A New Year's Resolution for CRM

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Mark Ingvoersen, principal of consultancy Headstrong's CRM Practice, suggests a timely resolution for the CRM world.

CRM is going awry. All the talk of cross-sell, up-sell; of consistent customer experiences; of knowing your customer across all touch points and so on. All these things have been spouted endlessly over the last several years.

They have a particular thread in common. They are all what the organisation wants to do for themselves. Yes, it’s in the context of the customer, but how many customers really want to use a service call to get sold something? More importantly, are the customers actually getting the resolution to the problem they have – whether it’s service issue, an enquiry, or a purchase.

What actually seems to have been forgotten in this headlong rush to manage customer relations, is - what is it that the customer actually wants?

Several years ago a chap called Professor Merlin Stone wrote a paper called Paradigms in Customer Management. One of the concepts he talked about then was something called ‘Transparent Marketing’. This was the notion that a customer wants to manage their relationship with a company rather than the other way round. What this means is that when I phone up for a service call – I might not want to be sold to. However, when I phone up to make a purchase, I expect you to be aware of previous purchases and to discount accordingly.

Funnily enough Transparent Marketing never got off the starting blocks. I believe this is because software vendors, who have been the main, aggressive, driving force in CRM did not actually see the notion of putting the customer in charge as being particularly lucrative for them. Their products support call centres and sales people – not recognising and fulfilling specific needs for customers.

If we now turn our attention to organisations that have implemented – often at great cost – CRM solutions we are frequently reminded through the trade press that these system have not brought the benefits that were anticipated, and are clearly not the panaceas they were thought to be.

Much work has been carried out by notable academics and industry figures on the financial benefits of customer retention, segmentation and all the facilities that CRM is supposed to enable. These guys can’t all be wrong.

So where is the gap coming from? There are no doubt many reasons ranging from ‘objectiveless’ projects to lousy (or immature) software. But I now contend that one of the fundamental reasons that these projects have failed to deliver to expectations it that they have almost exclusively been trying to do more for the organisation. They have not been trying to do more for the customer.

Where, then, do we go from here? Somewhere in all that change, we all became introverted and thought of how we can make the business better. We were not thinking how we can make the business better FOR THE CUSTOMER. A fantastic, state of the art call centre does not make your business better for you customer. Solving his or her SPECIFIC need when they have that need does.

Probably the best customer service I’ve ever had came from a demolition company. I had a fairly small building to knock down and dispose of the spoil. The company that finally did the work, sent knowledgeable people to give the quote, quoted a price they stuck to, organised the date for the work and were accommodating when I needed to change it. They carried out the work professionally and on-time without any hassle and invoiced me correctly in a timely fashion.

What’s significant is that I will almost certainly never need to use their services again. And yet no issues of lifetime value, customer retention, customer profitability, cross-selling or any of that stuff came into it – just plain good quality product and good quality service.

Now wouldn’t that be a good new year’s resolution for many companies!

Mark Ingvorsen, is a Principal in the CRM Practice for Headstrong, a global consultancy that creates business value from digital technologies. For further information visit http://www.headstrong.com or call +44(0)1932 570111

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