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Customer Relations Management Published: Sunday, November 13, 2005 By: Dr. Manuel Ángel Morales

Customization became an important concept during the 1990s. It was synthesized in expressions like "The customer is king" and "We try harder". In their constant efforts to attract customers, companies promise to do everything in their power, and often much more besides, to accommodate them. But for organizations whose business logic is heavily dependent on people, the challenge with the customer supremacy predicament is that providing service involves close personal contact and experiencing the moment of truth.

Richard Normann, a famous Swedish researcher, used the term moment of truth to describe the vital meeting between service supplier and customer. The term became widely known after it was adopted by Scandinavian Airlines System. The moment of truth metaphor is very appropriate for any kind of organized service system. The staff of a bank, hotel, restaurant or cabin crew of an aircraft have brief and close encounters with many customers each day, and so the main management challenge it to maintain the quality of service and motivation of the service team despite the intensity and high volume and sometimes repetitive work.

One of the organizational solutions to such a challenge is requiring all employees to conform to a minutely detailed code of behavior. Sometimes the codes or manuals full of checklists are presented as derivatives of high-level abstractions called organizational statements. But this method is not much of help when the work of a company consists of joint problem solving with customers in long-term projects. For one thing, the interaction with the customer is far more intense, and for another, the work calls for creativity because the end result can never be known at the outset. It is a process of discovering truth that is controlled not only by the knowledge and qualifications of those involved, but also by their ability to find creative solutions to problems and challenges in a prolonged collaboration. It is a cumbersome process of making strategy work.

The customer plays a vital role, not simply as a source of information, but also as catalyst for creativity, change and transformation. The encounter with the customer creates the stimulation and the energy that is needed to trigger creativity. The knowledge creation takes place in a process of thinking and reflecting between professionals and customers. Thus, designers of such an important setting must take into account the way employees communicate and how well they are likely to get along with other project members, including colleagues and customer representatives. People are individuals, each with a distinctive style of interaction. They prefer working with people they get along well with.

The quest for the secret of personal compatibility is as old as humanity. Most adults have their own ideas about the people they get along with based on their experience, and there are also psychological methods for determining the optimal composition of a management groups or teams. The point is that it is essential to take personal chemistry into account. Personal chemistry is an essential internal structure for the success of any project or work venture.

Good personal chemistry is not a matter of similarity but of compatibility. People with very different personalities have been shown to find highly creative solutions to problems. By structuring moments that generate energy and passion, personality differences can be important activators of creativity.

The personal chemistry of a team is not a measure of how harmonious it is, but of how well its members communicated with each other. Teamwork and personal chemistry are vital in organizations where customers have a decisive influence on outcomes because they too are individuals who get along better with some people than other.

The capacity to match professionals with customers is an invaluable art for the competitive organization: personal chemistry determines a team’s flexibility and how it seeks solutions to unexpected problems; it determines how customers perceive mayor outcomes. Then, a critical strategic issue is matching professionals with customers on the basis of good chemistry.

 


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