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Viva CRM

  • September 08 2000, 1:00am EDT
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Life, generally speaking, is about setting expectations.

Work example: Prior to starting a project with a client, we always talk about setting expectations. Once we begin the project, we discuss setting expectations for the users.

Personal example: When we set up a blind date for a friend, we talk about setting expectations for the evening (who should pay, what they will look like, etc.).

Effective CRM is also about setting expectations – and appropriately reacting to expectations that are not met.

Buyers typically expect the world with every purchase. When the "world" does not materialize, customer expectations are not met and the company that sold the product or service can expect the customer to ask for help in resolving the matter. The role of CRM is to handle these incoming inquiries/complaints in a way that mends or improves the relationship and manages to retain the customer. Similarly, analysis of customer data should tell us what type of expectations we should set for different customer segments. Fortunately, CRM, when properly executed, ensures that the expected service level can be achieved at each touchpoint.

In my recent visit to National Center for Database Marketing Conference (NCDM) in Las Vegas, I definitely had certain expectations for such a popular vacation spot. I had never been to Las Vegas, and the stories I heard from a number of people had me visualizing what my trip would be like.

Cheap Steak and Lobster Buffets

One of the most common declarations about Vegas is the cheap food that is widely available at all the casinos. All-you-can-eat shrimp! Surf and Turf – anytime of the day! Breakfast buffets as far as the eye can see! All of this great food is priced from $1.50 - $8.95 per person! As I ate my peanuts on the plane, I started salivating at the thought of a juicy filet mignon.

My expectations were not met. First, one has to look very hard for anything referred to as a "buffet." If one is actually lucky enough to find one of these establishments, the line is so long that it would be difficult to really weigh the pros and cons of waiting – and possibly starving – in the process versus actually getting to the front of the buffet. Second, if able to make it to the front of the line, I would, if I were you, ask yourself what can legally be referred to as shrimp or steak. At the buffet I found, I would say "Turf" pretty much summed up what I had to eat. The food had distinct qualities of gravel, grass and concrete. The "cheap buffet" part of Las Vegas won’t bring me back anytime soon.

Free Drinks

Even better than food, the prospect of free beer is something that is always intriguing to me. Everyone assured me that as long as you gamble at the tables, waitresses are plentiful.

My experience was very different. In fact, it usually entailed two separate races against time "Will the waitress stop by to take a drink order before I run out of money?" and "Will the drink come before I run out of money?" Though my lack of gambling skills did not help the situation, service was not very speedy.

Everyone Wins

Everyone told me I would come back a winner. I was informed that if I could count and add to 21, I would leave the city with more currency that I brought in.

Apparently, I am the only person to ever lose money in Las Vegas. For the most part, I met the mathematical requirements. In fact, I was able to show (often) that I could count much higher than 21.

Once again, my expectations were not met.

It’s a Dry Heat

Though I am not exactly sure what this means, I do know that the NCDM in Chicago last year was not in a city with dry heat. (If you have never been to Las Vegas, you can experience a self-made dry heat by standing behind a bus as close the exhaust pipe as possible).

What’s My Point?

My point of this story is that customers’ expectations are increasing faster than the service levels. The Internet has been the main contributor to the expectation of immediate gratification. For example:

  • I can do my purchase in less than three clicks. Why can’t I have my problem solved in five minutes?
  • I already gave you all of this information on the Web. Why do I have to repeat it over the phone?
  • The Web defaults to my home airport. Why doesn’t the customer service representative know where I live?
  • The Web knows my favorites. Why doesn’t the store know them?

As customers increasingly demand the same level of service across all channels, organizations’ CRM initiatives become more complex. To facilitate the type of service customers expect, these organizations need to build an architecture to support the following areas:

  • A data store containing clean, integrated information to support analytical functions in the organization (a data warehouse or marketing database).
  • A data store containing clean, integrated information to support operational systems (an operational data store).
  • Campaign management functionality to supply a central view of marketing initiatives across all channels and all promotions.
  • A delivery mechanism to supply information from the centralized operational database to all relevant touchpoints.
  • A personalization mechanism to ensure that the information is turned into a customized experience and enhances the relationship.

Marketing has always been about delivering the right message at the right time to the right customer. Today there is an extra component to address. Deliver the right information to the right touchpoint at the right time to the right customer. Sophisticated organizations ensure that their automated or human touchpoints with the customer have all the information they need to treat the customer according their specific value and needs.
In my next article, I’ll discuss this architecture in more detail. Until then, I am going to stay at home in Chicago’s wet heat, go to expensive restaurants where the word turf means "good tasting steak," gamble in my firm’s "Survivor" pool (I won) and drink beer out of my refrigerator.

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