Changing the definition of CRM – marriage, not management

Some companies really get customer relations and service and make it the lifeblood of their culture. Zappos, Virgin America, Southwest Airlines, LL Bean, Amazon, Starbucks and my local Walgreens are a few brands that come to my mind when I think of customer-centric brands. But why do they seem to be the exception rather than the rule? These businesses understand the value in making a customer feel important at every interaction – not just the sale.

Customer service and CRM (customer relationship management) are often described separately in business but in today’s customer-centric organization, service is but one part of CRM. CRM is most often described as a technology process, and many companies – especially small businesses – therefore don’t think of it as applicable to their organization. They may Google the term and be immediately overwhelmed with articles full of terms like software, implementation, SaaS and enterprise. Wikipedia’s definition states, “It [CRM] involves using technology to organize, automate, and synchronize business processes—principally sales activities.”

I like to think that the definition of CRM today goes well beyond technology. I did a recent webinar on the topic of CRM with a panel of really intelligent tech leaders, including a former editor of CRM Magazine, a former CRM analyst and an executive from CRM software vendor, Sugar CRM. These guys are very smart and we covered some great topics – including software, customer service and even social CRM. But we only touched upon the fact that CRM is more than tech.

CRM is the lifeblood of how everyone in your organization manages and maintains relationships with customers.

  • Do you want more customers?
  • Do you care about repeat customers?
  • Do you you want to have a relationship, not just a deal, with your customers?
  • Do you want to see more revenue come in the doors of your business, or higher figures in your next raise as a result?
  • Do you like it when happy customers refer your business, service or products?
  • Do you care when unhappy customers take to social networks like Twitter or reputable business management entities such as The Better Business Bureau to complain about your business?

Then you care about CRM. And so should your employees – not just the sales team.

In that same webinar I suggested perhaps it would help businesses to think of the “M” in CRM as “marriage,” rather than management. What I mean by that is to really think about your customers as a long term commitment. Don’t “manage” them so much as keep wooing them, romancing them with outstanding products and services, and keep the love alive.

To do that successfully, every employee plays a role in treating customers right. Not just sales, not just customer service, not just the cashier at the counter and most certainly not a piece of software. Don’t leave it up to just one department. If the customer is treated poorly by just one employee in your organization, THAT is the experience they will remember. THAT is the experience they will share with their friends. Think of all the marketing, advertising and sales dollars that fly out the door – wasted – when that happens.

Here’s an example. A customer in a retail store is shopping and a salesperson on the floor stops to politely help. The customer spends an hour with the salesperson – finding more than they originally were seeking, but so pleased with the experience that she decides to buy everything that the salesperson has suggested. The customer heads to the cashier and the line is long. There is one cashier. The customer waits longer than she was happy with but nonetheless, makes it to the counter. When she gets there, the cashier is grumpy, rude and impatient, especially when the customer asks if she can have some boxes with her purchase. In response to the rudeness, the customer decides to leave all the items on the counter and walk away from the purchase. She decides that, now that she knows what she wants, she can easily go online and order it elsewhere rather than fork over her hard-earned money to a business who will treat her as though she doesn’t matter.

Another example is an airline. There are multiple exchanges with customers during just one purchase. There is the point of purchase, the airport experience and the experience on the plane. Say a customer finds a great deal on a flight.  He checks in at the airport and sails through security. He’s happy. But on the plane, the flight attendant is snappy and condescending when he tries to order food – and her attitude gets no better, sighing whenever asked for something and generally making him – and all other passengers – feel as though they are an inconvenience. Since he can’t express himself on the plane for fear of escalation, he takes to Twitter and Facebook after his flight, encouraging his 15,000 “friends” that no matter how inexpensive, the experience with that airline isn’t worth it and that they should spend their money with another airline.

Forget what you know and are probably thinking about typical customer behaviors, point of purchase abandonment statistics, or how far reaching (or not) just one customer’s influence is on what percentage of people. Forget about the traditional definition of CRM. Again, instead ask yourself if you care about sales, customers and revenue. Do you care about reputation and brand management? Do you care about the highest return on your marketing and advertising investments?

If the answer is yes, then teach your employees – not just sales or customer service – what CRM means and what role they play in it for your organization. How do you want customers to feel after an interaction with your business? What role does each employee play in making that happen every time? How flexible are policies? What do you want most from your customers and why?

