I am often asked to speak about the latest in customer relationship management and how it is changing etc… The truth is like most soft skills, managing relations is as old as commerce itself and the advancement of technology just means that we now have a new arsenal of tools and applications to help us with this task.
But all the tools and the technologies of the world would lead you to failure if you are not prepared to do what your customers want.
The shocking news is that only a few organizations actually “listen” to their customers and by listening I don’t mean letting them vent by talking to your call center or writing an e-mail to your “customer I don’t care” department and getting the “auto-reply”
What you must do is:
- Register the customer’s opinion, request, suggestion or complaint in a reliable & trackable system
- Take full ownership, escalate to the top management – if necessary
- Be prepared to act on it and feed the customer back in due course
- Thank him or her for the positive contribution they have made to your business
How many companies that you know of do that?
In fact, small businesses like the corner newsagent in your neighborhood would have better customer relationship management than your average telecom or cable provider.
Let me tell you this amazing story about the car that was allergic to Vanilla Ice Cream!
This was a real letter received by Pontiac in the US:“This is the second time I have written you, and I don’t blame you for not answering me, because I kind of sounded crazy, but it is a fact that we have a tradition in our family of ice cream for dessert after dinner each night. But the kind of ice cream varies so every night, after we’ve eaten, the whole family votes on which kind of ice cream we should have and I drive down to the store to get it.
It’s also a fact that I recently purchased one of your new automobiles and since then my trips to the store have created a problem. You see, every time I buy vanilla ice cream when I start back from the store my car won’t start. If I get any other kind of ice cream, the car starts just fine. I want you to know I’m serious about this question, no matter how silly it sounds: ‘What is there about this car that makes it not start when I get vanilla ice cream, and easy to start whenever I get any other kind?”
Now before I move on to the rest of the story, I want you to think about what will happen nowadays if a large automobile company receives such e-mail that their car is allergic to Vanilla Ice Cream!!! I can assure you that in most cases, it will go nowhere apart from the company’s intranet under the “joke of the week”
The president of this auto manufacturer was understandably skeptical about the letter but sent an engineer to check it out anyway. The latter was surprised to be greeted by a successful, obviously well-educated man in a fine neighborhood. He had arranged to meet the man just after dinner time, so the two hopped into the car and drove to the ice cream store. It was the vanilla ice cream that night and, sure enough, after they came back to the car, it wouldn’t start.
Now the engineer, being a logical man, refused to believe that this man’s car was allergic to vanilla ice cream. He arranged, therefore, to continue his visits for as long as it took to solve the problem. And toward this end he began to take notes: he jotted down all sorts of data, time of day, type of gas used, time to drive back and forth, etc…
It is because the President of that company (although skeptical) has decided to “Listen” and take action, that the problem was solved not just for this customer but for all of them.
The engineer noticed that the layout of the store had the Vanilla ice cream close to the door and it took less time to get than all the other flavors that were placed deeper into the shop. He used the information that he gathered, together with his knowledge and experience of automobile engines, to develop the hypothesis that the reason or, the cause of the car not starting was a vapor lock.
The vapor lock was a constant condition in the car, but on the nights when the man bought other flavors the extra time required allowed the engine to cool down sufficiently to start. When the man got vanilla, the engine was still too hot for the vapor lock to have dissipated and so, the car would not start.
I can’t stress this enough in customer relationship management: “Listen to your customer and be prepared to take action.
Now that we have covered that important part, let’s look at your business or organization and look at these areas:
There is no particular order for this “triangle of Success” to work but you need to align all 3 elements in order for it to give you any results and help you create a “service excellence culture” in your organization if you ask me I would say do it in that order, People, Processes then Technology
Watch this video from Ron Kaufman discussing the problems to overcome when building an uplifting service culture!
Further reading: Customer Engagement in the E-Commerce Era