Transactions or Relationships?

Do your customers want transactions or relationships with your organizations?

This is typically the first question I ask when speaking with aspiring professionals about customer experience strategy and design.  It isn’t intended to be a trick question.  The answer is simple – it’s both.  When I’m paying bills late at night on my bank’s app, I want a transaction.   When I see there’s been a fraudulent use of my bank credit card, I want a relationship.  I want someone immediately available to resolve the situation and recognize my value to their organization. Both contribute to the experience our customers have with our organizations.  Both are important to building customer loyalty and creating satisfied customers.  But perhaps we spend too much time focused on the transaction and not enough time on the experience beyond the interaction a customer has with us. 

Years ago, I was flying home from a business meeting when the person next to me struck up a conversation and asked who I worked for and what I did.  I told her I worked for a payroll processing company.  Asking her the same question, she answered, “I work for a medical technology company.  We save lives every day.”  My answer paled in comparison to hers.  She was talking about the experience beyond the products she sold.  She wasn’t talking about the transaction of a doctor deciding to implant a device, she was talking about outcomes.  About the experience after the experience! 

Look at the picture included with this blog post.  It’s a picture of my son, John, fly fishing for the first time on the Yampa River near Steamboat Springs, Colorado.  Prior to going on his adventure, he purchased the fly rod, vest and gear from a well-known retailer.  But while his experiences in purchasing all that equipment was good, the REAL experience was catching the fish.  The retailer enabled him to be successful fishing for trout (catch and release I might add).  His experience went from a transaction to a relationship. 

As CX professionals, we spend a lot of time and effort measuring transactions.  We analyze for hours our NPS or CXI scores looking for the secret ingredient to make us more successful.  But how often do we consider the experience after the experience?  Two companies, I’ve worked with in the past, realized this distinction was necessary for their successes.  One, a large fitness equipment manufacturer, moved from selling their products as transactions to recognizing the reasons why customers were purchasing their equipment, namely better health. They completely changed their approach from transactions to relationships.  The second, an outdoor sporting retailer, realized early on that the experience went way beyond the sale of a pair of waders or binoculars.  Their customers were part of a community of outdoor sports enthusiasts who used the products they purchased to realize success be it bagging the trophy buck or spending time with friends on a lake pursuing the record-breaking musky. 

The transaction was a means to an experience.  It was the means to a relationship.  Is that how you view transactions you have with your customers?  We need to look beyond the transaction and create the experience after the experience! 

Robert Azman