Constructing Linked Buyer Relationships | Branding Technique Insider

Establishment of networked customer relationships

In the following, you will be systematically supported in establishing networked customer relationships. There are three parts.

In the first part, you need to diagnose the customer experiences your company currently offers.

1. Map the current customer journey to a customer experience. (More on this below.)

2. Identify the drivers' willingness to pay and the customer's weak points.

3. Capture the flow of information for this customer experience.

You need to look at the relationships you have with your customers across individual, episodic experiences.

The goal of a connected relationship is to become a trusted partner from a transactional relationship with your customer. For example, instead of just teaching finance, help someone have a career as an investment advisor. Instead of just performing one operation, you support health. and instead of trading stocks, you're helping someone save for retirement.

This includes the following two additional diagnostic steps:

4. Identify the customer's deeper needs.

5. Understand the current relationship with your customer across different (repeated) customer experiences.

The third part involves translating the results of your diagnosis into new ideas to create connected relationships:

6. Identify new opportunities to reduce customer problems and reduce compliance costs.

7. Find ways to use information from repeated interactions to improve the cycle of recognizing, requesting, and responding.

Because trust is at the core of a connected customer relationship, we ask that you do the following:

8. Evaluate your privacy policy to maintain customer trust.

Map the current customer journey to a customer experience

Just as you would start an operational improvement project by mapping your current process, it is helpful to first map your customers' typical journey when interacting with your company.

This journey begins with the emergence of a latent need, followed by recognizing the need and requesting a customer for something from your company, and causing your company to respond to that request. If you have customer segments that experience very different customer trips, sketch a trip for each customer segment. Likewise, a customer can have different trips with you (e.g. "take out insurance" and "process a claim"). In this case you have to outline several trips again.

What does the customer actually do in every phase of the customer journey? Think about the different points of contact your customer encounters and consider the following questions.

Latent necessity

need awareness

  • How often is the customer unaware of the need (e.g. did the customer not notice that the computer is at increased risk of being hacked)?
  • How often does the customer know the need in principle, but does not react to it at the current time and in the current location (e.g. the customer knows that he should take a pill, but simply forgets it)?
  • How often does a company mistakenly remind the customer of a need that the customer actually did not have or has already been met, leading to customer dissatisfaction?

Search for options

  • How do customers identify the options that might meet their needs?
  • How much time do you spend searching?
  • Do customers generally know the options that are most relevant to them, or is the choice of options simply too large and complex (e.g. finding the right tile for a bathroom renovation or the right software for customer relationship management)?
  • In the normal search process, are new options displayed to the customer that were unknown to the customer, or is the customer primarily considering previously used solutions?
  • How many options do you offer the customer?
  • What options do competitors offer?

Decide on options

  • What factors does the customer consider when making a decision (beyond the price)?
  • How easy is it for the customer to evaluate each option for each of these factors?
  • Does the customer use outside help when deciding on an option (e.g. checking websites, reputation assessment)?
  • What role does trust in the provider play in the customer's decision making?
  • How much effort does the customer need to find out which option would best meet their needs?
  • How easy is it for the customer to understand how expensive each option is (e.g. over the expected useful life)?

Order and pay

  • If the customer knows what he is looking for, how long does it take to specify and order the product or service?
  • How easily and conveniently can the customer specify where and when the product should be delivered or the service provided?
  • How quickly is the customer billed?
  • How transparent are all fees that the customer incurs?
  • How easy is it to pay?
  • Which payment methods are accepted?


  • Where does the customer get the product? Does the customer have to pick it up or is it sent to the customer's desired location?
  • How long does it take to receive the product after the customer ordered it?
  • What happens if the customer is not at home when the product is delivered?

Experience good or service

  • How much effort does the customer need between receiving the product and deriving a benefit (time to unpack and install)?
  • Which technical features of the product determine the customer's willingness to pay?
  • Which intangible product features such as brand, image and design determine the customer's willingness to pay?
  • How well does the product or service match customer needs?
  • Does the customer always get the product in the desired portion size?
  • Does the product give the customer access to complementary products and services (e.g. is it compatible with other third-party products or older, already installed versions)?

Experience after purchase

  • How easy is it to reach customer support?
  • Does the company reduce the risk that the customer has to bear?
  • How easy is it to return the product?
  • What is the flexibility after the purchase? Customer needs may change after buying the product.
  • How easy is it to upgrade or downgrade the product?

Contribution to the Branding Strategy Insider by: Nicolaj Siggelkow and Christian Terweisch. Extract from the networked strategy: Establishing continuous customer relationships for competitive advantages (Harvard Business Review Press, May 21, 2019) Copyright 2019 by Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

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