Customer Intimacy is not Engagement

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How do you explain customer intimacy?

The clichéd use of the term customer intimacy has led to its devaluation across all industries - both consumer and B2B.

The phrase is misused in far too many ways to mention. Here are some examples of so-called “customer intimacy” initiatives:

  • reaching out to answer questions and complaints using Twitter and Facebook
  • building an online community to help customers buy more
  •  training to help the sales team become more consultative
  • online recommendations based on previous shopping patterns
  • a voice of the consumer program which asks for live feedback built into the product itself
  • a voice message that says “your call is important to us”
  • building customer experience scenarios with data gathered through observation

Each one of these initiatives has been tagged as a customer intimacy initiative, which isn’t an accurate reflection of what the phrase means at all. 

Customer intimacy, as originally defined by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema in Customer Intimacy and Other Value Disciplines was all about choosing a value discipline - operational excellence, customer intimacy, or product leadership—and aligning your entire operating model to serve that discipline.

This is where the misuse of the phrase with today’s jargon gets in the way.

Too often, customer intimacy is sold as customer relationship management, or Social CRM, or even product co-creation and crowdsourcing.

Many are initiatives which listen to the voice of the customer - usually in the form of negative comments or product complaints, and then finding ways to mitigate the negative response.

Other initiatives, such as creating campaigns on Facebook and Twitter or building an online community to encourage marketing conversations, may be called “engagement.” Engagement - our buzz-worthy term of the month - has become something of a movement in itself.  And I wouldn’t mind so much, if it wasn’t being used as a proxy for customer intimacy.

Still others are looking to improve customer experiences using surveys, feedback, and customer-driven feedback.

Even in B2B companies, which should know better, customer intimacy is often viewed as a sales initiative, as part of the global account management process.


Companies must view customer intimacy as a business model, not as a marketing or sales strategy, but as a transformative strategy for the entire business.

MORE INFO >> Download: Customer Intimacy as a Business Model by Dean McMann

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Hate to say this, but the world has moved on. The concept of customer intimacy is still critical, but this book is just the starting point. Dean McMann's path-breaking strategies on customer intimacy are where the field is at now - just ask the folks ... Read More

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dean McMann published on February 1, 2011 9:46 PM.

The Software Industry: The Value of Customer Intimacy was the previous entry in this blog.

Talent Development & Customer Intimacy is the next entry in this blog.

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