(Originally published in DMI, Dec 2008)
Let’s start 2007 by turning over a new leaf. Let’s finally decide that CRM systems are actually BAD for Customer Relationships.
Yes folks, it’s sad but true. CRM is one of the great money spinners of the last decade, $1billions have been spent to try and bring companies much closer to their customers. Wonderful plans have been given, pitches made and software juggernauts have been parked across the driveways of big companies, stopping employees from getting on with the job of satisfying customers.
During a recent debate in the office we were reviewing some consumer research that says consumers are increasingly frustrated by call centres. They think that call centre staff are useless, that they are unhelpful and negative.
Last time I checked, no one that I know said that the best bit about getting up and going to work in the morning was the prospect of making customer’s lives a misery. Those working in the call centre have to spend much of their life dealing with “characters” on the phone. And those characters are getting even more colourful. Why? Well in a lot of cases most of the simple stuff “I would like to make a straight forward purchase please” or “Can you give me an address I can return goods to please?” or “I would like to cancel my reservation please” has been dealt with by the internet. We can do the simple things on-line.
So what does that leave for the poor, unsuspecting agent? Well, the sort of crud that can’t be dealt with on-line. And if the on-line system can’t handle it, then there is virtually NO chance that the CRM system is going to be able to handle it. All the agent really has is ears and a better knowledge of where to go to for the answer (maybe).
A CRM system is of no help at all. And CRM doesn’t seem to be used for the more exotic things either. Like when I renewed my car recently my car leasing company didn’t even bother to write to me and say “your lease is coming up for renewal, why don’t you buy a new car?” Why not, well it’s not because they are a small company with no system. No they are a big company with lots of IT people and a big system. A system so big that it doesn’t track small things; like customers about to walk away from you.
I genuinely believe that at the heart of the CRM problem is that technology has got in the way of the customer Relationship. Software companies have seen the possibilities of lots of software, hardware and support and they have said “yea, we’d like some of that”. But because they were IT companies they tried to deal with Customer Relationships in a very IT way, by putting things into nice boxes.
The problem with this world in which we live in is that I am not a segment or a demographic or an Acorn number or any of that stuff. I am me and I do stuff for weird reasons. Most of which are similar to other people’s reasons, but some of them are just bizarre.
CRM needs to start and end with the customer. Along the way a computer might get involved, but when you start and end with a system. Well, what you end up with is a straight jacket. The result? Irritated customers, irritated staff and irritated management. Of and a lot of money wasted.
SkyTV in the UK are in the process of mulling a £700m law suit as a result of a screwed up CRM implementation. Even though the original contract was only worth £40m. Perhaps this is indicative of the kind of issues that you get in to when CRM goes wrong.
At the heart of this issue is the customer. So why don’t customer relationship management systems work? Well, they often fall down when they encounter humans. The humans are too lazy or too time pressured to be able to keep things up to date OR humans that just can’t quickly get to the bit of the system that they need to, to get to the facts they need.
If a CRM system is all about classifying and processing customers then customers are going to end up feeling classified and processed. Instead of answering their questions and comments they are going to be dealt with, in the most expedient way. Instead of being hugged and made to feel important they are going to feel like they are being sold some other useless thing they didn’t want.
At the end of the day CRM is about the customer relationship. It starts and ends with the customers. And here’s the surprise, we are all customers. Would you treat yourself the way your CRM system treats you?