Food for Thought: What does it take to create customer intimacy in an engagement/interaction?

In our latest series on leading issues in CX, we ask marketing experts from a range of industries to tell us what is takes to create customer intimacy

Key to excellent CX is customer intimacy, or a connection with your customer. In our latest Food for Thought series, we asked leading marketers: What does it take to create customer intimacy in an engagement/interaction?

Rebecca James

Chief marketing and enterprise officer, Prospa 

There’s a belief that customer intimacy can only be created by possessing detailed knowledge of customers in an attempt to systematically predict all future needs. The promise is in doing so you’ll boost revenues and share of wallet. This will definitely provide a good customer experience, but it’s not enough to create a truly intimate one.

Rebecca James
Rebecca James


When you think of the word ‘intimacy’ you cannot help but think of a person-to-person relationship, it’s just in the business world that relationship is with a brand. Intimacy is created when a consumer makes a connection with someone within that brand who wants them to walk away having had not just a good experience, but a great one.  

Of course, you need to understand your target customers deeply: Their needs, concerns, points of anxiety and desires, and yes you need to design an end-to-end experience addressing all of these. But the crucial step in creating intimacy is in ensuring the whole organisation is built around delivering it. 

At Prospa, all of our technology, analytics, systems and processes are geared towards empowering our loan specialists to make things simple and easy for our customers. The loan specialists are the embodiment of the Prospa brand.

This may seem on the surface a little strange for a fintech. But our customers want to have a rich dialogue with a human – a person they can build a relationship with, whether that relationship is for 10 minutes, 10 months or 10 years. With someone who is knowledgeable, and who can take all of the information to make a decision for a loan in under 10 minutes. It’s someone who can give them a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ instantly.

And while all of that conversation is person-to-person, there’s a million lines of code sitting behind them ensuring they can quickly build the tenements of intimacy. Once that intimacy is established, we’re keen on ensuring the relationship lives on post-sale – with the loan specialist front and centre of all future interactions. 

And yes, consumers are getting more and more sophisticated – they’re aware that it’s ‘tech’ powering the interaction, but they still rate it just as highly. 

Pam Webber

Chief marketing and operations officer, 99designs

Creating customer intimacy relies on trust. If you can’t be trusted, then you have no shot at intimacy.

The difficult part about trust is that simply saying you are trustworthy does not make it so. As people around the world have seen with the unfolding Facebook scandal, overt attempts to convince someone you are trustworthy will often just make customers more suspicious.

Pam Webber
Pam Webber


Trust must be earned and built, customer-by-customer. As a brand, you earn trust by delivering and exceeding expectations. If you promise easy, the experience better be easy - particularly in the customer’s first interaction with your product or service.

It takes an unwavering commitment to excellence to create customer intimacy. Intimacy requires letting someone into your heart, and to earn a customer's heart you must woo them. You do that through excellence in your product, service, or experience.

If you consistently deliver what you say you will deliver, you should also benefit from a strong word-of-mouth ‘army’ that drives prospective customers to you. Even better, customers who have been referred are predisposed to trust you before their first interaction takes place.

Most of our customers at 99designs were referred by a friend, which gives us an opening to build intimacy in our first interaction with them. Once we are given that opening, we deliver an excellent customer experience to earn their trust and to create customer intimacy.

As any business manager knows, excellence is not easy. It is difficult to deliver excellence across so many parts of the customer experience. The good news is, you can deliver excellence - and drive intimacy - without being excellent everywhere. The key is to be in-tune with what delights your customer and focus your efforts to drive excellence with your ‘delighters’. Examples of brands that do this really well include Target with its merchandising approach, Tim Tam with consistency, and Jetstar with its low prices.

Lisa Summer Hayes
Marketing manager at Goodstart 

The childcare industry is highly competitive, with increasing supply of centres a constant challenge in maintaining and growing attendance levels.

As a national not-for-profit social enterprise, Goodstart believes in partnering with families to deliver the best outcomes for our children and value to our families. We work to tease out what value means for our families, to create customer intimacy and ultimately drive brand loyalty.

Lisa Summer-Hayes
Lisa Summer-Hayes

We’re a high-touch human services organisation, managing relationships with more than 59,000 families, so customer intimacy is core to what we do. It is focused at our early learning centres and driven by a desire to truly partner with families through their child’s first five years.

That goes beyond being a ‘childcare’ provider to be there for families in meaningful ways. To do this, we need to have an acute awareness and knowledge not just of what our families want, but why they want it, when they want it, and how best to deliver that support.

Goodstart invests heavily in customer insights, with a rolling feedback loop that intercepts families at key touchpoints in their Goodstart journey. We also undertake deeper ethnographic research, to observe families in their real-life environment and understand everyday challenges, so we can co-design solutions.

Our goal is to establish trust, using customer data and insights, alongside operational agility to create and deliver irresistible offers for our families – in and beyond our early learning centres.

We also deliver customer intimacy by being relevant to them. To have utility, to help them get things done, give them advice or information that enables them to be better parents.

We recently launched an online tool to help families understand the financial impact of the new Government Child Care Subsidy and continually publish content on our website, covering everything from dealing with challenging behaviour, to toilet training, to understanding what school readiness is all about. We put an enormous effort into ensuring both our brand and our centres deliver relevant, timely information and support to our families – which builds trust and ultimately brand loyalty.

As a not-for-profit, we are in an enviable position where all our revenue is invested in our children, people, centres and spreading information on the value of quality early learning so we can deliver on our vision for all Australia’s children to have the best possible start in life. 

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+:google.com/+CmoAu          

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