• May 1, 2009

Feedback: May 2009

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For the rest of the May 2009 issue of CRM magazine, please click here.

Revisiting the Turnstile Relationship
Unfortunately, everything Scott Hornstein wrote in his column (“Rejecting the Turnstile Relationship,” The Tipping Point, December 2008) is accurate. From my experience, larger companies are the primary offenders and less likely to care about a relationship than smaller, more-entrepreneurial ones are. Smaller companies use the service they provide to differentiate themselves and to ensure customer retention. If enterprise-size establishments don’t start taking CRM seriously, they should expect to be replaced.

Example: I recently spent three and a half hours on the phone with Microsoft, trying to get help with an operating system problem. I was transferred to six different people, each time forced to retell my story. Couldn’t the first person have captured my story in a CRM system before transferring me? The last person said someone would contact me within 24 hours. Seventy-two hours later, I was still waiting.

Instead, I took my machine to a local shop. The next day I had my machine back. When another problem arose, they cheerfully took my machine back and even though the new problem wasn’t related to their work, they addressed the new issue at no charge.

While I’m still waiting to hear from Microsoft, I’ll have my machine back and my local shop will have a customer for life.

Yvonne Brandon
Marketing Strategist & Consultant

Contributor Scott Hornstein responds: Unless customer care is a company’s strategic product, the layers of bureaucracy act as insulation from the customer experience. One of the most dramatic things that Lou Gerstner did when he stepped in to lead IBM was to insist that senior executives talk to and see actual customers. I was privy to one call a regional director made to a midlevel company to say thank you for its recent purchase. The customer was absolutely stunned. I’m with you: I think every executive should spend at least an entire day each quarter as part of the customer-facing troops.


Hornstein’s column states in clear, everyday English what we in the consumer-goods space manage to make complex, hampering our own success.

I can’t go a day without hearing or reading a treatise on marketing during a recession or the importance of building brands during a recession, followed by lists of strategies and tactical advice.

What matters is growing the relationship between brands and consumers, delivering on a brand promise while continuing, through innovation, to meet evolving consumer needs. It’s about simple marketing, and the simple fact is that we better be doing it now and doing it well.

One overlooked factor in “doing it well” is what we do inside our own corporate walls. Efforts to constantly evaluate costs, and to ensure that the organizational structure drives strategy, etc., are valid. But we spend too little time developing relationships through our roles and processes. The constant dialogue around “role clarity” and “decision rights” is really a dialogue about when to hand something off before heading to your next task. If we’re all aligned toward common goals, shouldn’t we want to see our individual contribution play out in achieving those goals?

As we focus on the simple ideas of marketing and growing relationships with our consumers, we need to take care to turn the lens on ourselves and our corporate teams, fostering deep levels of commitment and loyalty throughout the chain.

Stuart Taylor
Vice President,
    Marketing Research & Analytics
Kimberly-Clark Corporation


I travel extensively for business and, like many road warriors, have become an animal of habit. You log on to the Web sites of your preferred airline, hotel, and rental car company and the process becomes very familiar. You can book a car rental in two minutes or less.

What happens when the rental-car company changes its site to an “improved” process that ignores the loyal customer? The familiar becomes the new breeding ground of the “unempowered” customer service representative (CSR), fearful of losing her job and unable to answer “yes” to a customer.

As I proceeded to make my reservation, I was surprised to note that the car I thought I rented was in error. I called the toll-free number, and a CSR said that I had clicked a button as a prepay option. What? The representative cancelled my reservation and told me I was being charged a $25 fee—which the CSR was unable to remove. What?! The CSR passed me to the “Web desk”—a new, exotic destination—which was also unable to remove the charge. On to a manager and the same scenario: unable to remove the charge.

I was concerned that the rental company had forgotten its value proposition; instead of valuing the customer relationship, they preferred the value of a quick penalty fee.

Having persistence as a personality trait, I contacted the office of the senior vice president for customer service, at the company’s headquarters. Finally, I was able to connect with someone who had not forgotten that the customer rents the cars, the reason their businesses exist.

I was concerned the penalty fee had become the primary source of income. I was pleased to note that they were understanding and sympathetic—and they admitted this was a new Web site, and that it might be prudent to insert a window to inform the customer that a credit card was about to be charged.

With the fee deleted, and elated with the end result, I will remain a customer, and will have to hope that I do not again fall victim to the unempowered CSR.

John Hayes
Hayes Global


As Hornstein mentions, we need to focus on our high-quality existing customers because “they’re the 20 percent that are responsible for 80 percent of our revenue.” In fact, being the technophile that I am, much of my time recently has been spent looking to implement cutting-edge CRM software to help our company organize and centralize our customer relationships to ensure that we’re making the proper decisions with our time and our money.

In this recent economic downturn, when pennies are being pinched at every level, a reinvestment in CRM via the use of technology and internal training is clearly in our best interests. It’s an enormous challenge, however, when the desire for short-term results is greater than ever.

By reinforcing our corporate focus on the long-term customer relationship, and showing our best customers that we are, as Hornstein says, “a part of their team,” we may perhaps have the ability to maintain (or grow) our profitability while keeping our customers highly satisfied.

Noah Fenn
Director of Marketing
Jones & Vining, Inc.

Hornstein responds: The struggle is real, not only because of economics, but because of fear and panic. Still, this shouldn’t be an “either/or” decision. The lesson from Wall Street is that a myopic focus on the short term is not good for our long-term health.

Letters may be edited for length or clarity.

Every month, CRM magazine covers the customer relationship management industry and beyond. To subscribe, please visit http://www.destinationcrm.com/subscribe/.

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