When I speak about customer relationship management at various conferences around the country, I always tell a story about my favorite neighborhood pizza place. Their computer uses caller ID to recognize my phone number, and they are able to pull up my customer profile (including credit card and past order information) and complete my order in less than a minute. Not bad for a small pizza parlor, especially when you consider that the goal of CRM in most large companies is to replicate just this type of "neighborhood store."

I recently traveled to Australia where I observed the customer service practices at several remote neighborhood stores, and my experience brought to mind an article I wrote not long ago on short-term customer loyalty. None of the stores I visited can assume they’ll ever get the chance to sell something to me again. Their only hope is that I’ll spend as much money as possible while they have my attention, and maybe I’ll recommend the place to a friend planning a similar trip. That said, I discovered one of the most compelling examples of CRM I’ve ever seen on an island off the coast of Australia where we spent New Year’s Eve.

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