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  • June 1, 2022
  • By Ian Jacobs, vice president and research director, Forrester Research

Oh, Paw-lease: Canines, CRM, and CX

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“I love my dog as much as I love you / You may fade/ My dog will always come through” —Cat Stevens (“I Love My Dog”)

BEAR WITH ME on this one. I’ve tossed off some colossally goofy ideas in these pages over the years, but I am afraid (encouraged?) that I might top myself now. OK, here goes: Could you explain CRM to your dog?

We’ll get to why you might want to try that bizarre task in a bit, but let me first give you some insight into where this idea came from. I was recently reading my local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle—and yes, I am both dating myself and outing myself as a former journalist with that statement. I’ve accepted it and so should you. Anyway, in the paper I was confronted by a very Left Coast headline: “The latest California wedding trend? Replacing alcohol with cannabis.” Well, of course that’s a trend. My neighborhood is one of the sunniest in San Francisco, but that doesn’t mean I get to tan. Instead of the fog the rest of the city grapples with, we have a steady fug of pot smoke. We have more dispensaries than Starbucks. Actually, that comparison isn’t even close, as my neighborhood keeps out formula retail (known to the rest of the world as chains), but we are chockablock with pot shops.

The article detailed a 420-friendly wedding expo complete with smokable bouquets, etched bongs (euphemistically called water pipes) that double as flower-holding centerpieces, and budtender services for your nuptials. How romantic. All fascinating stuff, I guess, but what really grabbed my attention was a couple attending the expo who felt judged for their cannabis consumption by their canine companion. “Our dog always looks at us super judgmental —he’s not about it at all,” explained the groom-to-be. “He’s looking at us like we’re degenerates, but he doesn’t understand.”

For those who do not partake, including me, a quick Google search confirms that marijuana can make people paranoid. But this got me wondering: How much does the dog understand about what is going on with its humans? Does it pick up the emotions or the sense of furtiveness that its companions evoke? Or does it not like the very distinct smell of the smoke? Or is it just all in the couple’s head?

So, that delightful moment of comic absurdity is how I started thinking about dogs and CRM. As an exercise, I’ve been asked more than once over the decades to try to explain CRM to a layperson. “Imagine you need to explain this to Aunt Bertie,” or something like that. Those exercises always left me cold, though, because CRM buyers and CRM users are not laypeople. More importantly, laypeople should not need to know about CRM. If they do, brands have pretty much failed.

Thinking back on those seemingly futile exercises, I wondered if we’d do better trying to get this stuff across to our furry friends. If a dog can have an opinion on marijuana usage, we should be able to get down to the core emotional level required for a dog to have feelings about how we interact with our customers. OK, so maybe CRM is a ludicrous stretch (y’think?); maybe we should just focus on customer experience. Dogs are clearly capable of having feelings about how we deal with each other; just try and step to a dog owner with their dog nearby. In fact, I think dogs might well be experts at CX already.

So, no, we probably cannot teach a dog CRM. But a dog can probably teach us quite a bit about how we should treat our customers. And if you just thought, “Well, that was a shaggy dog story,” reward yourself with a Scooby snack.  

Ian Jacobs is a vice president and research director at Forrester Research.

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