From the point of sale to the marketing department, billing to service issues, every employee is crucial to making CRM work for your business.  It’s about the way prospects find you, why they listen and how they are wowed enough by your business to become customers. It is why your customers become repeat customers. And it’s about the way happy customers tell their friends. As it is in any relationship, you’ve got to keep working at it to keep it great. Don’t take it for granted and make sure you communicate well.

“Customer-centric” just isn’t enough anymore. Technology doesn’t manage relationships on its own. Rather, the best businesses will embrace a new type of CRM throughout their organization – showcasing customer commitment at every level.

Being Thankful in Business is a Good Thing – Brands that GET IT

We’d like to wish our US-readers a Happy Thanksgiving and send a HUGE thanks to all of our colleagues, clients, community and partners. We’re thankful for your support, your business and your respect.

Over the course of the last two decades I’ve been told more than once that appearing too grateful in business can be a negative thing – putting me in a position of perceived lesser power. I disagree. I think being thankful in business – and for business – is a good thing and I am happy to see social media bringing it more to light. Businesses who appreciate their customers are more likely to reap the rewards of loyalty, repeat business, positive word of mouth and long-term success.

Since I went on a rampage about my negative experience at McGee Toyota recently, I wanted to also take the time to highlight some businesses doing well by their customers. I think it’s important that as our customer voices become louder and more viral, we use them to celebrate what brands are doing right as well. So while I recently gave personal props to Jet Blue and Ideeli, I also took to Twitter and Facebook to ask my community what companies have done right by them recently, and why. Specifically, I asked, “When is the last time a company or brand went above and beyond to make you a happy customer? What did they do?” Here are some of the answers – below. Thanks to everyone who took the time to share and respond, and kudos to the brands who agree – being thankful in business is a good thing.

Chris Theisen: My fav personal experience from @brewhouse http://bit.ly/d2VGn4

Greg Meyer: We had an event at @sushisambachi – they made us feel at home, tweeted about the event, and provided excellent service

Shannon DiGregorio: The Apple store at the Cambridge Gallaria replaced a broken (my fault) iPhone 4 for free after AT&T was awful to me! Love them!

Kristina Bobrowski: @ArtVanFurniture went out of the way to meet my budget/timing needs, & responded to my praise on here. @netflix impressed me too.. My DVDs weren’t coming- they sent me 3 at once to tide me over while they fixed it

Chad Northrup: It was @supercuts. Got a bad haircut yesterday, so returned in the evening. They fixed it AND made my next cut free #custserv

Frank Eliason: my former company, Comcast has been working hard to improve (google my name and Comcast). My current company, Citi, is working to improve http://new.citi.com/2010/11/together-we-are-building-a-stronger-citi-for-you.shtml

 

And from Facebook, where I did not include my friends’ names because it’s permission-based (vs Twitter, which is public), here are the replies:

American Express has the nicest customer service people I have ever talked to. Except for maybe Southwest’s. They always say things like “we’ll take care of that right now for you” or “make sure you have a great day.” Sounds simple but stands out.

Nordstroms this morning made my entire day – live chat customer support applied a promo code for me after my order was submitted so I would get free shipping on an emergency pair of new heels since the Web site wouldn’t accept the code.

Jouer Cosmetics! BEST customer service. I ordered some makeup and when it arrived two of the lipsticks were smooshed at the top. I called to let them know about it, without any expectations. I just wanted them to know about it. They sen…t me two more lipsticks for free and I got to keep the ones I already had. The lipsticks were like $22 each. Also, Huggies…we got a big box of diapers and one whole sleeve of diapers was defective. The tape wasn’t long enough and every time we tried to put them on the baby, it would rip. I called Huggies and the woman was so apologetic. She sent coupons-one for an entire box for free. You know how expensive diapers are! I was a satisfied customer on both occasions!

I’m a huge fan of  Boston-based Rue La La. Ordered some resin plates. 3 sets of 4. The freight carrier “dropped” them on my front step. 3 of them were damaged. I photographed which patterns were damaged and their amazing Customer Service specialist hunted them down, replaced them AND gave me a $40 credit for all my trouble.

USAA – the very best customer service I’ve ever experienced. Every time I call, they offer to help me with my investments, or just to review where I’m at financially, just to make sure I am ok. They will give advice, give me suggestions where I should be putting money and once even said WOW – you are doing a great job. They never try to get you off the phone or rush you. They will even call and check up on recent investments. They are incredible.

