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When is it OK to cultivate personal relationships for monetary gain?

"Marry for love, not money …but only look for love where there is already money.” That was a grandmothers life advice to a friend of mine, Izzy (not her real name). Izzy went on to marry a wealthy guy and now lives a high-end lifestyle. I find this story both amusing and a little perturbing.

I mention it here because it recently came to mind in a business context. Most businesses aim to build relationships with their customers - and do so for financial gain. Obsessing over the customer using Digital customer experience (CX) has become the latest business buzz. This can be traced back to 2008 when Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder, said (I paraphrase) “I believe the success we have had over the past 12 years has been driven exclusively by customer experience.

Since then:

  • Amazon shares briefly past the $1,000 mark,

  • Bezos eclipsed Bill Gates to become the worlds richest man and

  • Amazon is on it’s way to become the first $1 trillion company.

As businesses jump on the digital CX bandwagon, many are focused on the relationship details over wealth potential. The wily grandmother might say; businesses should look to build relationships with their customers …but only build those relationships where there's the greatest potential for money! They should score their customers based on wealth potential and look for the gold, not the copper.

In personal relationships, this behavior attracts the moniker “gold digger”, with significant negative connotations. It refers to a person who cultivates a personal relationship in order to attain wealth alone. In business a gold digger is not only acceptable, it’s commendable. Business is ultimately transactional. It’s OK to carefully calculate the value potential of a customer - and this requires data.

In April 2016, Accenture Interactive and Forrester Consulting completed a survey suggesting businesses can improve significantly in this area. They evaluated a number of global enterprises’ CX efforts and found that although "executives have woken up to the importance of digital in forging great customer experiences, one word defines business executives’ attitudes toward digital CX; Complacency! This is especially surprising when the same study found that, depending on industry, a 1% increase in CX scores can mean $10 to $100 million-plus annual value for an individual brand.

The wealth is out there. Businesses just need to get more focused on accessing it.

So, where to start? First, a business should set a goal. I’m sure my friend Izzy, heeding her grandmother’s advice, set a goal. I don’t think she was ever going to settle for a low-net-worth guy. Equally, businesses looking to build relationships through their digital platform should set goals.

A decent digital platform can help build better relationships, by:

  • Driving Engagement (e.g. measured by engagement; interaction time or click through rates - DATA)

  • Increasing Conversion (e.g. registration and purchase from lead gen - driven by DATA)

  • Optimizing Customer Satisfaction (e.g. brand loyalty, NPS, wallet share, LTV - More DATA).

These factors can be used to ‘score’ customers. Ironically, Izzy probably also had to think about conversion, satisfaction, engagement and maybe scoring, to realize her goals... But for Izzy, these terms had altogether different meanings.

Although I can’t say I approve of Izzy's actions (in a personal context), I admire them (in a business one). In business, attaining wealth by cultivating relationships is entirely acceptable. We should be structured and calculating when assessing how improving the customer experience will increase revenue, and / or decrease costs. We should not be complacent. We should look for customer love, but look for love where there is money - and don’t be afraid of calculating this - and this requires DATA. In business, being a gold digger is a good thing.

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