• July 1, 2006
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

My Pet Project

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With all the problems in the world, it sometimes takes a visionary to find a solution. Only the dead clever among us have the ability to consider seemingly unrelated issues and find the common thread, see through both the forest and the trees, if you will. I count myself among them--the visionaries, that is, not the trees. An overview: Problem One: Businesses have had ongoing difficulties with truly reaching customers. Whether it's sales, marketing, or customer service, the relationship between vendor and consumer is often wary, sometimes even adversarial. Problem Two:
American citizens are expressing increased concern over the role of immigrants (legal and illegal) in our economy. At the same time, immigrants are clamoring for respect, rights, and...uh...other stuff. Problem Three: Our animal shelters are overflowing with unwanted pets, and stray critters roam the landscape searching for love and table scraps. I think you can see where I'm going with this now. Corporations should begin lobbying for tougher immigration and deportation laws, simultaneous to an initiative to hire adorable animals for customer-facing jobs. It's so stupid it's brilliant. We seal the borders, and board some seals. This is really not such a radical idea, once you think about it. We've been using domesticated animals to help us in our tasks for close to 10,000 years. Whether as hunting companions, beasts of burden, pest control specialists, or circus unicyclists, critters have always been there for us. Isn't it time we gave something back? Imagine the mighty force we could unleash (as it were) this way: Duke the wonder dog, with his big, soulful eyes, boundless energy and enthusiasm, and wagging puppy tail, could sell anything you train him to. All Duke has to do is look at you--no sales pitch involved, unless it's throwing him the tennis ball for fetch. Your old cat, Sable, could get in on the action too, since studies have shown the soothing power of purring and nuzzling. Furious customer calling into the service line will be instantly mollified, thusly: Customer: "What the hell is wrong with you people? I've been waiting six weeks for my shipment, and it just showed up--the wrong model and color, and the damn thing's broken as well! I demand satisfaction." Sable the CSR: "Mrrrowwwrrr?" Customer: "Awwwww, who's da cutest booboo kitty? Does ums want belly rub?" As a bonus, cat reps have no real interest in helping people, so even the most draconian policies can be enforced with no decrease in staff morale. (We could use real komodo dragons to create those policies, and they could double as call center supervisors--it's a natural specialty for monitor lizards.) Marketing can be a real challenge. If the slew of recent reports is to be believed, marketers are losing touch with what customers want and how they wish to be marketed to, so organizations could really use a fly on the wall. It certainly beats badgering people with surveys, but maybe actual badgers would be better at it. There's a place for all beasts in my plan. Birds would make great telephone and cable system field technicians--they couldn't be any worse than some humans in those positions I've seen. Big cuddly bears (black, brown, polar, or panda--I don't discriminate) are natural warehouse...foremen? no... forepeople? no... forebears? no... managers. Yeah, that's it. Squirrels and beavers are industrious little back-office staffers. And it seems there's always a snake or two in the organization. Immigrants supplanted? Check. Animal shelters emptied humanely? Check. Business processes improved? Check. Contact Senior Writer Marshall Lager at mlager@destinationCRM.com
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