There has been a movement over the past few decades, away from personal interaction with customers, towards automated responses, centralized call centres and the cost reduction that goes along with that. Big companies, finding it hard to attract new clients, have attempted to increase profits by reducing the amount of money spent on serving the clients they have. Welcome to the age of, “Your response was not understood. Press 5 to repeat these options.”
That is changing. Not only are large corporations talking about developing a better relationship with their clients, but small companies are actually doing something about it, and new companies can’t get off the ground without it.
When a business tries to get a new customer, it faces a cynical crowd. We are all asking the question, “What have you done for me, lately?” and “Why should I trust you?” After years of broken promises from all kinds of companies, we consumers need to be picky.
The Internet Economy is changing the way companies approach new clients. Remember the first web browser, Mozilla, back in 1994? It was free to download. It caught on quickly and gained trust because we didn’t have to take a risk spending money on something we weren’t familiar with. And now, 16 years later, giving stuff away has never been cheaper. Free information, software and services are available everywhere. And companies (like Google and Facebook) that give most of their services away for free, are growing their profits at a rate never before seen.
This is how companies are learning to build relationships: Give away something of value, show the world that they know what they’re talking about, build trust based on demonstrated expertise, and keep in touch with clients (and prospects) online. It gets easier to buy something from someone you trust.
And in cases like Google and Facebook, develop a following of millions of people overnight, that companies can tap into through networking and advertising.
Some people might argue that they aren’t real relationships if it’s just faceless corporations throwing stuff at people via an impersonal website. On the other hand, local entrepreneurs are using the same methods to build personal relationships with people in their neighborhood. And the message is growing: We need relationships, not just transactions. Business is built on relationships, which are built on trust, which is built on integrity and service.
And a world with more integrity, trust and service is a better place, in my opinion.