Mastering meaningful customer connections
One of the most important discovery in the world of marketing and communications in recent decades, is the importance of the subjective experience that a consumer has with a brand, product, service or organization. What has become clear in recent years is that the connection a consumer has with a service provider (and vice versa), is not only a connection from the conscious mind. Also factors that consumers perceive unconsciously, can have a major impact on the feeling that a consumer has about a brand, a product or an organization. And what is also clear now is that reason and emotion are not always parallel. Early 90s Fiske (1991) introduced his Relational Models Theory. This theory assumes that people primarily use four elementary models to establish and evaluate relationships. By now there are strong indications that the relational models used by a customer are an important factor in the customer experience (eg Aggarwal, 2004; Battacharya & Sen, 2003; McGraw & Tetlock, 2005; Kaltcheva & Parasuraman, 2009). While it is broadly accepted that these models are of fundamental importance, there is little research on the impact of these models on customer experience and customer behavior. The thesis Mastering Meaningful Customer Connections describes the results of a research project that was conducted from 2010-2013 among customers of six Dutch service providers in banking, insurance, utilities and social welfare. The purpose of the research project was to discover what the customer experience of these organisations was, what role relational models played in customer experience and whether it was possible to influence these relational models. The research project showed that relational models have an important influence on relational models. The research project has provided answers to the following questions: - Which relational models are used by customers and what is the influence of these models on customer experience? - What is the influence of digitisation in customer communication on relational models and customer experience? - What is the influence of personalisation in customer communication on relational models and customer experience? And finally, - Is it possible to influence relational models (and customer experience) by using specific words and images that are associated with relational models (relational framing)?