system two

system two
start-up thinking in the enterprise

Monday, 9 January 2012

The end of CRM: how I learned to stop worrying and love networks

Which big brand CRM progammes are genuinely noteworthy? (the acronym alone speaks of a monosyllabic, begrudging acknowledgement of the people who pay our salaries).

Very few.....lets be honest, most of them, most of the time, are at best ok - many are horribly lame.

Any brand with a CRM progamme (as in 99% of the brands any of us tolerate on a day to day basis) are almost certainly already suck in the "relationship department". CRM is the equivalent of a bunch of service station flowers. The moment you hand over your debit card, you may as well hand in the towel.

The only good CRM is invisible - always on and which almost certainly isn't the subject of a corporate memo.You cannot socialise CRM, you cannot magic it, you cannot implement a CRM system in the same way as you deploy an ecommerce platform. CRM is either there in the DNA of a business and the psychological makeup of staff or it's not.

It is a peculiarly modern conundrum. We have been able to put a man on the moon, prove Einstein wrong and can slow the progress of some of the most vicious forms of cancer and yet, the vast majority of big brand customer relationship management programmes are toe curlingly clumsy.

The problem isn't of course a conundrum. It is not unsolvable. It has though, up until relatively recently, been am issue most organisations could ignore. The marketing managers of large corporates are, as it turns out, one of finances' few rational actors. Managing a relationship with customers in any sort of functional, meaningful way hasn't impacted profits as much as creating and maintain needs within them, so the problem has attracted (relatively speaking) little interest.

What we need to do, in this connected, new customer centric world of ours, is to step away from the expensive piece of new CRM software and all just take a deep breath and look at the problem afresh.

Lets take a for instance.

I've just bought a Canon DSLR (the user interface of which is truly abysmal btw - but that's for another post).

Anyways....I'm staring at form I've had to print twice (first time the embedded PDF didn't work) to claim £40 cash back.

It's 2012 and I'm printing a souless, cold, form that looks like a tax return - having to write my email address in BLOCK caps and black pen???

I am still hoping this is some sort of post modern ironic comment on the souless corporate world by Canon and that, having taken the pain of filling in this form, finding the serial number of my new camera and posting it back (freepost no less) I am going to get a link to some sort of secret, amazing online network which is going to make me an instant billionaire.

Of course what is much more likely to happen is I'll get a link to some eye sweatingly terrible corporate microsite (even though I've expressly asked not to be spammed), churned out by some above the line digital numpty who has precisely 0 understanding of customer, which will be proceeded by an email to a load of spammy brochure-ware for a product I've already bought.

Best case, whichever middle manager's Freudian nightmare I (and presumably 1,000s of other innocent victims have just stepped into - when all we wanted was our money back), will have been fired and my email will sit dormant, in some CRM silo, until its "mined" by the next poor bugger who picks up the recently departeds' job.

This is the extreme of course - but it broadly captures the day to day of CRM as we all know it in 2012. And it is depressing. I mean like properly, why do I bother to get up in the morning depressing. Who actually sanctions and orchestrates these things? Do you not love yourselves enough?

More importantly - is there an alternative?

Well, yes, the alternative, dear Canon, is don't try.

Don't try. Stop spending money.

I actually think your product is quite good despite the terrible UI. I was buying anyway.

I'll find you if I need you.

I'm a busy man. I don't want to fill in your poxy forms or join your crappy Facebook group.

Stop this mindless, awful excuse for trying to develop a relationship with me - and wait till I'm ready.

Instead invest in that moment. What we might call the "next moment of truth" to borrow a Googlism. But when you do, deploy the content without regard for platform or technology. Get it into the networks I might find it, and don't just horde it on your own media.

The moment  I need you post product purchase. The moment when all I'll want is a really good, genuine, detailed, understandable, useful answer to my (almost certainly) very specific question (and not some crap corporate micro-site with a load of spammy brochure-ware about a product I've already bought) why not think about being there then.

As a little for instance, lets say that query is about how modern sensor technology evolved and how it now relates to old skool ISO film speeds. What could you give me that would really help my understanding?

A little video clip of your chief engineer talking about sensor capacity in a human way, some 5 minute visual tutorials of how to relate old film speeds to the new world, some picture of examples maybe of how the technology has improved the world and what is now possible post physical film, maybe an IM chat with an expert?

Nothing excessive, nothing flash, nothing too expensive. But something visual, simple and findable.


This is customer relationship management. Customer relationship management isn't an email programme. Its not a Facebook page, its not a piece of Lithium software - its all of this (maybe) - but most of all its understanding me. Doing your best to anticipate my needs. Taking your own brand ego out of the equation and putting my needs before your own.

That's a proper relationship. 

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