Great Customer Service Department. UPS driver sees me at the mail box five blocks from my home. Stops next to my car. Shouts out “Mr. Corbett, I have a package for you.” Now that is great customer service and an employee who lives well the brand!!! Kudos to UPS!!! Living the Brand!

I also think TMobile has done some serious investment in training their reps. I used to think they were awful, now its almost a pleasure to call in. They make you feel like they are on your side – they say things like “yeah, that would make… me mad too” or “that would definitely not fly with me.” You can’t even get mad because they are so helpful now. I’ve been having major BB issues & the third time I called in the rep said, “well, this is ridiculous that you’ve had to call three times, after you get this replacement, *I* am going to call YOU”See More

The Ritz-Carlton has the absolute best customer service in the world. No matter the property, it is top notch. Bali, Jamaica, etc. – all superb. No one comes close.

Zappos. Order something at 10:00 at night and it’s on your door the next day for free with free return shipping if needed . . . Great example of a company that built it’s culture based on customer service from the day it started as a way to differentiate itself.

Pizza Hut in Big Rapids, MI………..awesome service and the C.J.’s special cannot be beat.

USAA is the best. They go above and beyond every single time.

I have to say that Spectrum Health in Reed City has an outstanding policy for good customer service. If someone asks for directions the employee won’t just point and explain. They escort them to the place with a smile on their face! And during parking lot construction they provided men driving golf carts who were at the car before it stopped to pick you up and take you to the door! Way above and beyond is their policy. They tell employees, “Surprise them (your customer). And they do in a good way.”

I third USAA

Readers – if a brand or company has done right by you lately, won’t you help spread the word and thank them here in the comments? Thanks for reading!

Do You Treat Your Customers Like a Deal or a Relationship? A Lesson from McGee Toyota

What’s more valuable to your business – one customer deal or a lifelong customer relationship that results in repeat business and referrals? You’d think the answer is obvious, wouldn’t you?

My family is in the market for a new SUV. We’ve got a Toyota Sequoia that’s nearly a decade old with about 160k miles on it – and it’s time for us to get a new one. It’s been a good truck for us – so naturally, looking at new Sequoias was part of our purchasing plan. After some other research and a few peeks at various other brands and models, we narrowed our search down to a Toyota Sequoia or a Ford Expedition.

After a lot of discussions, research on both brands and price negotiations, we decided to stick with the Toyota. So my husband struck a good deal and signed the papers with McGee Toyota in Hanover, MA, on Friday. We bought our last Toyota from McGee and we have gone there for every service need for the last decade. So, it seemed to be a natural and feel-good move.

He had such a good experience with the salesman on Friday that on Saturday, after running a road race, we headed right back to the dealership with my sister-in-law who was also in the market for a new SUV.

After another great experience with the same salesman, we sat down do talk price – including an option for trading in her existing SUV (which we were driving, so the dealer could see it on the spot). The natural back and forth took place with the manager in his office (ivory tower) and the poor salesman running back and forth between him and us – trying to strike a deal.

Let me just point a few things out:

  1. We’re repeat customers
  2. We’ve been loyal customers for a decade
  3. We brought in more customers/referrals
  4. We just bought a car the day before
  5. We came after a road race – in our running gear!
  6. The point being, clearly, we were serious buyers.

As I mentioned, my sister-in-law had a car to trade in. And the manager refused to tell her the estimate for the trade in – or negotiate the cost of the car she was trying to buy – until she would commit to buying RIGHT THEN AND THERE. Clearly, that wasn’t going to happen if a) she didn’t know the value of her trade-in, and b) the bottom line cost of the car she wanted to buy, and c) her husband (who wasn’t present) had an opportunity to see the car and hear the possible deal (i.e., value of the trade-in as well as the deal for the new car after negotiation). Oh, and also – why would we commit to buying something without knowing the cost? Who does that?

This was the exact opposite experience than the day before – with a different manager (same salesman). What a shock.

After several rounds with the poor salesman – embarrassed and frustrated, recognizing we were serious buyers and repeat customers, shaking his head and apologizing – that went nowhere, we decided to get up and leave. My sister-in-law wasn’t about to commit to buying a car without understanding the costs or even the courtesy of an estimate or starting point. Why were these games necessary when we were obviously serious about buying?

