Last week I shared an experience with LinkedIn which spurred a lively Facebook discussion. In it, a friend and former client brought up that LinkedIn services millions of customers, and that I couldn’t possibly expect a personalized response. If that’s the thinking by LinkedIn, I think that’s a cop-out and industrial age relic.

What did I demonstrate to LinkedIn by responding to their request as to why? That I cared. Any of your customers who respond to a query, even briefly, are telling you they care about your relationship when they engage with you. It doesn’t matter if the instance lasts five seconds or five minutes, as they want to continue a long-lasting relationship with your brand. They want you to succeed. If they didn’t care, they wouldn’t have responded.

What LinkedIn could have done here is to follow up and really learn why. This can still be an automated solution if there’s insufficient human reading capability to send a follow-up, 30-second survey to respondents (although I’d argue the default behavior would be for a human to read each of those responses). LinkedIn would have indicated they too care about me and my needs by following up (I would have answered a follow-up short survey).

The payoff for the company of course is they may learn what I really need from my membership and subsequently either offer it if they don’t have it, or point me in the right direction if they do. There’s a thin line of demanding attention between these types of follow-ups and no follow-up at all, so you have to be mindful of your customer’s time and inclination when planning this touch point.

Do you want more paying customers and have a freemium pricing model, like LinkedIn does? Show you care. Then demonstrate the paid plans’ value to each of your customers. Your plans’ make-up have to be based on the needs of your customers. In my case, I subsequently found a type of paid LinkedIn account for job seekers, learned about its specific benefits, and immediately signed up. It was geared for me and my needs, not just a generic “premium” plan whose benefits may or may not match my needs.

This is the essence of user experience (UX) design–creating products and services that best serve your customers and are structured in a way that makes sense to them. Designing for customers inevitably creates long-term, relationship-based revenue, whereas designing for revenue might bring in money, it’s almost always short-term. Go for the long haul: Design for your customers.