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Business Model Inspiration #6:
Personal or Self-Service? Customer Relationship Extremes

Personal Relationship

Depending on your solution, you could profit from a very close relationship with your customers. The closer you are, the better you will understand the needs of your customers, such that you can offer them more personalized products and services, thus tying them closer to your company.
In order to raise the customer relationship to a more personal level, companies apply a variety of strategies, starting with the implementation within the business model itself or by huge marketing campaigns to humanize the brand.


We’ve got some examples for you:



Putting the focus on its customers and communities, and seeing customers’ demands as crucial to its commitment to true customer centricity, has made Allianz one of the most successful companies in the global insurance and asset management.



To improve the personal relationship with its customers, Nespresso has opened over 450 boutiques worldwide (compared with one boutique in 2000), in combination with more than 1,000 coffee specialists, who maintain a regular dialogue with Nespresso Club members. Customers can benefit from coffee experts’ advice and in-shop experiences.
Nespresso’s direct selling approach was also covered in our previous blog post on direct vs. indirect selling.



Instead of building close personal customer relationships, some companies follow a contrary approach: self-service. Part of the value creation is transferred to the customer in exchange for a lower price for the service or product. This is particularly suited to process steps that add relatively little-perceived value for the customer (or even pain, e.g. by waiting), but contain high costs. Customers benefit from efficiency and time savings, despite putting in their own effort.

Beware! Opting for self-service as a business model does not mean that it’s okay to know less about your customers. In order to identify the components suited to be economized for the sake of self-service, getting an in-depth understanding of your customers is just as important here.




McDonald’s introduced self-service touchscreens, in combination with self-service, pick up, placing more choice and control in the hands of customers, while reducing its operational costs at the same time.
It is worth noting that, since launching its “my burger” service, McDonald’s puts a personal touch to self-service by letting customers order customized burgers through the self-checkout machines.




backWERK was created as a self-service bakery, whose goal was to deliver fresh products all day long at a very low price. By setting up self-service kiosks, the company is able to reduce operational costs without losing out on a service that is perceived as essential by its customers.


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