Customer Relationships and Channels

The Business Model Canvas Series: Customer Relationships & Channels

Customer Relationships


This is a key building block of The Business Model Canvas which defines the kinds of relationships you form with each of your Customer Segments. Consider what the perfect relationship would be—should it be personal, automated, or somewhere in between? Put yourself in the customer’s shoes—what would the ideal relationship look like from their point of view?


The relationships you have with your customers will heavily impact their customer experience. It’s up to you to shape that and to design the best experience for your customers as possible. It’s all part of the service you provide and extending your brand and your personality across everything you do, including communication touchpoints.


Your customers may have certain expectations about the kinds of relationships you should establish with them. It can be helpful to think about what these might be and how best to implement them.


Here are some categories of Customer Relationships to consider:


Personal assistance


As the title suggests, this relationship is concerned with human communication. This could be via phone, email, face-to-face or any other means of communication.


Dedicated personal assistance


This relationship is more personal as it is individually tailored. It includes assigning a customer representative to a specific customer so they are consistently engaging with the same person. This provides familiarity, builds trust and allows the customer representative to really get to know and understand that particular client. Additionally, this personalised service can foster deep and meaningful relationships with important customers over a prolonged period.




In contrast, this relationship entails no direct relationship between a business and their clients. Customers are entirely self-sufficient so there is no need to establish any human interaction with them.


Automated services


This relationship combines self-service with automated processes. These processes can identify specific customers and provide information regarding orders or transactions. Additionally, automated services can be designed to emulate a personal relationship, providing excellent and efficient customer service.




These types of relationships foster community connections between customers which can be done online, for instance. This enables them to get to know each other, perhaps solve each other’s problems and gives businesses a better understanding of their customer base. For example, we use Slack to communicate with our customers and it also enables them to talk to each other. We’re online pretty much 24/7, so we can provide a very personalised type of customer service.




This is one step ahead of the typical customer-vendor relationship. It allows businesses to establish a mutually beneficial relationship with each other. For example, some businesses ask their customers to help them design new products or services. This benefits the business by enabling them to provide an improved product or service and it also benefits the client by designing it around their needs.


The Key Takeaway:


Whatever types of customer relationships you choose, make sure to implement them with your customers in mind. Consider the costs incurred for each type of relationship and how these can be integrated with the rest of your business model.




This building block outlines how you communicate with customers to deliver your Value Proposition. This could be done through either offline or online channels such as face-to-face or via social media.


Customer Channels, Distribution Channels and Sales Channels are all important touch points that heavily influence the customer experience. So, it’s important to think about what you’re going to say to your customers and also how you’re going to deliver that message. Consider what the best and most convenient channels of communication would be for your customers. And also what the most cost-efficient channels are for your business. Are these direct channels such as your website or indirect channels such as through a wholesaler?


Channel Types


You can communicate with customers through Own Channels and Indirect Channels. Owned Channels can be direct such as a website or they can be indirect such as the organisatinon’s retail stores. Partner Channels are always indirect and can range from a wholesaler to a partner store.


Customer Relationships and Channels

Channel Phases


There are 5 different channel phases which might include some, or all your channels. These range from Owned Channels to Partner Channels and from Indirect Channels to Direct Channels:


  • Awareness

How you make customers aware of your products and services.


  • Evaluation

How you help customers evaluate your Value Proposition.


  • Purchase

How you enable customers to purchase these products and services.


  • Delivery

How you deliver your Value Proposition to customers.


  • After Sales

How you provide additional support to customers after they purchase your products or services.


The Key Takeaway:


Whatever channels you use to communicate with, ensure that you find a good balance between the different channel types. The ideal goal is to design a cost-effective solution that best meets the customer’s needs and wants whilst providing the most revenues.


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