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Relationship Management: A Transformation Is Underway

February 20, 2013

In a blog on Successful Workplace, Chris Taylor asks the question ‘Just who owns the customer, anyway?’

Chris goes on to observe the growing influence of technology in data gathering and assessment and how this is transforming the way that relationships are evaluated and managed. No longer do they depend on the appointment of a dedicated account manager or account team to operate as internal analysts and champions. Increasingly, the business has objective data, auto alerts and mechanized segmentation to assist its decisions about the value of any trading relationship.

This enables the customer interface to be far more fluid, based more on the nature of the topic. It reduces the need for a dedicated intermediary, whose role was in part to build ‘the relationship’, but in reality most time was spent researching opportunities, making connections and facilitating the right discussions. Automation eliminates the need for much of this activity – and is far more thorough and accurate in its targeting.

Certainly we should not discount the importance of the relational element. This can make a big difference to loyalty and trust. But some companies have already decided to dispense with this – for example, RBS (a large international bank) recently announced the elimination of its relationship managers for corporate clients.

For those in contracts or commercial management, this trend means that the old days of subservience to the account team may be drawing to a close. Already, many post-award contract managers find that they are often a key interface to the customer organization. Increasingly, there will be a need for practitioners to take a lead role both pre and post-award, depending on the nature of the issues and the specific customer interface.

The same factors actually apply with regard to supply-side relationships. Old assumptions that ‘the business’ owns the interface to its suppliers similarly make little sense. With the erosion of relationship management in general, those who anticipate an army of ‘Supplier Relationship Managers’ may be very wide of the mark. Account management is increasingly a discipline that focuses on data and analytics, rather than a job title.

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