Monday, June 18, 2012

Asking for Customer Feedback: The "How Are You?" Of the Business World

Why do humans often ask "How are you?" when they don't really want to know? Similarly, why do businesses ask for customer feedback when it seems they often aren't going to act on it?

I read a blogger once say “If you’re not going to act, don’t ask”. I know I'm not alone in experiencing the following: I have a bad experience with a business, I provide feedback on that experience (often through an online survey), and it seems to go down a black hole somewhere. No acknowledgement, no response, no assistance in remedying the situation. I find it incredibly frustrating, and according to some new research from Empathica, apparently I'm not all that unique. Among other things, their study found that:

  • 85 percent of consumers have provided some form of feedback to big box retailers, yet only 46 percent of respondents believe that brands actually use this feedback
  • 83 percent of consumers agree or strongly agree that they would be more loyal to a brand if they knew the brand would act on their feedback.

The takeaways are blatantly obvious. First, if you’re going to ask for customer feedback, act on that feedback. Second, make sure you acknowledge and thank your customers for that feedback. And third, whenever possible, communicate to customers specific instances where their feedback has resulted in a constructive change to the way you do business.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Presidents Day Customer Experience Lessons

I'm sitting here with my cup of coffee a bit frustrated. Frustrated upon the realization that I got no Wall Street Journal today. That two packages I vowed I would mail out today (yes, I'm one of the few consumers that still uses the United States Postal Service at this point) weren't going anywhere. And finally, that my necessary trip to the DMV wouldn't happen (I could write an entire book about what the DMV could teach us about customer experience, but that is for another day.)

How could I schedule all these activities, knowing today was President's Day?

The answer is simple--As a consumer not employed by the Federal government, today is simply a Monday, and business-as-usual for me. Now I have nothing against President's Day, and this isn't a post about the validity of government services being shut down for Federal holidays. I'm simply pointing out that like any business, just because government services are closed today doesn't mean that their customers don't have a need, or a desire, to interact.

This is a parallel to today's consumer expectations. Today consumers expect to be able to interact with businesses--Obtain answers to questions, solve problems, get assistance--any time, regardless of what time of day it is, or if it is a Holiday. This presents an opportunity for all businesses to either meet, exceed, or unfortunately  fail to meet these expectations.

Is your customer experience strategy designed around your customers' schedules, wants and needs? Or, are you forcing your customers to work around yours?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Top CRM Trends for 2012 (

Today I reviewed CRM Trend's appropriately-named list of top CRM trends for 2012. Not surprisingly, most can be seen as evolutionary changes, or progress, to existing trends:

Social Media Optimization

CRM Trends writes that 2012 will be the year "efforts are redoubled to improve the effectiveness of social media marketing".

No secret here, as organizations have scrambled to effectively leverage social media since Facebook and Twitter exploded what seems like so long ago now. I believe this trend will, and needs to be, especially true for the small to medium business. All organizations can benefit from a focus on getting more (measurable) value from social media, but especially smaller ones, that often don't have the budget, resources, or expertise to effectively manage their social media strategy.


CRM Trends writes that the time has come for all businesses to consider multiple channels, including mobile.

I believe many organizations are considering mobile for customer acquisition--It is easy to understand that importance when around 40% of consumers at last count carry smartphones, and some experts estimate that 30% use them while shopping.

But one of the holy grails of CRM is having a 360-degree view of the consumer. If the consumer is going mobile, that means that many more touch points beyond marketing and customer acquisition or sales need to be considered and optimized for mobile. And the savviest companies will invest in leveraging multiple channels (like mobile) to improve customer experience and loyalty, decrease defection, and increase up selling to existing customers.

The Rising Importance of Data

CRM Trends asserts "If you do not use your data to talk to your customers, others will".

This not only speaks again to the 360-degree of your customer, but of a behemoth opportunity for service providers to help companies turn raw customer data into actionable customer data. But the bottom line is that despite the explosion in CRM applications, most, including ubiquitous, offer only rudimentary analytics and reporting. But organizations must walk before they run, and many are only now considering, or implementing contemporary CRM applications at all.

