How Enterprises Should Manage Fragile Customer Relationships

Every evening, I go out for snack break with my colleague. Our office is happens to be located in the midst of one of the developing areas of Bangalore, quite close to the bus terminus. Usually our first stop is the Vada (indian donut shaped savory) vendor. Its been over a month since we started visiting this place and the owner recognizes us, greets us with a smile & keeps our plates ready as he sees us approaching. Sometimes he tries to cross sell Bondas (Indian fried dough balls) , but he clearly knows what we want before-hand and also takes care to serve it hot.


The next stop is the chai wala (tea vendor) shop right opposite, where we have murukku (crispy fryums) & tea. This shop is bigger compared to the vada stall. The shop keeper here does recognize us, but doesn’t know our preferences. It may be because his portfolio is too diverse for him to accurately predict what we may want at any given point of time. He will wait for us to order what we would like to have. While his inability to pre-empt our order is a little underwhelming, we do enjoy the extra attention he bestows on us, acknowledging us as loyal customers.


Now, let me get to the worst example. Occasionally, we also visit a coffee shop in our neighborhood. In contrast to the previous outlets, this place is a bit posh, attracting a somewhat upmarket clientele of pretty young things and their admirers. Sometimes, you will also find ambitious entrepreneurs in their incubation talking very loudly about their even louder plans. Here, we order the same thing almost all the time – Cappuccino & Bombay Cutting chai. The only difference here is that the order taker and the steward who get to know our preferences rather than the person who runs the establishment. Moreover, our order value and our stubborn refusal to part with any gratuities take us to the very bottom of the priority ladder and as a result, we receive step motherly treatment that would have made even Cinderella look better. Under such circumstances, you would have expected that we would have hightailed it to another place. However, we decided to swallow our pride because of logistical reasons. Slowly, but surely our patronage, initially small, is getting even smaller because of our lack of enthusiasm about the place. It also irritates me immensely that the dwindling business from us is actually hurting the establishment but NOT the order taker or the steward.

Upmarket Coffee Shop

This got me thinking. Clearly as a business grows, their hunger to please every single customer keeps coming down and eventually dies out. Then, when they are large and have to contend with millions of customers, the dealing becomes completely impersonal and transactional. Eventually it comes back to bite them or the better ones realize that they have been completely insulated from their most important constituency. They start investing massive resources in infrastructure and information to capture everything they know about their customer base. But as they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The success of this endeavour lies in the ability to recreate in every interaction with the customer, the same humility and service mind-set that the organization exhibited when they were operating out of a garage.

This, unfortunately, is easier said than done. How to treat millions of customers like Kings? Not possible. Agreed. Here is where data comes to the rescue. The information that has been captured about customers must be carefully organized, sifted, and then squeezed to separate the juice – the nectar of Customer Intelligence. This is a magic potion that will point in the right direction on where on which customers to shower our love and affection in order to eventually get the best reward.

In addition to the best customer selection, data driven customer intelligence enables Personalization of a very high order. The collected and organized data informs the marketer to make very customized and contextual contact with high value customers and enable the positioning of the offering as a perfect fit in the natural order of things. This takes away the pushy “selling” aspect and it is replaced by the whiff of partnership and collaboration.

For example, the demographic, transactional, usage and value attributes of the customer portfolio can be analysed for patterns to predict those who are most likely to turn out to be HIGH LONG TERM VALUE (HLTV) customers in the future. This is especially useful in the context of customer relationship building and the attendant investment of time and effort that are needed for the purpose. In fact, this HLTV group is the most appropriate proxy for the small, tight customer set that the enterprise took care in its infancy as a start-up.

Customer Intelligence is an idea and a philosophy that aims at establishing long term, mutually beneficial relationships between an enterprise and its customers. At BRIDGEi2i, we have helped very large enterprises scale their customer intelligence ambitions to an unprecedented level. If you are not feeling the love, reach out to us 🙂

This blog is written by Nandhini Giridharan, Analytics Consultant at BRIDGEi2i

About BRIDGEi2i: BRIDGEi2i provides Business Analytics Solutions to enterprises globally, enabling them to achieve accelerated business impact harnessing the power of data. Our analytics services and technology solutions enable business managers to consume more meaningful information from big data, generate actionable insights from complex business problems and make data driven decisions across pan-enterprise processes to create sustainable business impact. To know more visit

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position or viewpoint of BRIDGEi2i.