Before we left, my husband (keep in mind, it was his sister he brought in and thus, he’s naturally protective) stated that he couldn’t believe the way we were being treated after having just bought a car yesterday. And he began asking about the timeframe available to us to change our minds on our earlier purchase, considering we were not only being treated rudely, and being toyed with, but the manager didn’t even have the courtesy to come out and thank us for not only buying a car the day before – but coming back the next day with another customer.

So my husband said he was going to look into the time we had to change our mind on our purchase – unless we heard from them on an estimate for her trade in soon. (Keep in mind, it’s not that he didn’t know the estimate – the salesman confirmed the manager had a price; he just didn’t want to give it to us – wouldn’t write down a number – until she committed to buying on the spot.) The salesman said “I don’t want to tell him [the manager] that, you tell him.” And my husband said, “I would if he ever had the courtesy to come out here and talk to us.”

So we walked out and as we were getting into our car, the manager finally found a reason to walk out and talk to us. He boldly sauntered to our car and walked right up to the window as my husband got out. The manager then said, “Oh, you wanna call off the deal? That’s fine, we’ll rip up the contract right now.”

SAY WHAT?

Does this bullying tactic work on others? Because it didn’t work on us. This man couldn’t give us the privilege of a face-to-face discussion when we were ready to buy another car, and insisted on playing unnecessary, old-school games with a serious customer – and then he comes out with bravado and ego and tells us he’d rather lose TWO SALES than give us a simple estimate?

What is going on here? Would YOU do this? Is this how you treat your repeat customers? I sure hope not.

I can tell you what’s going on now:

  1. McGee Toyota just lost two car sales – over ego. (Ask yourself, will your investment matter to them either?)
  2. They just lost a loyal, potentially life-long customer
  3. They showed how little their customers mean to them
  4. They created a negative brand experience associated with Toyota
  5. We’ll not only never return, and never refer someone to them again, but we’ll continually tell everyone we know not to buy from them – ever
  6. We’re now back to discussions with Ford and may abandon Toyota altogether – we’re still negotiating
  7. They showed that the value of a deal is more important to them than the value of a customer relationship.

A customer deal is great. But a salesman – especially a sales manager (or, perhaps he was the owner, which makes it even more ludicrous) – should be savvy enough to recognize when a customer is a serious, loyal and repeat customer who not only continues to give you business, but also refers others. This manager basically took the customer referral pyramid and chucked it out the window.

Am I out of touch here? Are $40-50k cars flying out the door in this economy? Are ready-to-buy customers flocking to the doors for you? Even if they were, would you treat a long time, loyal customer in this manner?

Make sure your sales team can recognize the difference between a customer deal and a customer relationship – and if you care about your business, train them to treat every customer with respect and gratitude. Even if you are in the car sales business.

The “R” in Marketing – Marketers (and Politicians) Still Missing the Point of MRM

I’ve been thinking a lot about the “R” in marketing lately – the relationship factor, if you will. That word has always been in CRM but what about MRM? Marketing Relationship Management? I’ve been thinking about how the best marketers today really get this – they aren’t just about pushing content or messaging, but about building the right relationships in order to be heard. Marketers have not traditionally been “relationship” focused. They have been “megaphone management” focused.

Then last night I received a long, two-sided paper letter from a local politician’s party, telling me his long tales of woe and determination and why I should vote for him. And I thought, “Wow, this is so lame. How about trying to build a relationship with me all along, not just days or weeks before a vote?” (Note – this has nothing to do with my respect or thoughts on this candidate so please don’t go there – it’s about their tactics, not my political opinions.)

Marketers (and politicians, essentially your lobbying for votes is marketing) – let’s get smarter about the R in marketing. What does the “R” stand for today and how are you implementing it in your campaigns – or, are you? If you’re in marketing, you need to be thinking about the “R factor”:

