Intelligence is not Intimacy

Customer intimacy, that Holy Grail of Customer strategy, has recently taken on a new reality with the proliferation of mobile broadband, social media & social networks, as well as the growth of customer analytics. But just knowing things about customers – even really rich, targeted intelligence – does not mean you have achieved customer intimacy. In fact you need reinvent traditional customer relationships.For real intimacy to happen, customers need to feel the involvement. As with any relationship, customer/brand intimacy requires a two-way exchange of trust. Each customer interaction is an opportunity for the trust exchange to take place, or if done wrongly be destroyed. This is nothing new. But now, these customer touch points have become far broader, more complex, and more of them are taking place in social networks outside the company’s control.


Herein lies the paradox. Many companies, understandably, are concerned about the risks associated with these new channels. However, social media offers some of the best ways to demonstrate—personally, and yet, very publicly—the authentic voice and behaviors that can earn the customer intimacy companies covet. Trust is built within the experience itself, while “behind the scenes,” the intelligence derived from these interactions can, with permission, enable better connections, targeting and deliver enhanced experience. This can create a virtuous continuous loop of innovation, engagement and results. Intimacy will come when customers feel you really know them…and they really know you.


To learn what over 1700 CEOs think about complexity and customer intimacy, check out the 2010 CEO Study: Capitalizing on Complexity –


For additional detail on the “perfect storm” that has created new ways to achieve customer intimacy read Carolyn Heller Baird’s article “Intimacy Issues” on

Chief Strategist at IBM

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