CRM: Keep It Simple

Most companies implementing a CRM solution are more interested in helping themselves than helping their customers. Sure, companies pay a lot of lip service to “serving the customer,” but when it comes right down to it, very few truly do have customer satisfaction as their number-one priority, which is really.what CRM is all about, says Scott Nelson, vice president and research director with Gartner.

Take the case of one specialty grocery store. The company decided it would set up a Website and give customers the option of emailing in their comments and concerns. Not long after, it sent out an email to all its customers saying the company was getting overwhelmed with the amount of email coming in, Nelson recalls. To improve customer service, they would no longer accept email.

Huh? From the outside looking in, the absurdity of that retailer’s explanation is obvious. But to the retailer not focused on customer service it made sense. That’s why CRM is about changing priorities and business processes more so than technology. Put customer desires first, says Nelson, and you’ll be on the right track. Clearly, that retailer’s customers appreciated being able to report problems to the store through email. Finding a better way to handle those emails and solving the problems raised in the communiqués would have been the customer-centric solution; turning off the spigot was the company-centric solution.A lack of customer focus can manifest itself in unexpected ways as well. For instance, that new billing system your company is considering may speed the billing process, but could it ultimately be less convenient for customers? That needs to be examined, says Nelson, who was on the losing end of just such a problem. He was set up to pay his telephone bill automatically through the Web on the 26th of every month, per his request, when he suddenly started receiving notices of bounced payments and saw his phone company had started billing on the 19th. A call to the customer-service department revealed the phone company had switched to a new billing system. Customers were now billed on a date based on the last digit of their phone number and no one could change it.

“You know what their suggestion was? They said I could change my phone number,” says Nelson. Nelson’s message: CRM is not complicated. It’s simply about putting the customer first in everything you do. No amount of money spent on technology can do that for you.