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Playing to Win by Building

Relationships at Scale

Many organizations have invested

millions of dollars in the latest
tools and practices in an effort to
engage customers, but they just
cant increase satisfaction and
loyalty. In fact, the $5.9 trillion
global Switching Economy is
composed of dissatisfied customers
continually looking for new
providers that can better address
their changing needs. In the US
alone, that Switching Economy
is estimated at $1.3 trillion.1
Accentures Global Consumer Pulse
Research of more than 13,000
consumers in 33 countries revealed
that a majority of consumers (61
percent globally and 51 percent in
the US) have switched providers
because of poor experiences.
Overall, an overwhelming majority
of consumers (85 percent) said
they switch providers because
companies simply dont make it
easy to do business with them.

1. We introduced this theme and shared findings from

the 2013 Global Consumer Pulse Research in The
Digital Customer: Its Time to Play to Win and Stop
Playing Not to Lose

For years, most companies have

been playing not to lose when it
comes to building and developing
their customer relationships. It is
time for companies to start playing
to win (see sidebar Playing to
Win), and one crucial component
is developing relationships at scale.


By relationships at scale, we
mean how companies can use
digital technologies to develop
greater intimacy with customers to
build lasting, trusting relationships.
It is about reinstating some of
the benefits of historic in-person
relationships, i.e., picture the
local grocer many decades ago.
But that intimate relationship
disappeared for much of the
industrialized world. Face-to-face
interactions with providers were
largely replaced by global call
centers and web pages leaving
many consumers feeling they
were treated with indifference
and lack of personal attention.
To counteract this, we discuss
four steps companies can take to
develop relationships at scale.

Barriers to Todays Relationships

The feeling of indifference and being just
one of thousands of faceless customers
has contributed to less loyalty: On average,
just 23 percent of consumers said they
feel loyal toward their providers across
all the industries covered by our survey.
One-third of consumers said they consider
shopping around for better deals, which
means providers are vulnerable to losing
a significant percentage of their customer
Our survey provides strong evidence that
this is the case for many consumers around
the world. For instance, fundamental to
building relationships at scale is having the
service and support experience match the
promise a company makes to customers
upfront. Yet fully half of consumers we
polled said they were not satisfied with
how their providers deliver on this promise.
Consumers were equally frustrated with
how well companies lived up to the

expectations they set during the marketing

and sales processwith 79 percent saying
they find it frustrating or extremely
frustrating when companies promise one
thing and deliver another, more so than any
other issue.
One of the biggest impediments to building
relationships at scale is the issue of privacy
and trust. As personal data becomes much
more available to companiesand, indeed,
is often readily given to providers by
customersthe opportunity for that data to
be misused increases exponentially. Thats
why companies need to double down on
protecting consumers privacy and the use
of personal data, lest consumers punish
them for what they perceive to be a breach
of trust. In fact, 75 percent of consumers
said they find it frustrating or extremely
frustrating to realize that companies they
deal with during the marketing and sales
process cant be trusted to use the personal
information consumers gave them.

79% of consumers find it

frustrating or extremely
frustrating when
companies promise one
thing and deliver another.

Furthermore, consumers wariness of

companies use of personal information is
preventing many from using companies
online channels to get more information on
providers and their offers. Thirty-six percent
said they dont use online sources to learn
about providers products and services
because they dont trust those companies
and are afraid they will track their activities
and spam them later. Twenty-two percent
said the same about their reluctance to use
online sources to learn about companies
customer services and support. In both
cases, consumers would be more motivated
to use online sources if they could get
assurances that companies wouldnt spam
them and, instead, companies would use
personal information to tailor the channels
to suit consumers needs and preferences.
This view is far more prevalent among
consumers in emerging markets than
mature ones.

75% of consumers find it

frustrating or extremely
frustrating when realizing
their providers cant be
trusted to use the personal
information given to those

Ultimately, companies need to remember

that customer relationships are fragile
and can break quickly when a company
missteps. In fact, often companies do not
get a second chance. For instance, after
they have had a bad customer service
or support experience, 52 percent of
consumers said they shifted a portion of
their spend to another provider and the
same percentage said they quit doing
business with that provider immediately.
Amazingly, 82 percent of consumers said

their previous service provider could have

done something to prevent them from
switchingfrom something as simple as
resolving their issue on the first contact
to contacting them proactively to let
them know about ways to enhance their
experience with the company, recognizing
and rewarding consumers for doing more
business with the company, offering better
service and support options via consumers
mobile devices, and offering consumers
preferential treatment.

Companies also need to be aware that these

relationships begin before an individual
becomes a customer, i.e., they are formed
and shaped during the marketing and sales
process. Thus, any negative interactions
have the potential to short-circuit promising
relationships. Indeed, after a bad experience
with the marketing and sales practices of a
company, 60 percent of consumers stopped
engaging with or doing business with that
company immediately and 66 percent
started to also look at or engage with other
companies they had not yet considered.

Accenture 2013 Global Consumer Research:

Playing to Win
Figure 1

Accenture Nonstop Customer Model


Playing to win means being offensive

minded. It means making bets and taking
calculated risks that pay off in a big way:
superior competitive differentiation,
greater customer retention, or higher
customer revenues and value. It also
requires companies to adopt a new model
(see Figure 1) that is aligned with how
consumers behave in todays digital world.
Companies that play to winand, as
a result, are noticed and valued by
customersbase their customer blueprint
on five core elements, one of which is
relationships at scale (see Figure 2).









