• November 1, 2005
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

Thanks for the Ammo

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Thanksgiving. That wonderful time of year has arrived once again, bringing with it the touchstones of the season: cranberry sauce and corn bread stuffing; relatives crowded around the table; college football on TV; Uncle Mitch completely blitzed on Chivas Regal. Ahh, these are the things we remember. But what about the holiday? Too often, we ignore the central purpose of this day, which is to give thanks. In honor of the day, I give you a few of those things we at CRM are thankful for. My colleague Coreen Bailor received this little gem below more or less as-is--only a few items have been obscured to protect the innocent third parties (my publisher, for example, who would hate to be sued over something so petty). This email is beautiful to me. Thank you, nameless flack. Next, a story to warm the cockles of a CRM professional's heart, provided by my girlfriend, Meaghan. (Disclaimer: Meaghan is a Canadian citizen, and she wishes it to be understood by her compatriots that participating in this article in no way constitutes an endorsement of commercial health care or celebrating Thanksgiving a month too late.) "My contact lens prescription ran out, but the store I used to go to is now a cell phone shop. 'No problem,' I figure, and call another branch of the chain, expecting them to have my prescription on file. The clerk on the phone tells me they don't do that, and I'll have to come in for an exam, which is $75. One of the reasons I went to the old store is because they'd put my information in their system, so I ask her to check. She pauses for about five seconds, and tells me there's no record. I get mad. I tell her that this is a terrible way to do business, that I'm never using them again, the usual rant. The clerk asks me to hold on a minute. Thirty seconds later, she says they have my prescription. She couldn't even be bothered to type my name into the computer until I yelled." Last, a tale of my ongoing struggle with a credit card company, which shall remain undiscovered. The last time I dealt with this company was when it wanted to upgrade my card with new features and issued me a replacement. The replacement had the same expiration date as my previous card, which was in just two months, and had a new, optional design on the face, which I didn't want. I called to request a new design (the old one) and to have the date extended. I got the face I wanted, but the date remained the same. Fast-forward to August, a few weeks before the card was to expire. I returned home from work to find two envelopes waiting for me, each with the stiffness that belies a new card within. I found not two, but three new cards, one of which has the design I once complained about. The customer service number is now completely IVR except for billing inquiries, with no instructions on how to reach a human. I deduce that calling the toll-free activation number stuck to the front of my card trio and ignoring the automated prompts will get me live service. It worked. Why did they send me three cards? The first one was for more updates. The next two were to replace my soon-to-expire card. However, the security update card (the one with the design) already reflected the new date, and there's no explanation for why I'd receive a duplicate of the second wave. Astounded but satisfied, I activate my card. Usually this is an instantaneous process. But for the next four minutes, "while my card is being activated," I'm subjected to sales pitches for products and services--some of which I already have--including a pitch the serviceperson gets wrong. When I decline one service, she thinks I'm declining card activation, and almost voids the transaction. It was like a Nichols and May routine. So that's what I'm thankful for: Without stupid blunders and hostile/dismal customer service, CRM as an industry might not exist. And without CRM I wouldn't have a job. Happy holidays. Contact Senior Writer Marshall Lager at mlager@destinationCRM.com
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