You've heard about CRM. Customer Relationship Management. It comes in flavors, of course, but they all involve somehow measuring what the customer does and using what you learn to become more efficient about getting money out of them.
Okay, maybe you feel okay about that--maybe it seems like a smart business decision. But I wonder if, like me, you don't feel so good when it's used on you. Like when you discover that your bank is using CRM software to count and measure transactions by frequency and amount--and ends up pegging you as one of their not-so-profitable customers. How do you feel about the reductions in service you enjoy?
Or how about when you get excited about the cell phone or other company's tremendous rebate offer--only to find you have to fill out an IRS-like volume of paperwork and meet weird requirements like "cut out the fourth-from-the-left UPC symbol, paste it on a 4" x 5.5" piece of paper, print your product name and serial number in black ink only, and mail it all to an address in Timbuktu with 37 cents in postal insurance." And then you get the ominous warning "No rebate will be issued if instructions are not followed exactly," and oh, by the way, be prepared to wait about 4 months...
Now here come a couple of guys proposing another approach in the most recent Harvard Business Review. They suggest we start looking instead at something called Customer Experience Management. Oh, no, you may cry in frustration--yet another acronym I have to learn and start bandying about? Yeah, I know.
But the differences make it worth investigating:
- CRM - it's what you know about your customer
- CEM - it's what your customer thinks about your company
- CRM - is collected at customer "touch points"
- CEM - is collected direct from the customer right after an interaction with your company
- CRM - it's about data: clickthroughs, sales tracking, etc.
- CEM - it's about people--"voice of customer" research, etc.
- CRM - it's about targeting more effectively and making processes more efficient execution
- CEM - it's about finding out how you can fulfill customers expectations and provide better experiences with your products and services
- CRM - it's about selling more by bundling popular products with ones that aren't
- CEM - looks for ways to add offerings that fill gaps between expectations and experience
This isn't revolutionary. It's how the best companies in the world have always done it. But technology came along a couple of decades and got us all thinking numbers instead of people. How many companies have done the "measuring customer satisfaction" thing and concluded it was too expensive to make such changes? Happens every day. The point, the authors say, is that when it's done right, applying CEM actually improves the bottom line. But it takes faith.
Today, even as old-line-CRM thinking is continually eroding customer satisfaction levels, the Internet makes it ever-more-possible for customers in every industry to find and evaluate your competitors. So listening to your customers is no longer optional. Responding to the truth of their experience is a given for success in today's world.
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