care-about-customer-relationships” is not backed up with real substance.

Sure, companies have invested in CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems, but, for most companies, this is mostly a software exercise. Sure, many companies have loyalty programs, rewarding customers for repeat usage, but these are more about bribery than “getting-to-know-you.”

I will explore this concept from many angles on this blog. But for today, let’s consider one litmus test: In addition to a focus on aggregate measures of customer behavior, such as number of units sold, # of customers in Nebraska, average selling price, etc., does your organization also measure the value and characteristics of individual customer relationships? What do you measure about individual customers? How well are you set up to learn about individual customers, remember what you learn, and use it later to have an encounter with that customer?

Moving from “relationsh-lip service” to relationship-building is not rocket science. Like most things in business, the main reason that we don’t move from talking about it to doing it is that … we don’t move from talking about it to doing it.

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