The Customer Relationship
Think about some of the relationships that are important to you. You have parents and friends, and you have workmates and acquaintances. To a greater or lesser extent you have a relationship with all of these people. Say you have a number of roles, such as student, professional, son or daughter, teacher, employer, employee, partner and so on. The customer relationship works in a similar way.
In the past there would have been a simple exchange process which would have seen the delivery of the customer value. However marketers want to retain you as loyal customers. They want to keep you satisfied. So there is a customer relationship which delivers goods and services with which you are satisfied between you and the marketing company. This is a basic customer relationship.
However there is a developing and more substantial field called relationship marketing. Let's have a look at what relationship marketing is.
The process of identifying and establishing, maintaining, enhancing, and when necessary terminating relationships with customers and other stakeholders, at a profit, so that the objectives of all parties involved are met, where this is done by a mutual giving and fulfilment of promises.
The Gronroos definition is quite strategic in many ways. When trying to learn about relationship marketing it looks a little complex at first glance. In fact relationship marketing can have both a very practical but also a deeply academic foundation. Let's look at something a little more practical that we can put straight into use.
The relationship marketing perspective is based on the notion that on top of the value of products and/or services that are exchanged, the existence of the relationship between the two parties creates additional value for the customer and also the supplier or service provider.
So this more straightforward definition reasons that relationship marketing is a perspective rather than a process, which is based upon some straightforward concepts i.e. the exchange process and the relationship between buyer and seller, and the value delivered to them both. The marketing mix is the bridge between buyer and seller.
There is sometimes a little confusion between relationship marketing and Customer Relationship Management (CRM). They are quite similar with the main difference being that CRM is an IT concept or strategy. CRM and relationship marketing together give the marketer customer information and data which can be used for long-term value delivery and an exchange process which satisfies customer needs.
The relationship marketing approach can also be used not only for external customers, but also for internal customers or what is known as internal marketing. Essentially one focuses upon employees and work colleagues and building relationships.