Customer Experience

Amen! Customer experience and loyalty must cease to be buzzwords ("Of course we're focused on customer experience!") and begin to be objective, data-driven benchmarks that help an organization realize and quantify the economic benefit of reducing attrition due to customer dissatisfaction.

Personalization and Customization

Consumers today expect businesses to cater to their desire for personalization--Where contact channels, marketing campaigns, and even the products themselves feel tailor-made for their preferences and lifestyles.

My biggest takeaway? Businesses can't provide the customer experience, personalization or customization, until they truly understand their customers. And until, as CRM Trends asserts, they better harvest and analyze their customer data.

As mentioned previously, these trends represent businesses moving ever closer to the desired to-be CRM state. It would be easy to suggest that the company that gets there (or closest) first will have a tremendous advantage over its competitors. Very true, but the desired state is, and always has been, a moving target.

I look forward to checking back a year from now to see how much progress we in fact made in 2012.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Super Bowl Advertising Goes Web-Centric

Remember a few short years ago when you actually had to watch the Super Bowl to see the Super Bowl ads?

Not any more. Wise marketers are pairing their TV spots (running a cool $3.5 million per 30 seconds this year) with one or more extended web-versions. Acura's spot for their upcoming NSX featuring Jerry Seinfeld was a perfect example. The ad, which ranked 4th in the annual Wall Street Journal poll, had even more effect online, where the extended web version has been viewed over 17 million times to date on Youtube. Additionally, according to, web searches for terms related to the NSX were up 1800% during the game. (This is also interesting in demonstrating how common multi-tasking with a tablet or smartphone is for today's television viewers). In fact, the ad had gone viral even before the game, as I had several friends forward it to me in the week leading up to the game.

The web has even helped seemingly ancient Super Bowl commercials live on. Apple's iconic 1984 Super Bowl ad still ranks as the 10th most-viewed Super Bowl ad on the internet.

The takeaway is that yet again the internet is radically changing the way marketers work. Smart advertisers will use their TV spots increasingly as "teasers" pointing to online landing pages where the visitor will get the full story. This also means advertisers must strategically manage their inbound marketing so that their website, not a third-party site like Youtube, comes up in relevant keyword searches.

With the success of these ads online, one wonders why an advertiser would buy anything more than a 30-second spot? Why waste the money? The real value of these ads is their timeless, viral potential. Spend minimally on as brief a spot as you can; make it memorable, and leverage the cost-effectiveness of the web to get your full message in the minds of consumers.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Interservice Rivalry in CRM

"The Soviets are our adversary. Our enemy is the Navy."
— Curtis LeMay, General, US Air Force

It's no secret that there has always been a friendly rivalry between branches of our armed forces. In fact, there is a term for it-- "Interservice Rivalry". I recall reading that during the Vietnam War, for example, Army Grunts held the Air Force pilots in contempt because when their job was done, they would fly back to base where a hot shower, meal, and soft bed awaited. Conversely, members of the Air Force and Navy historically prided themselves on being the smarter branches, perhaps due to stricter recruiting standards necessary because of the highly complex technologies that were so integral to their work.

But it is no secret that all branches of the military are essential, and in all reality work in critical interdependence. The Army and Marines couldn't get to the battlefield if it wasn't for the Navy, nor could their ground troops survive without the support of the Air Force. And similarly, no war to date has been able to escape the necessity of boots on the ground.

In my firm we have  two primary "branches" in our consulting workforce related to cloud computing and CRM. There is the SaaS or systems-integration workforce, and the management consulting workforce, of which I am a part. The former is primarily made up of technical experts that execute the design, integration and technical deployment of applications; while the latter is more made up of business generalists, sales domain experts, and change agents.

We have our rivalry as well-- I've heard some of our SaaS folks wonder outloud what it really is that MC folks do. I also know that many MC resources (myself included) enjoy, and take pride in the fact that we often solve bigger, more profound organizational challenges than simply configuring and standing up an application.

