I am writing this editorial on Friday 21 Sept. Last night I watched the memorial service at St Thomas' Church on Fifth Avenue, N.Y., for British relatives and others. Tony Blair, quoting from Thornton Wilder's The Bridge of San Luis Rey, spoke of "a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love. The only survival and only meaning", echoing some of Dylan Thomas' poem in our own editorial last week. A personal message from the Queen took a similar line: "nothing that can be said can begin to take away the anguish and grief of this moment. Grief is the price we pay for love."
But of course, as well as the personal aspects of this tragedy, the political consequences are beginning to emerge. President Bush has addressed both Houses of Congress. "Tonight we are a country awakened to danger and called to defend freedom. Our grief has turned to anger, and anger to resolution. Whether we bring our enemies to justice, or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done...". Tony Blair had spoken earlier on of the support the UK was willing to offer: "My father's generation went through the Blitz. They know what it is like to suffer this deep tragedy and attack. There was one country and one people which stood by us at that time. That country was America and those people were the American people. As you stood by us in those days, we stand side by side with you now."
That support of course does not only come from Britain. As Bush said: "America will never forget the sounds of our national anthem playing at Buckingham Palace, and on the streets of Paris, and at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate. We will not forget South Korean children gathering to pray outside our embassy in Seoul, or the prayers of sympathy offered at a mosque in Cairo. We will not forget moments of silence and days of mourning in Australia and Africa and Latin America." And today there is support from Iran. Tony Blair spoke with Iranian President Mohammed Khatami: "It was a remarkable conversation, not only because he has given us his full solidarity in outrage at what happened in the USA, and strong condemnation of terrorism, but also [in] how we are tackling this." The BBC's Teheran correspondent Jim Muir said: "Iran is desperately trying to avert what it fears will be a calamity, perhaps even greater than that inflicted on New York and Washington."
As well as the suicidal terrorists - directed, we are led to believe, from Afghanistan - we also see large numbers of economic migrants. Across the English Channel, at the entrance to the Channel Tunnel, rest large numbers of migrants, many from Afghanistan, trying to enter the UK illegally. Australia has had to adopt a 'Repel all boarders' policy to prevent illegal immigrants from Afghanistan entering Australia on boats. It's a long way from Afghanistan to the UK and to Australia. Whatever is driving those migrants has to be significant. A major part is, of course, the difference in economic wellbeing of people in the global economy, depending on where they live.
As the naval vessels leave the US for the Gulf, there seems little doubt that we can expect action in the near future. But as everyone realises, we are fighting a new kind of war, so we're all finding out what the rules are. We need to meet the competing demands of retribution/justice and reduction of the levels of terrorism. To paraphrase Tony Blair on crime: "We need to be tough on terrorism, and tough on the causes of terrorism". Whatever action we take - and we have to respond firmly to the completely unacceptable actions in Washington and New York - it has to be intelligent action. Action that is likely to help resolve those issues.
Even before any of that action takes place, we can already see impacts on the CRM industry.
There can be little doubt that the political uncertainty around the global reaction to the terrorist attacks, coupled with the loss of wealth resulting from the falls in stock market indices, is going to reduce consumer confidence significantly. This, together with uncertainties in the insurance and airline industries, makes recession look more likely, particularly since it seems as though we were heading that way anyway. There may be doubts about the length of that recession, but we face it at least in the immediate future. We can expect it to become much tougher to meet our major CRM objectives. It will be tougher to sell to our existing customers, and tougher to find new ones. Customers may well be more likely to leave, even if they do not go elsewhere. Of course this means that we need to be more effective in our CRM than before, so the CRM market may well prove to behave inversely to the market. Certainly the likely winners in this environment are likely to be those who can execute their CRM programmes well, reducing customer attrition, maintaining the loyalty of their existing customers and maximising the return from those customers.
For major corporates, CRM has frequently been tied up with politics. Global CRM programmes are being used to introduce at least one level of standardisation in group companies around the world. As we wrote recently, there has been a growing trend towards locating call centers in low-cost economies such as India. With the increasing uncertainties and risk, the attraction of locating a call-center operation in India is likely to diminish, at least in the short-term, and the travel required to manage global developments will be more difficult. All in all we can expect to see, again in the short-term, a reduction in globalisation. I have myself regretfully cancelled attending a conference coming up soon in the Middle East.
It seems to us that significant changes in the CRM marketplace were already taking place before the recent terrorist activity. For me a senior CRM manager in Microsoft summed this up by saying, "We now know how to talk the talk, we're trying to learn how to walk the walk." There is much less interest in the theory of CRM and much more interest in doing CRM. How do we do this stuff? This leads to less attendance at conferences, less involvement with consultants and more with practitioners, as we move into using CRM.
With the heightened attention on global political developments, we hope this desirable trend towards doing CRM continues, and that the CRM-Forum will be able to help you with it.
Last week we took the unusual step of publishing a poem by the Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas, as part of our editorial. We thought we might repeat the experiment, just once, but with a Turkish Sufi poet from the 12th Century, Rumi. I understand that the Sufi strain of Islam, and Rumi in particular, is a strong influence in Afghanistan, at least until recently, and maybe still now.
Since I was cut from the reedbed,
I have made this crying sound.
Anyone apart from someone he loves
understands what I say.
Anyone pulled from a source
longs to go back.
At any gathering I am there,
mingling in the laughing and grieving,
a friend to each, but few
will hear the secrets hidden
within the notes. No ears for that.
Body flowing out of spirit,
spirit up from body: no concealing
that mixing. But it's not given us
to see the soul.
The reed flute
is fire, not wind. Be that empty.
As always, we like feedback to these editorials. We want to stimulate a debate. If you've got a view on the political situation, or how it will affect CRM, please let us know so that we can all continue to develop our understanding.
You can post comments directly to this editorial by using the 'add a comment' link below, or email me directly at: [email protected].
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