The Great CRM Contradiction

By Heather Baldwin

There’s an interesting contradiction in CRM. Customer relationship management is supposed to be about customers, yet few customers actually care about the elements of CRM. Organizations gather a lot of data and perform a lot of analyses on their customers, but very little of it results in loyal and delighted customers, say Gary and Blaine Millet, authors of Creating and Delivering Totally Awesome Customer Experiences: The art and science of customer experience mapping (Customer Experiences, Inc., 2002). Instead, loyalty is created through great experiences. “Customer loyalty can thrive only in an experience-based environment,” say the Millets. “This means that an organization’s primary focus should be to create and deliver good customer experiences, using operational activities to support those experiences.”

Take the example of Uncle Bob. Bob, say the Millets, needed to find a special collectible Barbie for his daughter. So one day he went to Toys R Us to look for the popular doll. What he’s going to remember about that day is not how long he waited in line at the cash register or how long it took him to locate the empty shelves where the Barbies were once displayed or that he had a 10% off coupon that Toys R Us had mailed to him for shopping there previously. What he will remember, say the Millets, is that Jeremy, the sales associate, took time to physically check to see if there were any more special Barbies in the back storage room. He’ll remember that Jeremy called two other Toys R Us stores, and then called the competition until he found a retailer that had the doll. He’ll remember that Jeremy asked the store to gift-wrap the doll and have it waiting for Bob to pick up. He’ll remember Jeremy giving him street directions to the store, and then giving Bob a birthday greetings card for his daughter with a complimentary $10 Toys R Us coupon. At the end, Jeremy thanked Bob for being a Toys R Us customer. Think Uncle Bob is now an outspoken advocate for Toys R Us? You bet.

Many companies mistakenly believe that improved operational efficiency will in turn lead to increased customer loyalty, but that’s not true, say the Millets. Customers care about the end results of those efficiencies and what it means to the experience they have with your company. So they don’t care that you have perfected the transferring of an order between your call center and your distribution center, they just want their order to be delivered on time. In all the furor over technology and new operational efficiencies, say the Millets, don’t forget to step back and remind yourself about the bottom line – great customer experiences.