OK, ok… I am just going to let the cat out of the bag right now… I totally made up the acronym. The fact that the title sounds like a bad sci-fi movie probably gave it away. However, it stands for a very important sentiment we need to seriously consider amidst the confusion in customer initiative terminology and misuse in business jargon. TEBRAL stands for Think Experience, Build Relationships, Achieve Loyalty.

One of the most common hurdles I must overcome when talking to my students at Rutgers University is their understanding of what Customer Experience really is. Over the past few programs, we have had distinguished executive leaders speak about their internal roles in customer experience management and execution. Words like service and loyalty still dominate the conversation but we have all silently agreed that the term “experience” is currently encapsulating the ideas of improving customer retention and listening more intently to the voice of the customer. Nevertheless, as I look at the industry groups and associations leading the charge of customer focus, I am cognizant that we are working together toward a common cause and unknowingly bringing attention to essential elements of winning and keeping customers, albeit under different initiatives. While organizations like Loyalty360, the CXPA, and the ICSA (International Customer Service Association) do not operate under the same banner, they are heralding messages that collectively resonates strongly with me (and should with you as well). It is a message that sounds something like this:

“Be skillful in setting the stage/environment for customers to get what they need, in an easy and emotionally connecting way (Experience)”

“Use that setting to build genuine relationships with people so you can create value together, and make and fix mistakes together (Relationship)”

“So you can expect relationship-driven things like long-term commitment (Loyalty)”

I say this confidently because I have had the pleasure of speaking and interacting with the leaders of these organizations and know that they share a genuine and common vision despite the names of their associations and events and campaigns. They are all thinking about experience that facilitates relationships and leads to loyalty. Every component supporting the other. Dependent on the other. Facilitating the other. Unable to survive without the other. It ultimately makes sense that you cannot build and strengthen a relationship without experiences that individually and cumulative motivate people to do relationship “things” (like clarify expectations, improve engagement and communication, focus on personal and cultural relevance, increase transparency, etc.). And it doesn’t make sense that we should expect loyalty (consider how strong a word that is: a strong feeling of support or allegiance) from someone who does not have a relationship with you. Although, for some reason, a lot of companies expect just that.

I honestly do not expect you to rally for the use of TEBRAL, of course, but I do want you to consider the following as you think of these three concepts together:

  1. Are you so focused on Customer Experience that you forget that “experience” must lead to relationship and loyalty?
  2. Are you conscious of the need to build genuine relationships but fail to create experiences that facilitate them?
  3. Are you trying to achieve loyalty but overlook the experiential and relational needs that must be met before people make such a serious commitment?

I would love to hear your thoughts. How do you use the words experience, relationship, and loyalty at your company? Do the concepts connect? And most importantly, can I start selling my “Rise of TEBRAL” shirts yet?

About the author: JC writes about interpersonal and business relationships and the technology that improves them. His books are available on Amazon and other major retailers.