CRM? First You Need To Have A Customer to Manage

by Beth Cox

CRM? First You Need To Have A Customer to Manage

I don't know what it is, but the folks at sales consulting firm Future Now always seem to come up with a fresh perspective in their grokdotcom newsletter, an online publication that describes itself as "the plain-spoken E-Business newsletter for management, entrepreneurs and investors."

This time around, the free newsletter (you can subscribe at the site) had several things that interested me as an observer of the e-commerce scene, including some anecdotal accounts of e-purchases gone awry that made me wonder how anybody gets it right online.

But first, a small discourse on their headlined piece: "Yo! It's MRC, Not CRM!"

The article basically contends that way too many e-commerce Web sites are putting the cart before the horse when it comes to CRM -- customer relationship management -- and strategies for same.

"Oh, the idea is pointed in the right direction, all right -- but don't you think first you need a satisfied customer base to manage?" the article asks.

The answer, of course, is like, duh!

The article goes on to say: "How would you feel if you bought something at an off-line store and immediately the manager came over and started talking to you like a long-lost drinking buddy? Building a relationship takes time. Shoving some tech-heavy CRM application at your customer is more likely to push them away than draw them in. If you want to get it right, you need to follow MRC, not CRM: Manage your e-business correctly so you can establish a Relationship from which you can develop a delighted and loyal Customer. Only then can all the other stuff you do have the impact you want."

Clearly you've got to get a happy customer base first before you have anything to manage. All too often, I suspect, us tech types think that if we just had the right software, we'd not have to worry so much about having happy customers.

"It all begins with how you treat your customers, from the moment they land on your site through their purchase and beyond," the article says. "The first-time buyer plunks down his money for a product, but if he runs into hassles, he very likely will never come back again. To put it bluntly, poor customer service has lost you a customer and left you with nothing to manage."

For the record, Future Now specializes in the design and implementation of computer-enabled sales processes and markets what it calls Digital Salespeople, a process for developing effective sales presentations in digital format. So clearly they have a vested interest in all this. But that said, I happen to think they are right about a lot of this stuff.

Now we come to the anecdotes, which I found especially interesting in light of all the self-satisfied surveys I've seen following up on the holiday sales season.

These examples are all from the folks who work at Future Now, and who describe themselves as avid online shoppers:

"One guy placed an order with BlueLight.com and sat back, fully expecting to receive his merchandise. He waited. It didn't come. He made an inquiry. BlueLight's Customer Care Team responded, in a very chipper and clearly canned e-mail, that his order regrettably had been canceled and then proceeded to thank him for providing input that helped them achieve their goal: 'the complete satisfaction of each of our customers.'"

"More than a little dissatisfied and annoyed that his order had been canceled and he had not been notified, he wrote again. He got another response. This time, the Customer Care Team informed him the item was out of stock, thanked him for shopping with BlueLight and suggested, blithely, that he should continue to keep checking out those BlueLight.com specials." Right! Don't think so.

"Another (person) ordered from CircuitCity.com. He handed over his credit card information on a $200 purchase, then learned later in the checkout procedure that the software coul

dn't handle the fact that his shipping, billing and actual addresses were all different. He couldn't complete the purchase online. Stalwart and still wanting to make the purchase, he called the prominently displayed Customer Service number. The representative informed him their order screen was the same one that was online, they were only able to do what the Web site would allow, and, further, that they didn't have authority to process his order and credit card information over the phone. Needless to say, our friend made his purchase elsewhere. Circuit City forfeited a $200 sale, and they definitely don't have a customer, simply because their system was not able to accommodate the customer's needs. They can fire...all the CRM guns they have; he won't be back."

There were other horror stories, including malfunctions at Amazon.com and delivery delays as well as the generally silly strategy in use at a number of Customer Service phone lines. It seems that when they are busy, they provide a recorded message referring you back to the Web site from which you just came!

This sort of thing mirrors my own online shopping experiences, which all too often have been less than stellar. And then I end up wondering who are all those people telling the survey folks that everything is hunky-dory with online shopping and they plan to do more, more, more.

Originally appeared at ECommerce-Guide.com.

  This article was originally published on Thursday Jan 25th 2001
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