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Exploring the science and magic of Identity and Access Management
Tuesday, May 28, 2024

It’s the Relationship that Matters

Author: Mark Dixon
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
1:55 am

Last night I had a stimulating conversation with a colleague, Shawn Malaney, about the importance of relationships (or the lack thereof) between telephone companies and their customers. An AT&T customer for over 25 years, Shawn currently has three separate accounts with AT&T. Even though he enjoys their service and faithfully pays three bills each month, he knows that AT&T has no idea that the three bills represent a relationship with just one Shawn Malaney.

This highlights a major problem and huge opportunity for telecommunications carriers and their subscribers. I recounted to Shawn the presentation about relationships that Bob Blakley gave at the Catalyst Conference in June. In response to a question I posed, Bob responded, “Companies that succeed online will have close billing relationship with customers. Telcos are there now. Startups are seeking to build such relationships” (paraphrased).

It is true that telcos could have the upper hand in online relationships because they do have such long-term, trusted relationships. However, such relationships could be so much better than they are.

Suppose that AT&T really took advantage (in the good sense of the word) of the fact that Shawn had multiple accounts and a 25 year history of faithful payments. AT&T could offer Shawn premium, preferred services that spanned his multiple accounts, confident that this would provide additional benefit to both Shawn and themselves. This would give Shawn financial reward and access to better services, plus the incentive to stick around for several more years. AT&T would benefit from additional customer loyalty, plus additional revenue from a satisfied subscriber.

So, it is clear to me in this case that Shawn’s Identity, while vitally important, is less important that the Relationship he has with AT&T. Leveraging Identity information more effectively to strengthen the Relationship benefits both customer and service provider.

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