Invest in Intimacy


July 1998

Managing:Customer Service

Invest in Intimacy

The authors of a new book give customer service a new name &#150"customer intimacy" – and explain how to make the most of it

Compare your store to Airborne Express. It may seem far-fetched, but if you believe customer service is important, you may have more in common with the express delivery service than you think.

Airborne Express has developed a discipline of "customer intimacy" to achieve its success and is featured in a book Discipline of Market Leaders. But the book's subtitle is what should capture your attention: "Choose Your Customers, Narrow Your Focus, Dominate Your Market."

Authors Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema, management consultants, advance the theory that all successful businesses adopt one of three value disciplines:

  • Operational excellence.
  • Product leadership.
  • Customer intimacy.

All three are important, but customer intimacy may be the most important to jewelry retailers. Premium customer service is one of the four main components of value (the others are price, time and quality). The authors list several companies that have excelled in customer intimacy, including Home Depot, Nordstrom, Airborne Express and IBM (as it was in the 1970s). "They offer a unique range of superior services, from education to hands-on help, so customers can get the most out of their products," the book says. Do you do the same?

These companies also take the long view, say the authors. "These companies are more than happy to make investments in building relationships, but to have an eventual return on their investment, they have to retain their clients." Do you feel the same way?

Other tidbits of advice from the book: "Don't rest on your laurels ... Dominate your market by improving value year after year ... To stay ahead, you have to get better and better ... Intensively compete with [your] own success."

The authors establish a hypothetical toy company that's trying to define its value discipline. Reading through this case study will help you to ask questions about where you want to go, what you want to be, what your market is and how you can get there.

The book (ISBN 0-201-40719-1) is available in stores or call Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., (800) 238-9682.

– by Jack Heeger

Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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