It is incumbent on the present-day world to rescue and preserve the data off these floppies, as the choice won’t be left to the next generations to do so. Debates about the worthiness of the data are fine enough, but in another few years the debate will not be about whether items can be saved, but how best to work with, present, and study all that was saved. It is a dying medium and resource.
The idea of the stream has become so dominant that it is easy to think it is the natural state of things in a networked media environment. “Of course we have the stream: this is the Internet after all.” That’s why it’s so important to look back at 2009 (just 2009!) and remember that the stream is a creation of particular companies and thinkers. Yes, they were following what worked, they were following the numbers. But they were also guided by their own desires and Brian Eno quotes and their guts.

Supportive, attentive and grateful: customerish relationships and experiences

At work we’ve been discussing an ever-present topic: which services may a business (specifically, in the banking industry) offer to non-costumers, seeking an outcome of fostering brand recognition and brand values, laying the foundations to a relationship of trust, and, ultimately, increasing the likelihood of the user of the service eventually becoming a customer.  While categorizing the current and possible offering of services for costumers and non-costumers, we stumbled upon a new realization, that while I am a costumer of some businesses and a non-costumer of, well, the rest, there are some business of which I am less of a non-costumer than of others; this idea we christened as “customerish relationships”.

"Customerish relationships" describe an engagement between a person and a business that is not direct and formal, but implicit, socially mediated and built upon repetition in the stead of an explicit contract. It’s the relationship that I have with my spouse’s bank, with whom I share a money pot and a bunch of financial products, without being a customer myself, on an almost daily basis. It’s the relationship my parents have with Amazon when they defer the ordering of stuff to me because they won’t be bothered to deal with web forms and Paypal; it’s the relationship I have with my landlord’s bank to which I have arranged the automated monthly transfer of the rent fee. Customerish is customership-by-proxy. It portraits a scene of liminal transactions, with the ingredients of closeness, repetition and intertwined feedback loops as opposed to the straightforwardness and more easily described customer-business relationships. 

The attitudes and behaviors of customerish experiences are affected by the same factors and conditions than “regular” retail experiences, in positive (gaining an appreciation of the business’ offerings, improving the brand perception and even taking the first steps towards an eventual conversion into customer) and negative (being affected by low quality of service, bad user experience, delays in retail delivery, …) manners alike. Yet, the feedback and satisfaction levels derived from these experiences will not be captured, and not even recognized, by traditional means of customer relationship management. Akin to the ideas of the "Deep web" and the “Dark social”, we can talk about a “Deep CRM”, a layer of human perceptions and feedback loops that are not currently parsed or indexed by existing CRM solutions.

From this description, a number of interesting design opportunities arise, each one labeled under a humane quality:

- Being supportive: caring for the customerish experiences of my customers with other businesses mediated by my own.

     Which other businesses do my users rely on as part of their consumption cycles? What opportunities do exist for fostering collaborations and allegiances that erase the seams on a multi-tier consumer transaction and increase the value for all the parts involved? Can we “pave the cowpaths”, even, and specially so, when those paths take the customer beyond our reach? 

     Integration of 3rd party APIs is a common practice nowadays by which digital products and services pay service to the idea that they’re but a link in a chain of value for the user, but there’s still much need to take this notions into consideration from the concept and design stages of a project, taking for granted user desires and activities that start before and end well beyond our business.

     Example:  A bank that, after a number of recurring automated transfers have happened, offers me the possibility of adding that account as another kind of product on my portfolio, with historical visualizations and other perks usually reserved only for the bank’s own products.   

- Being attentive: caring for the customerish experiences of non-customers with my business.

     Which opportunities do exist to foster a casual relationship into a deeper engagement, while avoiding the risks of behaving in spammy, antisocial and counterproductive ways? Key here are the ideas of memory, proactiveness and a “digital patina” that recognizes the historicity of the relationships between users and digital interfaces. Also, how can I design around the idea of “transparency” so my services/products are not “black boxes”, but can’t be probed, explored or addressed by others without the need to become a customer?

     Think about the social ties of our customer. What are her spouse’s, friend’s, business partner’s needs and how can we reach out to them so their occasional interactions with our touchpoints and communication channels are as pleasant and efficient as possible? 

     Example: In a merchant’s website, a special page where I, a non-costumer, can see a list of “Things that have been gifted to me” by costumers of the site, akin to the standard “My orders” page for costumers.

- Being grateful: caring for the “social proxies” that enable the customerish relationships between my business and non-costumer.

     How can we acknowledge the value that our customers add to our own economic cycles beyond the mere act of consumption? When they act as emissaries, proxies or even sales assistants in our behalf, not for the sake of our business, but because of their own social dynamic loops, how can we design towards making their contributions easier, more meaningful and rewarding? 

     Consider the social dynamics that your costumer is a participant of and that result in interactions with my site for other people. Make sure barriers are lowered and hassles are removed. Enhance the processes with affordances and benefits that evoke delight and fidelity and express thankfulness.

     Example: Create a “social ID” for me as a costumer of the bank, in the form “manuel@grateful-bank.com”, that’s all whomever wants to transfer me money needs to know. Reward me with loyalty points every time that social ID is used for transferring money to me.

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 Being supportive, attentive and grateful are drivers that we can use when figuring out how to navigate the complex scenarios of multi-tier human/business interaction. In the multilayered scenery of capitalist western economies, customer status is no longer a binary state, but glides over a gradient of intermixed relationships between businesses and people, generating more complex and harder to describe states  for the mental models, attitudes and expectations of economic players. By being alert to the new complexities that arise, we’ll be able to design new ways for businesses to expand and reach out to people while accommodating their ever more subtle wants and needs.

Certainly, this isn’t ‘Windows versus Mac all over again’. There are now 490m iOS devices in use, but PCs only hit that number in around 2000, long after Apple lost the last ecosystem battle. Apple sold 51m iPhones last quarter - total PC sales in 1995 were 59.5m. That is, the iOS ecosystem now is much bigger than the winning ecosystem back then.