Relationships in a World of Individualism

  • rWorld

    The rWorld is about more than Dale Kuehne's book Sex and the iWorld.
    The rWorld is a New England based, non-profit (in formation), that is composed of a growing number of people and organizations from many faith and ideological backgrounds worldwide. We believe that much of the fulfillment for which women and men are looking can be found by enhancing the quality of our relationships. While the individual freedom we enjoy in the West is a gift, the love and intimacy for which humans yearn will not be found in self-serving materialism or hedonism, but in a variety of healthy relationships.

    Contact us if you'd like get involved:

  • Dale Kuehne

    Sex & the iWorld

    Professor of Politics and The Richard L. Bready Chair for Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good at Saint Anselm College, Manchester, NH.

    In this blog I'm highlighting signposts of the world in which we presently reside as a means of helping promote a civil, and meaningful dialogue about what kind of world in which we wish to live. I am particularly interested in exploring how might we reconcile the individual good and the common good, and where reconciliation isn’t possible, which should take precedence and why.

    I also blog at

    [Content Caution]

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rLiving 5: Customer Relationships (Continuity)

Posted by Simon on December 4, 2010

Achieving Service Excellence is a program created by The Forum Corporation [disclosure: they’re my employer] to help people serve customers better. Forum was a pioneer in “customer focus” and organizations still come to them because their deep experience and expertise in the customer experience, helping fancy ice-cream stores, hotels, financial institutions, gas stations and more improve customer satisfaction, retention and spend. A center-piece of ASE is a simple but powerful ‘customer interaction cycle’ (shown with permission below). The behavioral battle for most people is resisting the temptation to go straight to ‘helping’, and then to keep going to ‘keeping’. But that’s not my point here [end of unpaid commercial]: the model presumes you’re going to see the customer again.

Relational Proximity Dimension #2 is Continuity: our relationship is formed and strengthened by the amount, frequency and span of time we are together. ‘Together’ is a function of directness (Dimension #1), so even if you only have an online relationship with someone Continuity will likely still strengthen the relationship.

I’d argue that if we meet once, we don’t really have a relationship. Not that I would approach you like that, especially if I’m a customer service representative. If I meet you once, but expect to meet you again, and you expect to meet me again, then suddenly it’s as though something is at stake, so trust is required and therefore a relationship is established. You can see how the expectation of a future meeting might change how we treat someone.

Two sets of vendor-client relationships may have met exactly the same number of times but because one set has an expectation of a future there is inevitably more depth and seriousness to the relationship. Historical perspective works the same way; having a sense of common history together means you can think and feel and say, “That was us, you and me! We did that. We went through that together!”.

Or, of course, you could look back and say “you keep abusing my trust!”. Continuity, like the other dimensions, is a necessary basis of a good relationship but doesn’t guarantee it.

Think of a customer or a friend, try recalling your history together, and discuss plans for the short or long-term future. Then actually start meeting regularly! See how that changes your sense of the health and vitality of the relationship.

[Click here for the introduction to this series and the five dimensions of Relational Proximity.]


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