In reality, just like the armed forces, both skillsets are essential and function in a very symbiotic way. The core of many projects is in fact a highly technical, traditional software development, requiring skilled architects and developers. But how that technology piece affects the overall business case and organization as a whole requires strong business experts with domain- and industry-specific, big-picture expertise, and that is where management consultants come in.

What about your CRM project team? Do you have the essential mix of skillsets necessary to make the project a success?

Monday, January 30, 2012

A More Holistic Approach to CRM

Following up on my post from way back in August 2011, I wanted to expand on what my vision is for what needs to change to ensure CRM applications, practitioners, and evangelists remain relevant in the minds of enterprise and SMB organizations. How do we remain relevant? By delivering measurable results. How do we deliver measurable results? Among other things, we must adopt a more "holistic" view of CRM.

Organizations, and the system integrators and consulting firms that serve them continue to take a very myopic view towards CRM technology deployments. Focusing so much on the technology aspect of the implementation that they lose site of the original business case, or the entire justification for the investment. As I've stated before, CRM, SaaS, SFDC, all our techie buzzwords, are simply tools. Tools to provide a more complete view of the customer, to ultimately boost sales, customer experience or retention. But focusing exclusively on the tools (technology) is a recipe for disaster. And it's a recipe that the industry seems to pull out shockingly frequently at mealtime. OK, that's a really bad metaphor.

Think of it this way (another metaphor coming): Put the most sophisticated woodworking tool in the hands of a novice craftsman with no training, what type of results do you believe s/he will be able to achieve? What I see consistently missed in large-scale CRM projects is an equal emphasis on change management to enable the technology. The reality is most organizations don't realize the complexity of change involved with technology projects, and even if they do their IT teams are often ill-equipped to manage it. Gaining stakeholder buy-in for the final design; gaining user buy-in for the final design, and providing these end users (and their managers) with the necessary skills to gain the desired results from the new tool. Put quite simply, it doesn't matter how much money is spent on the best CRM tool, or hiring the best developers to stand up the application if your end users don't know how and/or won't use it.

I assert that an implementation with an inferior solution design but superior change management will likely outperform one with superior design and inferior change management. But far too many projects are scoped and executed with milestones purely dictated by how fast the application can be developed and integrated--And where the people element of the project simply gets squeezed in somewhere as an afterthought.

Organizations tackling large-scale CRM (or other technology) implementations must adopt this holistic approach where technology and change enablement go hand-in-hand. If they don't have resources with the correct skillset in-house, they may need to leverage a partner. But they must select their partners wisely--one that from day one approaches the project from day one with an over-arching, "holistic" approach that combines technology and change enablement. One with skilled change agents, not just skilled technical resources.

For system integrators, consultants, and consulting firms,we must help our clients understand the criticality of investing in this holistic approach to ensure the desired results and business case are achieved. For many firms out there, this will mean taking a long hard look at their talent pool and even their core methodologies. This also will mean never bidding work that unilaterally addresses technology. This can make our bids look expensive compared to competitors, but it is our job to help our clients realize the difference in the two approaches; why the holistic approach is essential; and how investing more up-front in managing the change properly will improve time-to-value and ROI. But in the end, if our clients are unwilling to make this investment, we must be willing to walk away from those deals, as hard as that might be. The other option--agreeing to execute a solution doomed to fail, is infinitely less palatable.

From my experience, clients eventually realize the consequences of their myopathy, but sometimes they must learn the hard way. This realization potentially might not happen until they stand up the application and see first-hand the results of a technology-only approach. I have seen it happen numerous times--When "too good to be true" turns out to be too good to be true, the firm that sold this incomplete solution gets kicked out. The client then remembers who had the conviction and integrity to lose the deal rather than deliver an incomplete solution.

As with most sales, those taking a relational, rather than transactional approach, committed to selling their clients only the product that truly meets their stated needs, will succeed long-term. And a holistic approach is that product.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Well, like so many good-intentioned bloggers, I admittedly let life (work, MBA, family) get in the way of maintaining this blog. With the MBA out of the way, it is my priority to make monthly if not weekly or bi-weekly posts for 2012.