Firm of the Future: Scale and Intimacy



As companies grow, it become harder for employees in leadership positions to have genuine interactions with customers. Rob Markey, who leads Bain's Global Customer Strategy & Marketing practice, outlines how new technologies are allowing large companies to reconcile scale with intimacy and interact with customers.

Read the Bain Brief: The Firm of the Future

Read the transcript below.

ROB MARKEY: If you look at the long arc of how companies have interacted with customers, what you see is that in the old days—like the really old days—individual human beings would sell things to individuals that they knew, and they traded and developed relationships over time.

And, as companies got bigger, the proprietor, or the owner of the firm, the management team, got more and more distant from individual customers. So, over time, it became important to find additional ways to gather information about customers and the relationship that you have with them.

And, in fact, over the last 20, 30 years, some companies have become so big that it's really difficult for the leadership to have any kind of interaction with their customers on a regular basis.

Technology's changing that. It's actually giving us the ability to form relationships with customers at huge scale using data and analytics, providing the ability to present to a customer service rep, a salesperson, a senior executive the whole history of a relationship, an understanding of what's going on with that customer outside the context of this company. And, importantly, the ability to think about what's the next best thing that we should do with this customer to advance our relationship with them.

It's crucial to take advantage of the benefits of scale. As you become a larger and larger company, you get the opportunity to interact with more and more customers; accumulate more and more data; understand better and faster what that next best action is; and, ultimately, gain an advantage over the small companies, who may naturally have more intimate person-to-person interactions.

The future is really bright. Advances in advanced analytics, advances in the ability to capture and collect data, the scale of companies gives us the opportunity to form closer, more intimate relationships with individual customers at scale even in very large organizations.

Read the Bain Brief: The Firm of the Future