In a relational economy (and that is where are heading!) transactions are less important than relationships. Businesses are arriving, albeit in drips and drabs, at the understanding that pushing around notes and coins is less useful than developing and sustaining continuous collaborations or relationships.
It can be argued that money causes people to fixate on transactions rather than relationships and it is the money involved in the transaction that gives the transaction value, even when there is no objective means for doing so.
Now before you throw up your hands in horror and assign me to the ranks of another lunatic predicting a ‘moneyless society’ let me say that we are not about to do away with money � however attractive that thought might be for some! However, it is obvious that money can and does create certain inefficiencies as evidenced when the economizing powers of money are overtaken by the cost of using money. In other words, when the cost of monitoring, billing and revenue processing are more than the cost of the product or service being offered in the first place. My favourite example is the monthly statement I receive from my travel agent. I always pay by credit card immediately, and so I get a blank page with a ‚zero balance outstanding‛ note � in an envelope, on printed stationery, and a stamped envelope!.
But this is not the point I wish to explore. Back to the understanding that as we move increasing into a relational economy, those companies which understand this will be the real winners. Those businesses which see the transaction as secondary to the relationship will emerge as the leaders in this new economy.
Let me give you a case in point.
Today I had my car windscreen replaced. Thanks to a stone which had pretensions as a scud missile, this action became a necessity. Having duly acquired two quotes, both from well known glass fitters, I received the okay from my insurers to go ahead and effect the replacement at either one of the outlets. Fair enough. As to which one, and having no real experience to go on, I merely picked the one that had issued a computer generated quote (as opposed to a rather scruffy handwritten one) and whose showroom looked more inviting and was certainly the cleaner of the two. Cost and convenience were, somewhat surprisingly, not major considerations.
Having spoken to the fitter of my choice on at least two occasions I arrived with the car in question. The three hour wait, through some schedule negotiations and assistance from a colleague had been reduced to a wait of an hour. While waiting in the waiting room (which is another story that I will get back too) I learnt of a great service provided by this company. They can affect this repair at your home or work place thereby saving you the inconvenience that my rescheduling had caused. Not only that, they also provide a pick-up / drop-off service for their customers to save them the wait!
‚Ah, Sir, most of our customers know about this‛ was the answer I got from the bright young person behind the counter when asking the obvious question as to why no-one had thought to informed me of these great service features. My response of, ‚but I didn’t know that‛ (having first checked to see whether or not I had missed any notices informing me of these services) was met with a somewhat dismissive, paternalistic, ‚what kind of planet are you from‛ look. What made this even more bizarre was the large signage in the reception area which gave all who cared a breakdown of reasons why customers could be lost to their business.(the one that I can recall was that death accounts for a 1% customer loss!)
So, here is the situation. Two time-saving and convenience driven services, ones no doubt designed to create a differential between this company and its competitors, were not passed on to the customer in question. Not only that, but no one took the initiative to belatedly offer a lift once this omission had been pointed out during the marathon wait. But then again the wait, one befitting a long-service award, was one bereft of even the hint of an offer to provide me with something to drink. Amazing!
But what about the clean waiting-room which I referred to earlier? Well it was clean, no doubt there. However, the incomplete newspaper (don’t you just hate it when the sports section is missing!), the most recent magazine (a 2000 Rugby magazine � though I do confess that I didn’t check through all the magazines), the unplugged TV � a nice but useless touch, and the lack of any coffee or vending machine rendered the once ‘inviting’ waiting area a dummy of note.
Is this a big issue? Of course not, however it does serve as a good example of what it takes to ensure that lofty service goals are aligned with actual delivery. It serves to highlight a ‘transaction’ experience rather than a ‘relational’ experience. It is a pity as today people are drawn to places and services which provide something more than efficient transactional experiences. Today people are attracted to places that offer a story, a relationship, places that give compelling reason for a return visit. These are the places and experiences which create loyalty, word of mouth advertising and, dare I say it‌ repeated transactions.
I can see clearly now (at least until the next scud comes knocking)‌I only hope that my feedback enables others to see things a little clearer. After all, learning in any shape or form is reliant on the process of action, feedback and synthesis.
Did I mention that my feedback was met with the same ‘alien in our midst’ expression that I received during the initial conversation with the bright young manager? Although, to be fair, he was polite and did assure me that next time I would get their chauffer service‌that is of course, assuming there is a next time!

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