CRM: It’s All About the Little Things

By Heather Baldwin

CRM isn’t hard and it isn’t expensive. That’s good news today, when most companies have sliced expenses on all but the most necessary items. So if you’re putting off a CRM project because you think costs will be too exorbitant in these lean times, think again. “CRM is not about big, grandiose plans; it’s about doing lots and lots of little things for your customers,” says Scott Nelson, vice president and research director with Gartner.

Consider Nelson’s experience on a recent business trip to a major city. All the national hotel chains were fully booked, so he reserved a room at a smaller hotel at which he had stayed about three times previously. His experience at this hotel had been “fine” before, but when he checked in late at night on his most recent trip, the customer representative greeted him with, “It looks like you’ve had a long day. You must be hungry. Would you like me to order some supper to be delivered to your room?” No thanks, said Nelson, he preferred not to take the time to look through the menu. “Actually,” said the rep, “We’ve got a record of everything you ordered when you were here previously. If you’d like any of those dishes, I can order it right here and have it delivered.” When Nelson said he’d like the same meal he had on his last visit, the agent tapped a few keys and announced it would be delivered to Nelson’s room in 15 minutes.

The relationship building didn’t end there. When Nelson got to his room, he found a printout on the desk of directions to the local Gartner office. “I checked in under the Gartner name,” he recalled later, “so someone must have assumed I’d be visiting that office.” Then things got almost eerie: a bellhop knocked at the door with an envelope from the hotel containing directions to the client Nelson was scheduled to visit in the morning. How did they know? “I realized that when I checked in, I mentioned I was here to see so-and-so. I even mentioned I had taken a taxi to the hotel, so someone was smart enough not only to provide directions to that client, but to provide a walking route as well,” says Nelson.

As Nelson later learned, the personal touches were all the result of a CRM system the hotel had put in place for frequent travelers. It didn’t cost them much, he said, but it worked: next time Nelson visits that city, he said he is definitely going to stay in that hotel. “I’m not even going to check the national chains,” he said. “So many companies make CRM way more complicated than it needs to be.”