In the Business Model Canvas, the Customer Relationships building block describes the type of relationships a business creates with different customer segments. In short, these represent the set of actions a company needs to take in order to grow and maintain its customer base.
- Understanding customer relationships in the Business Model Canvas
- Six types of customer relationships
- Key takeaways:
- Alternatives to the Business Model Canvas
Understanding customer relationships in the Business Model Canvas
In defining the ideal customer relationships, businesses should put themselves in their customers’ shoes. That is, what would they consider to be the ideal relationship? Would it be automated, personal, or somewhere in between? It is important to remember that consumers have certain expectations regarding the sort of relationship a business establishes with them.
Indeed, the quality of customer relationships has direct consequences for the customer experience. Organizations with consistently high-quality customer interactions across multiple touchpoints will be rewarded with devoted and brand loyal followers. These relationships can also be used to acquire new customers or upsell existing customers to boost sales volume.
Under this section of the Business Model Canvas, the business should consider the following questions:
- What type of customer relationship does each of our customer segments expect?
- Which relationships are already established?
- How much do they cost?
- To what extent are they integrated with our business model?
Six types of customer relationships
There are many different customer relationships types, with many co-existing within a single customer segment.
Here is a brief look at six of them:
- Dedicated personal assistance – in the first type, the business may assign a dedicated customer care representative who takes the time to understand the customer’s unique and specific needs. Banks and casinos employ this strategy to look after wealthy individuals.
- Personal assistance – perhaps one of the most common relationship types, where customers can interact with a single sales representative before making a purchase. Personal assistance also encompasses after-sales support.
- Self-service – where the business gives the customer everything they need to provide a service to themselves. Furniture maker IKEA is one example, selling flatpack furniture that must be assembled by the purchaser. Supermarkets and retailers that offer self-serve checkouts are another example.
- Automated services – essentially, this is a self-service relationship with automated processes that can identify specific customers and make tailored recommendations. Though automation will never replace a human touch, it can nevertheless provide excellent and efficient customer service.
- Communities – customer communities which the business owns and manages are also used to build relationships. Customers assemble to solve common problems and exchange knowledge, with this information used by the business to deepen its understanding of each segment. GlaxoSmithKline launched an online community for a prescription-free weight loss product. The pharmaceutical company wanted to understand the challenges overweight adults faced to better manage their expectations during treatment.
- Co-creation – where the business asks its customers to help them design a new product or service. This is a customer relationship that is highly beneficial for both parties. For the business, the inclusivity of the approach builds brand loyalty and trust. For the user, they get more say in a product designed around their needs.
- In the Business Model Canvas, the Customer Relationships building block describes the type of relationships a business creates with different customer segments. For best results, the business needs to maintain high-quality interactions with customers across multiple touchpoints.
- Customer relationships are designed around three major goals: customer acquisition, customer retention, and upselling.
- The six most common types of customer relationships include dedicated personal assistance, personal assistance, self-service, automated services, communities, and co-creation. One or several may exist in a single customer segment.
Alternatives to the Business Model Canvas
This framework has been thought for any type of business model, be it digital or not. It’s a framework to start mind mapping the key components of your business or how it might look as it grows. Here, as usual, what matters is not the framework itself (let’s prevent to fall trap of the Maslow’s Hammer), what matters is to have a framework that enables you to hold the key components of your business in your mind, and execute fast to prevent running the business on too many untested assumptions, especially about what customers really want. Any framework that helps us test fast, it’s welcomed in our business strategy.
This framework is well suited for all these cases where technology plays a key role in enhancing the value proposition for the users and customers. In short, when the company you’re building, analyzing, or looking at is a tech or platform business model, the template below is perfect for the job.
This framework is well suited to analyze and understand blockchain-based business models. Here, the underlying blockchain protocol, and the token economics behind it play a key role in aligning incentives and also in creating disincentives for the community of developers, individual contributors, entrepreneurs, and investors that enable the whole business model. The blockchain-based model is similar to a platform-based business model, but with an important twist, decentralization should be the key element enabling both decision-making and how incentives are distributed across the network.
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