A digital relationship can enable the connection of products in a customer’s wallet like this insurance and banking bundle for Gjensidige

A digital customer relationship turns the idea of CRM on its head. Rather than the organisation controlling customer data, the customer is provided with information that they can use to get the most value from their chosen service provider. Relationships can start before an individual is a customer to support their purchase decision and continue to support the customer over a lifetime.

Digital holds huge potential to personalise a service
Digital technologies have dramatically shifted the way customers transact with businesses. We have grown to expect to be able to do routine tasks through digital means and are frustrated when this is not available. But digital technologies are only beginning to enable us to have an ongoing discussion about our changing needs or to enable a truly personal experience. This prospect holds huge potential.

Relationships over the lifecycle drive loyalty
A digital customer relationship will differ in nature from sector to sector but will have common qualities. It will provide a consistent experience over the lifecycle of the customer experience. It will put control into the hands of the customer rather than keep key capabilities in the hands of the organization. And it will create value by supporting customers to get more from their services driving satisfaction and loyalty. So what does this mean in different industries?

Banking: a healthier financial life
Digital banking is delivering fantastic transactional convenience but is yet to really support customers towards better financial health. This requires long-term relational functionality that uses trend and behavioral analysis to support customers through good and bad times. A bank that can support its customers in this way will build trust and be in a position to do more for them.

Insurance: flexibility and mutual benefit
Insurance suffers from the trend towards transactional relationships – we tend to buy on price. A digital relationship could provide insurers with a way to add value to the core policy product through more personal features that provide flexibility and also reduce claims. Imagine if customers could actively engage in risk mitigation with support from insurers’ deep knowledge made personal. The relationship shifts from distrust to trust.

Telecoms: maximising the sense of value
Telecoms feel expensive to customers. Our bill is always more than we feel it should be. Telecoms businesses do not help this as they do little to reinforce the value gained or help us get the most from what we buy. In a saturated market where the battle is over market share the operators who customers feel help them get value will win. A digital relationship can enable this.

Transport: from tickets barriers to a right to travel
Transport is hugely transactional in nature. Digital technologies are simply replacing paper with pixels. Customers experience huge complexity in pricing and confusion over routes and timetables. A digital relationship can shift this towards the provision of the right to travel and begin to build in levels of forgiveness that customers appreciate as human qualities. London Underground are beginning to do this with the Oyster smart card and have the opportunity to do a lot more to improve the experience of stressed commuter’s.

Smart cards for transport
Smart cards for transport must be more forgiving with customers to avoid irritating them around minor infringements

Digital customer relationship builds value by building trust
Digital technologies are hugely effective when employed to transform the transactions providing customer convenience and cost savings. However, this does create the risk that customers will become more distant from businesses who only offer the same (transactional) capabilities. A digital customer relationship is a mechanism to build trust and familiarity that has a much higher potential to satisfy customers and keep them loyal.

Ben ReasonBen Reason is founding director of service design at niche consultancy Livework. Founded in 2001, with offices in London, Oslo, Rotterdam and Sao Paulo, Livework employs 35 people and is considered to be the worlds’ leading service design and innovation agency.

A graduate of Liverpool School of Art and Bath University School of Management, Ben founded Livework with Lavrans Løvlie and Chris Down in 2000. He ensures Livework creates breakthrough service concepts and experiences for their clients’ business and their customers.

Ben has 20 years experience in service design, consulting in numerous industries and public sector organisations across Europe, North America, and Asia. Ben’s clients with Livework include Johnson & Johnson, The BBC, The NHS, Vodafone and Transport for London.

He regularly guest lectures at the Royal College of Art. Ben has spoken at events around the world and is a co-author of Service Design: Designing Useful, Usable and Desirable Services (Rosenfeld Media, 2012).

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