Building Business Relationships

Are you struggling to create and keep profitable customers? Columns for Sales and Marketing Management who wants to build business relationships.
Friday, September 12, 2003

Interview with Barry Libert, Rapid Insights (Abstract)

Cashel, Jim. Interview with Barry Libert, Rapid Insights. (Online Community Report, April 2003)

If you're interested in on-line community building check out the last part of an Interview with Barry Libert of Rapid Insights (referred to me by Lee LeFever from Common Craft)  I'll summarize a few elements that I think are valuable to understanding how to use your website to build customer and employee relationships.

The following definitions are terms mentioned in the article, but not necessarily defined in Barry Libert's own words or derived from the Interview.*  The term itself links to a source with additional details:

Relationship capital-- The investment or value of such investment, a company places in the connection between people and other intangible resources. This can include communications channels, building of trust, strategic partnerships, and customer loyalty.

Intellectual assets-- Intangible or invisible assets not reported on a corporate balance sheet that relate to the knowledge internal to an organization. Could include the experience and know-how of groups of employees, or collected knowledge on business process.

Collaborative communities--  Various groups working together for common objectives hosted in an environment that facilitates learning and resource acquisition for a positive result. Often involving the customer or end-user of derived product or service.

*Libert is the author of two books that cover these topics in more detail. Consider Value RX for more information. I'll also be covering these terms in the Glossary of Strategic Relations Terms in Business

Points to consider with commentary:

  1. On-line communities don't exist without interacting with off-line channels of communications.  Channels of communications include telephone, fax, personal meetings, and traditional communications methods. All channels are essential to building a healthy and successful community.
  2. Purely on-line communities won't exist in the future.  In the same way people will realize that you can't only manage customer relationships, but have to consider all business relationships for a healthy company -- people will also learn that communities can't survive in a single medium.
  3. Off-line communities like trade associations, conferences, and events can be enhanced with on-line resources.  Organizations that wouldn't normally use on-line channels can greatly benefit from what the Internet provides. It however, shouldn't be their sole focus -- the key is to give customers choice.
  4. On-line elements of community building cross geopolitical boundaries.  On-line communities have the potential to extend an individuals reach to any other individual with an Internet connection. Incorporate this in your marketing strategy, but reinforce it with time tested methods.

Justin Hitt teaches executives how to create strong business relationships that can increase profits while improving customer loyalty. To learn more about business relationships visit Inside Strategic Relations or call +1 (276) 254-8747

11:08:56 PM    Join Newsletter

More customers can reach you with broadband

With more of your customers having broadband Internet access more options are available to serve them on-line. According to a resent survey by PC Magazine, more than 44% of users have broadband at home, statistics are even better for business users.

Broadband: Kind of Access
Source: Broadband Scorecard, PC Magazine, 16 Sept 2003

High-speed broadband gives home users the same connectivity benefits they have at work, letting them access your company anywhere they are. With more broadband, consider these options to serve the needs of your customers and employees:

Justin Hitt teaches executives how to create strong business relationships that can increase profits while improving customer loyalty. To learn more about business relationships visit Inside Strategic Relations or call +1 (276) 254-8747

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Making your service harder to use irritates customers

Quite often the actions your company takes to solve one problem cause other problems for your customers. Before you change the way you deliver or provide a service, consider the total impact before you take action. Some example scenarios:

  1. Requesting feedback that your company never uses.  When you collect information about product usage or request feedback from customers, but never actually use the information to improve the service is a huge irritation. This happens too often, but why would you ask something your not going to use?  Bad habits maybe?
  2. Solution out-weights the problem for most customers.  In the case of Cox High-Speed Internet's blocking of POP services. The problem they are trying to solve only involves them, but they are punishing all their users with a possible solution. By inconveniencing customers, they are more likely to switch providers.
  3. Adding more steps to get the same results.  Often when solutions providers try to tie-in related products, but is often the result of re-engineering without considering a users prospective. These extra steps increase the amount of time it takes to get a desired result, customer know other versions of the same service saved them time. Frequently customers will stay with the older product or choose a comparable product from a competitor.
  4. Bundling unrelated accessories to make a product look more valuable.  Do product developers add a few extra features with no apparent reason?  Each product (or service add-on) feature must justify its existent in the customers mind. Adding features just to have them confuses buyers who could profitably benefit from what you offer.

Justin Hitt teaches executives strategies to improve business relationships that can increase revenues while reducing costs of service. Publisher of Inside Strategic Relations, a twice-monthly newsletter.

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Cox blocking POP services by third-parties

Nothing irritates a customer more than limiting their ability to use your product or service without first consulting them, or at least posting a notice on your website.

While I don't usually name specific companies in this medium, Cox High-Speed Internet (or Cox Media) is not a current customer. I'm sharing only my personal experiences which may or may not be a reflection of the experiences of other customers.

Competing heavily with Comcast and Road Runner; Cox High-Speed Internet services decides to block access to POP services hosted by third-parties. (POP services are how 92% of Internet users check email accounts on servers hosted over the Internet.)  In a lengthy conversation with technical support, it was explained this action prevents possible forging of mail headers that lead to Fraudulent Email Involving Cox and Ebay.

As someone who spends most of their time working from a home office, it is a relief to interact with my customers using high-speed Internet access instead of the dial-up services I usually have available on travel. According to a recent Broadband Scorecard by PC Magazine, 60% of other broadband users also enjoy this faster access to email.

From technical support, I also learned this decision to block POP services was passed down from the corporate office -- that's hundreds of thousands of customers impaired by this decision. Why is this a bad decision?

First, blocking access to third-party POP servers doesn't solve the problem -- especially since anyone who has the knowledge to exploit the problem can just change the access port and get around the block. How often do you see solution cause more irritation than actually fixing a problem?

Secondly, the problem they had was people forging the "" domain name.  Forged domain names have little or nothing to do with POP servers, or accessing POP mail. The POP protocol is to allow remote checking of mail sent to another address. There are a number of technical constraints like MX records, and mail routing that prevents the message from one domain to be received by another.

The solution taken has nothing to do with the problem and causes more inconvenience to customers than taking no action at all.

This action will likely damage Cox Communications' commercial contracts including the recently signed agreement with Mandalay Resort Group to offer high-speed Internet service. All those business travelers who want to check their email while on the road will experience the same blocked access.

[Ed. Cox High-Speed Internet offered the following work around: 1) change the port POP services uses on the third-party server, or 2) install Virtual Private Network access. Neither of these solutions is viable for this situation, nor would be useful to someone who wants to quickly check his or her email.]

Justin Hitt helps executives build profitable relationships with customer, employees, and strategic partners. He can be reached by phone at +1 (276) 254-8747 or on-line at

5:49:04 PM    Join Newsletter

Last update: 04/08/2004; 2:35:17 PM.

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