“Customer Intimacy”: The road to a better customer experience

Ten years ago in a casual discussion with one of my French MBA teachers, he started explaining to me a new concept called “customer intimacy” which many service providers are currently implementing to increase customer loyalty and differentiate themselves in the market. As a marketing consultant he was back then helping Orange in implementing this organizational model.
This idea grasped my attention and I knew immediately that this will be the topic of my thesis. I started analyzing the theory behind this concept which I will present it to you briefly in the upcoming section.
“Customer Intimacy”: Understanding your client
It is not a secret anymore that the marketing strategies adopted since the 1950s where all based on the company's’ image as well as the provided product. The only concern back then was how to optimize technology in order to reach as much clients as possible to increase the market share. The client back then wasn’t the priority and was treated as the given of this equation. In fact, he didn’t have many choices and once he got used to the product he would develop a certain “inertia” preventing him from trying anything else.
Today, with the new technological enhancements, more communication channels were introduced (Social media, smart phone applications …). The new marketing strategies give much more importance to the client being the main stakeholder of this system. Companies found themselves obliged to move from product oriented strategies to client oriented strategies. Only then we started hearing of “Customer loyalty”, “Customer Stimulation”, “Customer Experience” and “Fit for use”. The client is now the focal point of any successful business strategy.
“Customer intimacy” is an organizational discipline that leads any company to a deep understanding of its clients’ needs. Product information is now available abundantly and the client is more knowledgeable. Therefore, instead of guiding him into purchasing, we need to address him, gain his trust and understand his needs. Time after time a partnering and collaborative relationship will be created between the client and the service provider.
Luc Wathieu (1997) defined “Customer Intimacy” as the “delivery of a product or service of good quality which goes beyond the explicit demand of the client, based on a deep understanding of the clients’ expectations”.
The models of “Customer Intimacy”
We have three models of “Customer Intimacy” and in each one of those models there are three different levels as represented in the graph below. The choice of which level to reach varies depending on the enterprise domain of activities as well as the desired level of intimacy to be reached. I will present briefly those models from the lowest level of intimacy to the highest as follow:

The models of “Customer Intimacy”
For more details on the models of “Customer Intimacy” Click here

The “Tailoring”: 
The traps of “Tailoring”: It is critical for companies that choose to apply this model to stay self-aware and not get lost in the client's’ needs.  Capacity planning is key to avoid expanding into areas where there is no real profit. The second risk can be mitigated by good portfolio management and avoiding the offering of a huge variety of solutions.

The “Coaching”: 
The traps of “Coaching”: They can be summarized in the incompetence of the provider or an unfruitful collaboration with the client. In order to avoid such result the adopter of such discipline should:
- Be up to date and knowledgeable in order to be ready for any client request,
- Recruit the needed human resource to insure the appropriate support for the client,
- Take his time and choose well his clients,
- Understand his client’s problems deeply

The “Partnering”- Innovation and Integration with the client
The traps of “partnering”, at the core, partnering is based on the collaboration of both teams this is why:
- An environment of confidence needs to be created,
- A common model of values,
- A clear model of communication,
- A technical tool capable of organizing and synchronizing efficiently the common tasks.

Customer-Intimacy.jpg
The “Customer Intimacy” business dynamic

Customer Experience and Customer Intimacy

We at Data Consult believe that in this changing IT market, the client is the most important stakeholder. The abundance and the availability of technology eliminated it from the list of key differentiators. In a highly competitive market the client will reach to the provider with the best experience. 
By definition, Customer Experience is the “cumulative impact of multiple touch points” over the course of a customer’s interaction with an organization. Based on our long experience in the MENA markets the interaction with the client cannot be treated as one full entity. Instead, the flexible approach would be to segment it into interactions that goes from the manifestation of the customer need throughout the different support channels. At the end, the key pillars of a great customer experience are strategy, customer understanding, organizational culture and continuous improvement. This is why we opt for customer intimacy as a strategy and we introduced to our methodology disciplines such as:
  • Product management
  • Sales consultants and account management
  • Engagement management and project management 
  • Consultancy framework
  • Business analysis

We were the leaders in understanding the need for a system capable of channeling our customer needs. The information collected from the above points of contact with our clients helped us diversify more our portfolio which includes in addition to the traditional network security products:
  • Consultancy and outsourcing services to help our client excel in their businesses by putting the best practices as well as highly experienced resources at their disposal
  • Collaboration products and integrations with third party solutions to increase the added value of such solution and provide the end user with mobility as well as flexibility
  • The introduction of the cloud services is a step towards increasing the awareness of our clients towards this technology. The tools provided as well as the ease of use and the mobility provided by the cloud could increase enormously the effectiveness and the efficiency of people. Introducing this vision to your business will change the way your teams do business and will surely pay off in terms of time optimization and as a result lower operational cost
  • Finally our latest adoption was a customer experience software. We are convinced that by tailoring smart solutions integrating the software and the infrastructure of our clients we will be able to provide them with the needed data to double and triple their business revenues. Implementing business oriented products will lead us to a deep understanding of the client’s environment and partner with him to grow his business and ours.

I strongly believe that this diversification of products is preparing Data Consult to the upcoming changes. Some conservatives would doubt this approach but we are truly convinced that this is a winning strategy. With the support of a highly qualified team, a visionary management and of course the trust of our clients, we will be as usual the first to provide the market with the best products and services at the right time.

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