A Critical View on a CRM Methodology

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I came across an article on LinkedIn which attracted my attention “Building Customer Relationships in Four Steps”For three reasons: first, it is a topic which I am close to professionally; second, because it refers to a methodology which, as a structured person (my Left-Brain part), I am naturally attracted by; and last, because it came from a reputable source, Don Peppers, founder of a consulting practice known worldwide as Peppers & Rogers.

At some point, I decided to add my notes to this 4-step approach labelled as I-D-I-C, standing for Identify, Differentiate, Interact and Customize.

Identify. Step one is slightly contradicting. While labelled “Identify”, it then mentions that “You don’t have to have each customer’s name”. I think this is a must, wether we are talking about a coffee shop or a mass retail network for services. When a customer calls, writes an e-mail or walks in a store, the agent or salesperson must know how to address him. Better even if the agent recognizes the customer at first, without having to access any CRM software.

Differentiate. Step two mentions that customers differ in their value to the business and what they need from the business. This sure is right, but it feels too static. Customers change through their life-cycle, through their experiences, what they need and how much they are worth. For example, a brand advocate that just had a great experience in a store today, might be tomorrow’s angriest customer on the care line with totally defrauded expectations. Differentiation without a timing perspective is limiting. Moreover, differentiation based on what “one” customer is worth, is very narrow sighted. For example, in Telecoms it is often the case that we tend to evaluate value based on insufficient premises. Often, the common understanding is that a low monthly paying pre-pay customer with an average life-time of 6 months is “Low-Value”. However, these customers are often the sons and daughters of wealthy 40-50 year executives, with several accounts under them and ranked, through the same system, as “Premium” customers. The “Low-Value” pre-pay customer is then a prime influencer of the “Premium” customer and, as such, his value to the business is extremely high, and extremely underrated. That is why the concept of value is now being expanded to communities of influence.

Interact. The word that stuck to me from the description in the article was “cost-efficient”, as “you want interactions with customers to be cost-efficient”. This sounded too much like trying to get a ROI (Return On Investment) for customer relationship/experience activities. Anyone trying to pin a business case on a customer experience initiative is totally missing the point regarding customer engagement and satisfaction. Furthermore, it is a shortsighted view on how business cases are done. It is like trying to put a price on offering bottles of water for people waiting in lines. It is easy to determine the cost, but not the long-term cost/benefit balance. Furthermore, it is stated that the goal of “drive more and more interactions to more efficient channels”. But what about quality? It mentions effectivity, but only from a learning perspective of each interaction to be registered. I believe that the quality of each interaction has to come first and should be well felt by every customer facing person – amaze, delight and fight for every customer. This is why companies are insourcing again call centers and spending millions on amazing online care tools. Interaction is about making reality as high and far away as possible from expectation.

Customize. Here the concept is that customers should be treated differently. However, that is very common sense. The real question is how to group customers in equal groups, for us then to treat them differently? It also felt a very subjective view to customization, as it mentions “based on what I think I know about their differences”. Customization shouldn’t be based on “what I think”, but on “what I know”. If it is a matter of “thinking” then it should be further investigated before it goes into customization practice.

In the end, it felt like this model needs a revision. It is a strong as ever backbone, but the content may need some refreshing and updating. If customer expectations change and competition evolves, so should our business practices and methodologies.

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