The Missing Piece of the CRM Puzzle

By Eileen Feretic  |  Posted 2008-06-26 Print this article Print

Top-notch service is the best way to enhance CRM technology and strengthen loyalty programs.

Most businesses understand the importance of strengthening customer relationships and building loyalty. Many companies implement advanced customer relationship management (CRM) systems, and some offer “good customer” discounts or perks such as frequent flier miles and cash back on credit card purchases.

All of these things do strengthen customer relationships and loyalty, but a recent experience has made me realize that even sophisticated technologies and alluring award programs aren’t enough. The missing piece in the CRM puzzle is respect. We all want the companies we do business with to treat us with consideration, to listen to our problems and to do the best they can to solve them. We want them to value our business.

Here’s the situation that clarified this issue for me: Last December, my family converted from cable television to Verizon FIOS. The salesman and the technician both did great jobs, and the installation went off without a hitch.

As a bonus for switching to the service, we were promised a high-definition TV, which was supposed to be delivered within eight to 10 weeks. But a few months went by, and the TV did not arrive.

In March, I called the phone number listed for the promotion and was told it would take another six weeks because of a backlog. I called again in May, and was told the shipment would be expedited, and we would get the television in early June. At the beginning of June, I got an automated voice mail saying the TV wouldn’t be shipped till the end of July.

When I called Verizon to find out what was taking so long, the rep said there was nothing he could do to speed things up. I asked to speak to a supervisor, who told me the same thing. No apologies—just a “that’s life” attitude.

Now, we didn’t need that TV, but I was beginning to feel that Verizon didn’t appreciate my business, so I called the company’s general customer service operation. The woman who took my call explained what had happened, admitted that the company had underestimated demand and apologized for the delay. The representative didn’t make any promises, but said she would do her best to expedite the shipment.

The set arrived about a week later, but, even if it had taken longer, I would have accepted the delay simply because the Verizon representative took the time to explain the situation and offered to make an effort to resolve the problem. Her customer-friendly attitude re-established my formerly high opinion of Verizon.

That woman is the kind of representative every company should have working with its customers. Top-notch service is the best way to enhance CRM technology and strengthen loyalty programs—and to mend fences with customers when things go wrong.

Too often, when we contact a business, we get an automated phone system with a relentlessly cheerful recorded voice. This technology is an essential business tool, but it lacks the empathy and understanding a human representative can provide. No technology can discuss a complicated situation or calm down an angry customer. In fact, too often, an automated call center response makes a customer even more irate before it finally transfers him or her to a representative.

So, whether we’re dealing with vendors, business partners or customers, we should always remember the importance of a positive human interaction—one that is helpful, timely and respectful.

You, Baseline’s readers, are my customers and partners, and I promise to give you my time, consideration and respect. I’ve corresponded with some of you already. In fact, as a result of an e-mail exchange, two readers are currently writing stories for Baseline.

I hope that more of you will find the time to call or e-mail me with your suggestions, questions and concerns about our magazine. I will return your voice mails and e-mails promptly—perhaps slightly less promptly during deadline periods, but certainly as quickly as I can.

For starters, let me know what you think about Baseline in general and this issue in particular. What could we do better? How can we help you do your job more effectively? My e-mail address is below, and my phone is 212-503-5625.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Eileen Feretic is the Editor of Baseline Magazine.

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