Book Review by Andy Ghillyer
Interactions between companies and their customers have historically been episodic in nature. A customer identifies an unmet need (either independently or through persuasive marketing) and then proceeds to browse for a solution until a satisfactory one is found.
In their new book Connected Strategy: Building Continuous Relationships for Competitive Advantage, authors Nicolaj Siggelkow and Christian Terwiesch provide a detailed examination of how technology has changed the traditional customer interaction forever.
The drive to improve upon episodic interactions is built on two glaring weaknesses in that process. First, customers have to do a lot of research up front and then wait for delivery (a temporal gap). Second, customers must often settle for what the company has available rather than what they really want (a value gap).
Siggelkow and Terwiesch describe four specific pathways for transforming episodic interactions into the competitive advantage of continuous customer relationships:
Respond to Desire
Disney began experimenting with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag technology as far back as 2005 when they used bracelets to keep track of children on their cruise ships. When the technology was transferred to the theme parks, the Magic Bands, as they became known, became an integral component of a magical guest experience. As the technology advanced, the transactional advantage (paying for goods and getting Fast Pass tickets) has been elevated to a point where characters can see the name of a guest as she or he approaches and offer a personal greeting.
Publisher McGraw-Hill Higher Education has leveraged technology to replace textbooks with interactive digital learning experiences. Students progress through the material can be tracked and reported back to the professor, flagging any topic areas where the student appears to be struggling. As such, each student: “thus receives a curated and customized learning experience rather than a standard textbook.”
Nike has transformed the purchase of a pair of running shoes into the purchase of a wellness system that builds a continuous relationship with customers and their peers. Microchips embedded in the shoes generate workout data that analyzes performance while also allowing customers to share information with their friends and family on social media.
Disney’s Magic Band features prominently here too, as technology allows company photographers to deliver a complete photo album of your stay at the park: “without the customer ever noticing a camera.” Customers no longer have to be harassed by photographers on Main Street when they enter the park, and if they don’t like the photo album, they simply decline to purchase.
The authors recognize the urgent need for close attention to data protection and trust development as many of these capabilities veer towards: “the grey zone between Big Brother and parental love.” However, their expectation is that the potential for operational cost savings will continue to drive experimentation with and broader adoption of this technology.
Connected Strategy delivers a fascinating examination of the potential of continuous relationships with your customers. Using rich examples and practical advice, this book offers a clear roadmap to keeping customers for life.
Andy Ghillyer is a Contributing Writer at Soundview. He lives in Tampa, FL where he specializes in writing for the B2B and academic markets while raising a growing menagerie of cats and dogs.
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