  • Obviously, the biggest marketing R is RELATIONSHIP. Just look at that word and really think about it. What does it take to build a relationship – and sustain a positive one – with someone? It takes time, effort, consistency, attention. Repeat.
  • RECOGNITION – show me that you know who I am, you care about what I like and that you recognize my purchasing (or voting) power.
  • And that you RESPECT it. Answer me if I ask a question. Ask questions of me. Make an effort to find me and communicate with me where I am – don’t expect me to come to you anymore. Even if you never do anything with my answers other than acknowledge them, I’m likely to feel a special affinity towards you because you listened and cared enough to ask my opinion or feedback.
  • REWARD – marketers are generally used to “rewarding” loyal customers and potential prospects through recognition or special deals. This hasn’t changed. But what has changed is that your rewards – or lack thereof – will be publicly talked about, blogged about, tweeted about. Make ‘em good, make ‘em real and make ‘em consistently – your reward for doing so will be tenfold through positive, public word-of-mouth. (Another topic here big enough for its own blog post is cross-channel recognition and communications with loyal customers – a new CRM challenge.)
  • RELEVANCY – so you’re on Facebook or Twitter. Congratulations. Who are you following? Who are you enticing to follow your brand or politician? Who are you conversing with? What are you talking about? Make sure it’s relevant to me or your time is being wasted. Show me you “know” me – show me you want to talk about things already on my mind. Don’t come at me with your marketing messages but engage me in a dialogue relevant to what I have already made very clear I care about. Then, I will listen to you and your marketing messages – and maybe even try your product or service (or vote for you) – because you made an effort to relate to me as a customer, voter, prospect…but mostly, a person.

None of this may seem new or earth shattering, but I continue to see marketers every day who don’t get it. They keep pushing their news stream or blog posts or special offers without any dialogue or focus. They talk about Twitter numbers but then hesitantly say, “Oh, um, not really” when we ask if they have a strategy around building fans and followers – the relevant and right fans and followers. They don’t answer questions on Twitter unless it’s a customer service issue – which they immediately try to take “offline” – or they post content on Facebook and then don’t engage with fans who comment. This isn’t so much about the use of social media as it is recognizing the power of building stronger relationships – and how social media opens up such a huge opportunity to do so.

And, as I’ve been bantering about on my personal Facebook page this morning, I see a lot of politicians missing an opportunity to put some “Love” in their “Lobbying.” That is, to connect with a younger demographic through social media – and to use it to connect with me, to talk with me, to not just send me two pages about you, but to show me you care to know a little about me – my needs, desires, hopes and dreams as a voter. I want to get to know you as well – but, only pushing content to me – and especially only around election time – is not productive. Even politicians using social media aren’t doing it right yet. Someone stated this morning that most people wouldn’t be open to it because the assumption is that it would be an aide or a junior executive behind the social media communication. But I’m okay with that – as long as it’s clear – if it means I get to know a candidate in a way that I can relate to, that I get to see their activity, hear from them and ask questions throughout the year – on my timetable, not theirs – and if I feel connected to them. Social media is all about a connection that we’ve never had before – politicians (and marketers!) should be embracing that opportunity to build long-lasting, loyal relationships.

Like traditional marketers, I don’t think political parties are building relationships with the masses. Let me say, I hate your ads. I roll my eyes at your sign-holding-picketers over the highway or in front of the grocery store and your recorded phone messages make me want to rip the phone from the wall. I laugh – in disgust – at the money you are throwing out the window on such irrelevant, surface and old-school campaign “strategies.” I don’t want you to touch my baby, let alone kiss him, and your handshake really means nothing to me if you haven’t taken the time to connect with me, relate to me and talk to me in a day and age when there’s no excuse not to. You’re not a celebrity, so stop acting like one – come “down” and talk to me if you want my vote (or my purchase).

Marketers, social media has changed the R in marketing. It’s about relationships – that is, relating between two entities – and yes, those take time to build, cultivate and keep. But like our personal lives, the rewards are well worth it.

What do you think? Are marketers doing a good job building relationships in today’s social business world?

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Persuasive Picks for the week of 05/10/10

Making Time For Evolution
There are plenty of excuses for not integrating social media into your marketing strategy, but more often than not it comes down to resources or time. Amber Naslund from Radian6 urges readers to “harness their potential” and “embrace the unknown” in this motivational post.

The Metrics of Social Media
This post by Danny Brown expands on social media metrics and the importance of clearly identifying what you want to achieve, how long you want to spend achieving it and actually doing the measuring. He also suggests a variety of metrics to consider when getting started.

Social Media for Business (to Business)
Dave Evans from 2020Social provides several examples of how B2B organizations have adopted social media strategies into their organizations.

Taking the First Steps in Social Marketing
Gary Halliwell explains why tying social media profiles to your CRM records is a great first step in the right direction for getting started with Social Marketing.

5 Easy Ways to Drive Social Media Fans to Action
Building a large online community is great, but driving them to action is essential for the bottom line. Peter Wylie from SocialMediaExaminer shares these practical examples to help increase your community engagement.