Open content & channels

Brand content & channels

Figure 2

Customer-driven Blueprint for Digital Experience


Relationships at Scale

Seamless Experience

Predict their behavior

one step ahead

Create new approach

to intimacy for all

Glue it all together to

avoid breaking the flow

Inherently Mobile

Naturally Social

Go and surprise them

where they are

Engage customers as
they want to be engaged

How to Build Relationships at Scale

Companies should start by recognizing
that data about customers and about their
context is the foundation of relationships.
Relationships develop over time along
multiple interactions, which essentially
are an exchange of data and information.
Todays technology not only enables but
also accelerates interactions between
companies and consumers. Companies
that want to transform their transactions
into true customer relationships, using
technology to reach scale, need to enact
the following:

Break Down Data Silos

Despite companies best efforts over
the past decade, customer data remains
frustratingly fragmented, housed in silos
across multiple functions and databases.
With data thus dispersed, companies
cannot create a strong relationship with
their customers because they lack the full
picture of each customers history and
interactions with them. To create customer
relevant relations at scale, companies
must break down those silos. Doing so
typically requires not only new technologies
to make data accessible to those who
need it when they need it, but also new
governance that supports the blurring of
the artificial boundariesand barriers
among marketing, sales, service and other
customer-facing functions.
Importantly, governance also needs to
include data protection. Data capture
requires stewardship; companies need to
take extreme care with each customers
information and prove that they respect the
value of what the customer has shared.

Recognize Data is Fluid Not

Just like anything in nature, customers dont
stand still. Their needs, expectations and
behaviors change (seemingly constantly)
over time. Thats why companies need to
avoid falling into the trap of treating data
as staticfocusing on customers at a given
moment in timeand, instead, gather
and use data across the lifespan of the
relationship. In doing so, companies can
evolve along with customers needs with
more agility and thus, remain relevant
throughout the different stages of their
lives. Furthermore, different data moves at
different speeds and need to be treated as
such. As data velocity increases in the world
of digital interactions, companies must be
quicker to react to opportunitiesembracing
the mantra that speed is more important
than precision.
A German utility introduced a new
approach to customer segmentation. Rather
than defining static segments based on
deep customer analytics, it implemented an
agile segmentation approach, enriching
segment insight along a continuous cycle of
iterations. As a result, treatment strategies
along marketing campaigns were constantly
refined in a test and learn modus.

Take Measured Risks

Its not uncommon for companies to be
paralyzed into inaction by the idealistic
pursuit of perfection: They are reluctant to
take any steps out of fear that incomplete
or inaccurate data will make them look bad
in the eyes of customers. But leaders do
just the opposite. They embrace imperfect
data and use it to test ways to increase
value to customers, and ultimately,
build greater loyalty. They see it as an
opportunity to enrich their data, and they

use their inherent agility to change their

interactions with customers based on
what they learned from their tests. Todays
technology enables companies to take risks at
the individual level but reap rewards at scale.
Digital optimization of websites across
devices illustrates this in one way. Being able
to test web-page layout options with large
numbers of consumers eventually facilitates
optimized sites for customer segments, even
if all segment members did not receive the
optimal site.

Utilize Indirect Access

Though common wisdom tells us that
the shortest route between two points
is a straight line, this does not always
apply to todays customers. To build a
relationship with a customer, a company
may find that going direct to that
customer is much less effectiveand more
difficultthan interacting with someone
who influences that customer. Thats
especially true today, as digital channels
enable customers to be more connected
to and part of a variety of networks. Thus,
building relationships at scale often requires
analyzing and understanding key influencers
in a customers network and generating
insights to include in the companys
customer engagement strategy. For many
organizations, this will mean investing in
social media listening tools and technologies
to obtain a better understanding of
customers networks and participate in their
networks information exchange.
A US-based auto manufacturer tapped into
influencers to drive the uptake of its newest
electric car. Customers with high influence
were identified and then invited to a test
drive. Their feedback on the experience was
then shared through social media.

As our research has shown, most companies
clearly have not been taking full advantage
of their opportunities to develop customer
relationshipsand are paying the price in
terms of customer willingness to consider
competing offers. Companies insistence on
playing not to lose has rendered them more
vulnerable to being cast aside in favor of
more attractive providers.

The reality is that companies need to strive

for the kinds of personal relationships that
were typical years ago, between shoppers
and the corner store. Specifically, they need
to rethink their digital strategies to offer
more effective and engaging communication,
create more tailored products and services,
provide more customized experiences
and build trust. Companies that do this

will become more adept at delighting

customers, and nurturing authentic
personal relationships that can help drive
revenue growth.

Read Accentures perspective

based on our research and
client experience:
Masters of the Digital Universe
Accenture Technology Vision 2014
The Digital Customer: Its Time to Play to
Win and Stop Playing Not to Lose
IT Governance: Spinning into Control
Digital Transformation: Re-imagine from
the Outside-in

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About Accenture

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visit or contact our
managing directors:

Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services

and outsourcing company, with more than 293,000 people serving
clients in more than 120 countries. Combining unparalleled
experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and
business functions, and extensive research on the worlds most
successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help
them become high-performance businesses and governments. The
company generated net revenues of US$28.6 billion for the fiscal
year ended Aug. 31, 2013. Its home page is

Robert Wollan
Senior managing director Accenture Strategy,
Sales & Customer Services Lead
Saideep Raj
Managing director - Accenture SaaS lead
and Cloud Computing NA lead
Michael Malinchock
Managing director - Accenture Technology lead
for Sales & Customer Services

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