• February 1, 2007
  • By David Myron, Editorial Director, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmartCustomerService.com

Finding Customer Clarity

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The late NBC news anchor Chet Huntley's quote, "Maybe where there's clarity of air, there's clarity of thought," can easily be applied to customer attrition. Put into a CRM context, if you can understand why customers are leaving your company, you can do something about it. The prevailing theme this issue is that as an industry, we are moving closer to finding customer clarity. Even if it's scary to uncover, it can be beneficial over the long run. Some customer attrition can't be avoided, of course, but our cover story this month, "Not Fade Away," by Associate Editor Coreen Bailor, focuses on the kind that can. Bailor writes, "The most serious culprits behind retention and loyalty problems are tied, however, to many companies' lack of awareness of the importance of the customer experience, their short-term focus, and cost cutting." In her story an industry pundit supports Bailor by stating, "There's a conflict between short-term results and long-term results. Sometimes short-term results win out, and that can make companies do things that might result in short-term profits, but may not result in long-term loyalty or long-term sustainable value in their customer base." If business professionals would pause for a moment to analyze how their short-term actions can negatively affect long-term customer attrition rates, many would likely do things differently. The first step is knowing what to look for. Bailor helps by offering ways to identify a deteriorating customer relationship and how to improve it. But why wait for a relationship to show signs of deterioration before making efforts to improve it? Companies can combat customer attrition even sooner with the help of an enterprise feedback management (EFM) application. Assistant Editor Colin Beasty has been following the developments of the nascent EFM market and makes a compelling case for these tools in his article "Feedback Mountain." EFM applications, unlike traditional one-off surveys (where the data is later discarded), enable organizations to "leverage centralized systems for the continual collection, management, and use of customer feedback throughout the business." When attitudinal data can be stored and cross-referenced with behavioral data from a CRM system companies can achieve a higher degree of customer clarity. This, as Huntley posited, may help inspire clear thinking and bring customer relationship efforts to new heights. In fact, Beasty describes how banks are using attitudinal data with behavioral data to drive more accurate segmentation models for customers. Sometimes, like truth, customer clarity hurts. In her feature story "Mercurial Marketing," Editorial Assistant Jessica Sebor warns companies looking to build their own versions of MySpace, Facebook, and other social networking sites that there may be repercussions, especially if customers can network and speak freely with other customers. There exists the possibility of "opening up a Pandora's box of negative feedback, much of which might be unfair or exaggerated," Sebor writes. But this doesn't stop companies from experimenting with this new marketing method, as "the proliferation of social networking sites makes it impossible (and inadvisable) to ignore the opportunity." David Myron Editorial Director dmyron@infotoday.com
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