Customer Intimacy vs. Customer Satisfaction

November 18, 2011

Customer intimacyWhen helping clients with strategic plans and business model generation, I encourage them to choose one of three paths. These paths are clearly and effectively outlined by Fred Wiersema and Michael Treacy in The Discipline of Market Leaders: Choose Your Customers, Narrow Your Focus, Dominate Your Market:

1) Operational Excellence – Lowest Cost

2) Product Leader – Best Product or Service

3) Customer Intimacy – Best Overall Solution

Much has been written about operational excellence and product leadership, but customer intimacy hasn’t received as much attention. Perhaps that’s what inspired Fred Wiersema to go on to write Customer Intimacy: Pick Your Partners, Shape Your Culture, Win Together.

Customer intimacy often gets confused with customer satisfaction. According to Wiersema, “The core of customer intimacy lies in a simple–but radical–commitment: to deliver results. Not satisfaction, not delight, but the best possible solution to an individual customer’s needs.” In order to obtain the best possible solution, Wiersema recommends following these three principles:

1) Flex your commercial imagination. It is not enough to see what your customer sees; you must see further and clearer.
2) Cultivate your human connections. Customers are not transactions but trusted open relationships that grow as you deliver results.
3) Commit, commit, commit! It is not about the promise; it is about the delivery–meeting demands and cultivating relationships towards results, one customer at a time.

What is the focus of your strategic plan–operational excellence, product leadership, or customer intimacy? How are you operationalizing it? And what are your guiding principles?

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