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Customer intimacy is the cultivation of relationships with customers to make them feel like they are in a partnership with a supplier, rather than in a pure business arrangement. Companies accomplish this through communications tailored to the needs of the customer, and marketing campaigns that create a sense of connection with the company and the products. This concept rose to prominence in the 1990s as many companies started to make it part of their business strategy. Social media in the 21st century made customer intimacy easier and also increased expectations on the part of consumers in terms of communications with companies.
Companies that put a premium on customer intimacy want to reach their customers as individuals, rather than a generic user base. They may offer a number of benefits and services to their customers; a department store, for example, has personal shoppers, storage areas, free delivery, childcare, and other offerings to make its customers feel like guests. This enhances customer loyalty as the customer will turn to that department store first, remembering the customized and personal treatment. These customers in turn can recommend the store to others, creating a chain of connections.
In customer intimacy, companies also keep the lines of communication open. They have hotlines and other services for instant contact and may offer services beyond basic responses to customer needs. A credit card company, for example, might offer roadside assistance to premium members. Some customer intimacy strategies also create a sense of in-group connection through premium services and elite membership. Customers in the inner circle access more benefits and feel more of a connection to the company as a result.
Social media allows companies to interact directly with customers to promote customer intimacy. They may engage in activities like responding to public reviews, good or bad, of their products. They can also organize contests, encourage user feedback, and create online spaces for customers to connect with each other. Many companies work with a social media specialist who can help devise an appropriate strategy for a company's needs.
The goal of customer intimacy is to build a loyal client relationship for life. The consumer will preferentially select that company's products and services, when possible, along with those of the company's business partners. Customers may also talk about their loyalty with friends and family, and will attract new customers through their reviews of the company and its offerings. This can allow a company to build up a strong customer base.