Relationships cubed

The Background

With the lead up to Christmas and for networking I attended many functions and seminars, run by a wide variety of organisations, in multiple industries, in Q4, 2011. I was also involved in hosting some. You could say I’ve been a business and social butterfly this year.

Enjoying some great conversation and tasting the culinary treats – which seemed to be of a very high standard this year, I reminded myself of the maxim that for every 100 people you invite to anything in NSW about 60% will actually turn up on the day / night and in Victoria it’s about 80%.

The Observations

Do you remember in times past that as an attendee you would be most delighted to be asked to attend one of these functions – to be one of the “in” set – what with the smooching, and nonstop flow of served free food and expensive drinks of one’s choice?

Well something strange has happened this year, post GFC1 and perhaps under a shadow of a possible GFC2. At all the events I attend (and hosted) the hosts were strangely much happier to have each and every guest there, than the individual guests themselves were to be there – not that the guests weren’t happy, they were delighted.

What was noticeable was that every guest was welcomed, mollycoddled and treated like a long lost rich uncle or aunt.

The Diagnosis

In this two, or is it three speed, economy, business revenue and margin, is tough to come by – CEOs tell me good sales people (that can actually close deals) and good customers are extremely hard to find. New customers are expensive to acquire, so existing customers, and even more importantly, those who may be new customers, or who have the networks and connections to bring new customers, are gold. Gold is of course at record prices, it’s a haven for value in hard times.

When I went back and looked at the advertising or other marketing activities of the organisations I had attended (and talked with them about their budgets) I noticed that the other marketing spending was much less visible.

There has been a shift of smart money away from advertising or general promotion to securing and monetarising strong and lasting business relationships.

The Lesson

Great, long lasting relationships, and personal experiences, be they business or private, are so much better than a cold impersonal approach. I am not talking here about the purchase of commodities, which we all want to buy off or research over the internet, but long term business, annuity streams of revenue that make an entity more valuable – things you want regularly perhaps customised and are important to you. Interestingly two of my examples are from organisations that we Aussies traditionally love to hate.

Example One

I bank with the ANZ and love them, despite, like most Aussies, not being at all well disposed to banks generally. But my actual personal experience and relationship with the ANZ, over a long time has been as follows:

  • Their internet banking is superb and always works brilliantly – be it by computer, mobile phone or iPad (especially good). They never seem to be the bank whose system goes down.
  • The service, especially in “my” branch on the corner of Queen and Collins in Melbourne is always suburb, with little waiting and well informed relationship (personal) or business bankers.
  • I like their intelligent rather than pretence based advertisement.

In short my personal experiences and relationship with ANZ are so good, they can overcome even stronger negativity towards banks in general.

Example Two

Now we all love to hate health insurance – we kind of have to have – or think we do, but it costs more every year; we often find what we thought was covered isn’t; and the government refuses to let medical insurers innovate and integrate as they should.

I recently went into the very busy Elizabeth St branch of Medibank in Melbourne to make some claims. Like many or most people I take every medical bill I can find be it for Medicare or Medibank (I never know which) and just hand them over at whichever office I get to first – Medibank or Medicare. They then pay what’s theirs and send me around the corner to the other lot.

So hats off to Medibank in Melbourne, who actually realises that Christmas comes every year (don’t laugh some businesses don’t); everyone wants to cash in those claim for pressie money and had an extra, very pleasant senior staff member standing at the “take a ticket machine” to “triage” (or I reckon it’s more like drafting cattle) customers.

I was so impressed I stopped and talked to her and she told me the role was deliberately designed to [a] speed up claiming at a busy time and [b] ensure no one waited a long time to be served only to find they should be at Medicare. Unfortunately Medicare was not offering the same “meet and greet” service.

So again although I may have a few moans and groans about Medibank, they won me over by making it smooth in my actual dealing and relationship with them – their call centre is equally good and starting to attract international attention, I hear on the grapevine.

Example Three

One of my clients who sells through a multi vendor channel had independent market research carried out a year ago and found that their clients no longer liked them and did as much as they could to avoid dealing with them – they were using competitors or substitutes – and the sales figures were starting to show it.

So we worked on a comprehensive customer relationship program which has been running for a year now and they are again loved by their customers. We did customer orientation training for the entire staff, a new Internet site, new catalogues, the owner visited every major customer personally, they set up a database and write to customers regularly. and of course no one is forgotten at Christmas. We will be resurveying customers again shortly and I know their response already – because the sales are starting to reflect it – they are going to say “we feel loved again”

The owner said to me the other day “Paul, I am so glad we did all the customer relationship things we did, because if we had not, (like some of my friends who own businesses) we would not be here now, whereas as it is, despite the GFC we are very well placed for 2012.”

The Question

So how are your business relationships?

This is the best place to invest your scarce resources right now. It’s old fashioned in a way, but it works.

Today success is all about relationships, relationships and relationships.


Copyright 2015 Maxik Consulting