Every customer relationship has a "life" - if I can use that as an analogy... the first exposure or purchase might be thought of as "birth"... but how do you determine "death"? A customer leaving might be beyond your control, regardless of how great the experience is. For instance, consider this quote by Al Ries:
"When a guy gets promoted, he doesn't get a more expensive Chevy, He buys a BMW." (source: reveries: Cool News...)
At first, I took that quote at face value. It makes sense. But, just because the person buys a BMW instead of a more expensive Chevy, does that mean that he is no longer a customer of Chevy? Might that guy buy a Chevy for his kid when they're old enough? Perhaps he tells others how much he loved his Chevy?
In other words, where does the customer relationship end? Is the relationship defined by one transaction or multiple transactions? Should the relationship be defined by transactions at all?
Consider some of the products or services that people consume: a bag of chips, a CD or DVD, a haircut, a computer, a car, a custom built home... the consumers experience with each of those is different, obviously. The factors that determine the movie I rent/buy could be the genre, the actor/actress, etc. Ashley Judd was great in Kiss the Girls and it was a movie that I talked about with others even after I returned it to BlockBuster, but I have no desire to see Where the Heart Is - of course, that doesn't mean that the studio shouldn't produce it, I'm sure lots of people saw it and probably enjoyed it.
It seems that most companies rely far too heavily on past sales, forecasted demand, and other factors to determine what to produce. Rarely, it seems, do companies seem to solicit feedback from customers. I understand that there is a cost to this, but what is the value of true customer intimacy? Knowing what people want? Most importantly, being seen as someone who cares more about me than just the dollars that I bring to the register.
In a previous post, I wrote about my purchase of the Lyra RD 2780 from RCA. I registered my product but I've never heard from them. This is all too typical - not even a thank you for registering. It would have been nice to get something from them that said: "here is a special email address just for owners - let us know if you have any questions or if there is anything we can do to improve your experience". RCA clearly cared more about selling me this device than they do about seeing that I enjoy it.
I could go on and on with this one, but I digress...
I guess my question is this: does the relationship end with a purchase? Is it usage? What about disposition? Is it really over when I sell my Chevy and buy a BMW or does it continue beyond that?