When CRM Leaves You Flat
On Christmas night my wife, Katie, and I were starkly reminded of the difference between customer relationships and customer management. A sharp nail in the road, followed by a series of dull thuds, followed by the always ominous words, "Shhh. Do you hear that?"--and our car was stranded. One attempted, botched tire-change later, and it was time to call the manufacturer's roadside assistance team.
It was 12:30 a.m., the temperature was well below freezing, we had a car with a flat tire and a jack awkwardly stuck beneath it, and our cellular phone was rapidly running out of battery power. Katie explained all of these facts in short order to the agent handling her emergency call, and told him our location. At this point he had the necessary and vital information both to complete the transaction and dispatch help, and to make us feel like we had been well cared for. It could be a wonderful encounter in our customer relationship, born of unhappy circumstances, but ending with a tidy, professional, sympathetic resolution.
Instead, management and data fields won out over common sense, and the agent pressed Katie for the car's color and the exact mileage on the odometer before he processed the request. Having walked a good 500 feet in cold, wet shoes just to get enough wireless signal to place the call, my wife was in no mood for such games, especially with the phone's battery running low, and she shot back a random number to placate him.
The tire was ultimately changed. The dispatcher's handling of our problem did not impress us, however, because his directives were not to see to it that our needs were promptly met, but to ensure every blank on the form was filled out. The real purpose of roadside assistance--setting the customer's mind at ease--was missing from this transaction. Customers know when they are being managed, and the feeling is not a pleasant one, particularly in a crisis.
Still not sure how to productively interact with customers without managing the relationship into mediocrity? Read Assistant Editor Coreen Bailor's look at financial services leader ING (page 30) or Eric Krell's report on call center profitability (page 40) for positive examples.
With this issue of CRM magazine we bid a fond farewell to Editor-in-Chief Ginger Conlon. Ginger has been an integral part of the success of CRM magazine for the past three years, and I have yet to work with a more devoted and consistent professional in this field. Ginger's dedication, initiative, and relentless efficiency have been a great boon to the CRM industry, so I feel confident that I speak not only for the magazine but also for many CRM practitioners and developers in wishing her ongoing success.