CRM- Where did the human face disappear?
The owner of a boutique tailoring shop I used to frequent 5 years ago, before relocating to another city, instantly recognizes me, and greets me by my first name. She agrees to treat my order on priority, and deliver the clothes in the short span of 4 days, that I am there for. And to my delight, she does. She makes me feel valued, and commendably, all without the aid of technology. Her business retains that old-fashioned element of a ‘personal touch’.
I place an online order with a start-up, catering to women’s customized work wear requirements. The goods arrive, but the size is not right. The consignment is returned for alterations. Then, only one piece is delivered after a few reminders, but with the problem unresolved. The garment still does not fit. What about the other one? The executive apologetically informs me, that it has been sold off to another client (We have traced out where the error occurred, and we are fixing responsibility… ) , and will I be kind enough to accept the same piece in another colour? Neither do they stock my size or the desired colour, nor do they have a refund policy. At best, I can have a credit voucher to fund a future purchase.
No, thanks! No more purchases from an unprofessional firm. I was totally peeved off. It takes both a verbal and online tirade from me, to convince them to give me a refund. The cheque arrives after a considerable delay, since the internal procedures for approval took a long time.
The old model of the neighbourhood boutique has worked better for me. And I am sure, there are many more customers like me.
I examine the human voices behind the online connections. They are just programmed robots, who are not enabled or empowered to function beyond the designed systems. Neither do they have sufficient domain knowledge, nor the authority to take decisions. To top it, they are weighed down with revenue targets, and a rating system that needs ‘co-operation’ from clients. They are in dire need of sympathy, rather than service expectations.
Sure, I prefer using the online mode for payments and sending service requests at my convenience. It saves the effort to drive down and find a parking slot, only to be told that the customer window has closed 5 minutes ago. Technology is wonderful, and reduces human effort. But it needs a human brain to drive it, and extract the desired advantages from it. It delivers Big Data to an interested business, but is that being used to increase the number of telemarketing calls, or to create new products for slots hitherto not catered?
Databases and Market Potential have acquired a higher business value than the real people and situations behind them.
In a previous assignment, I had once asked for a few welcome calls to be made to 5 senior army officials, during their specified convenience hours. These officials had been instrumental in getting a Memorandum of Agreement signed between the two institutions. I was informed that it could not be done, unless the details were loaded on the designated software, with the exception requirements on calling time specified. And that creating a new segment in the software would take a couple of days.
How about the data being sent to the calling executive on mail? There were only 5 calls requested. No, Sir! That was not permitted. If the Indian Army had its rules, so did we. What was the future promise of customer service displayed to an esteemed institution, whose business we had garnered?
It is all about seamless integration of services that CRM technology offers.
The Drivers of CRM Technology
I suffer from screen addiction, as much as a millennial, but prefer to see a level of competence, and an understanding approach, in case of an unanticipated problem. And that is sadly, where we have failed to train and empower the front-line executives.
Development, sourcing and implementation of path-breaking technology is applauded, but exception-handling remains a neglected area. The Key Result Areas of the frontline executives give a higher weightage to upselling, cross-selling and sourcing new business, than customer satisfaction. And wherever satisfaction matters, like in a supermarket or online cab service, I come across aggressive requests to press the right buttons, in full view of the vendor, before the bill is processed. I also need to select one of the templated reasons for dissatisfaction, if I dare to give a rating less than Excellent. The feedback helps them to serve me better next time, but why can’t it be done in privacy? Ratings need to be ‘managed’ by the frontline executive, as the appraisal and incentives of the poor guy, and his Boss, are all correlated. He is functioning under the combined pressure of boss management, customer relationship management and getting his variable pay.
The Relationship Managers in banks often link the resolution of a lingering problem like reversal of autodebit charges, to the purchase of an investment plan. The overall revenue from the client needs to be maintained. It is not surprising that some smart customers have learnt to turn the tables on them. They make future business conditional to a benefit given elsewhere.
Individual targets are attained, and benefits traded. Does anybody bother to analyse or acknowledge the overall loss or gain to the organization?
Not all customers are equal, and the business needs to focus efforts on strategically important customers. Looks good enough for a business strategy, and value creation!
However, a customer lower down the preferential ladder, does not miss the sneer, or the implicit command to upgrade themselves, if they wish to be served better. They might wish to take their ‘meagre’ business elsewhere.
Was alienation of low-value clientele a part of the game? And is the impact on the overall business taken into account ?
It still shows an outdated definition
Customer service is the provision of service to customers before, during and after a purchase. The perception of success of such interactions is dependent on employees “who can adjust themselves to the personality of the guest”.