CRM: Customer experience

It’s 2007 and most major companies have spent millions of dollars implementing CRM systems. In preparation for impending or increased globalization in most markets (example: banking) there has been a lot of work done. Of all the business trends that have come and gone, this is one that probably should have taken place a long time ago (focus on the customer rather than the product). We’re moving in the right direction, but I don’t think we’re there yet.

We’re moving in the right direction:

Most companies have implemented some kind of system to manage customer interaction at the micro level. The majority of “real” companies have also implemented a macro level customer data management system. This has armed many companies with some great tools.

What’s missing:

Many core business processes and systems (moving deeper into the company) do not align with the brand promise or flow with the front-end CRM tools. I believe the next priority for major companies preparing for globalization is to take an objective look at the real customer experience and to redesign the supporting back-office systems and processes to compliment their desired customer experience, rather than compete with it. Your brand doesn’t exist in on the network drive of your marketing department, it exists organically in your market and is strengthened or weakened with every customer interaction or second hand story.

Think about:

1) How far have we really gotten toward the goal of circling our business processes around the customer?
2) What is holding us back from reaping deeper value from this technology at the customer value level?

Here are a couple examples of what’s working and what isn’t…

About a year ago, I had some significant technical issues with a service contracted from a major multinational technology company. After having spent hours on the phone resolving a technical issue initiated on their end, I was granted an extension on my service for an additional 6 months for free due to the recognition that I was given the runaround for weeks. About a year later, when the extension on my contract should have kicked in (18 months for the price of 12 months) I was informed that the contract was up for renewal. When I called the company to remind them of their “promise” I was told that since it “wasn’t in the system” that they wouldn’t do anything for me.

Lesson to learn: Good technology doesn’t compensate for poor service

On the flip side: About a month ago, I called in to one of the financial institutions I have dealings with to make some new financial arrangements with them. Having been passed off from a call center to a branch for the paper-work, even I was surprised with how smooth the process ran. Their electronic referral processes were very effective.

Lesson to learn: Good technology enhances great service

Even in a discussion about business processes and technology, the human element cannot be separated. These two things exist as a complex and set each other off, positively or negatively. The customer experience is still primarily dictated by the people you’re dealing with, but by arming them with the right tools and removing the barriers, your delivery will be a lot more consistent.