Thursday, October 4, 2007

Loyalty in Virtual Relationships

Jim Kane, a partner in the Brookeside Group located in Boston has posed a very interesting concept. Jim is suggesting that since loyalty is based on relationships many of those relationships are now becoming virtual in many areas. He posits that the same elements that exist in human relationships now exist in virtual relationships. There are six elements that he believes affect loyalty. They are:
1. Integrity - the customer must perceive the company/virtual person to be honest and fair.
2. Competency - the customer believes the company/virtual person can deliver what it commits to.
3. Recognition - the customer believes he/she is being perceived as an individual.
4. Proactivity - the customer will see the company/virtual person as a trusted advisor.
5. Saavy - the customer believes the company/virtual person understands the challenges the he (the customer) is facing.
6. Chemistry - the customer likes working with the company/virtual person.

Mr. Kane notes that he is not aware if a human works at Amazon, yet Amazon and the virtual people do all of those things very well.

These virtual relationships are occuring every day in the online, internet-driven, e-commerce-oriented world.

I think one of the most important aspects of this view of customers as both physical and virtual through technology is that the technology that companies use is now directly affecting customers. As Mr. Kane so aptly puts it "CIOs are essentially building relationships with the company's customers through technology." The down side to this technology connection is that if the customer interface is not done properly, the technology can affect the customers in a negative way and create a barrier to customer loyalty.

The bottom line for me is that we must become more aware of the impact of the technology used by a company and pay close attention to its impact on customers.

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