The Customer Experience: Where CRM falls short

Like every new wave in information technology, CRM is taking its lumps.

Tales of huge costs and unmet objectives feed a growing skepticism. WillCRM deliver the promised return? Whether or not CRM delivers the benefitit promises depends for the most part on whose problem it tries to solvefirst.

There are two sides to CRM. The enterprise perspective is defined by thesingle view of customer history, and the promise of what can be donewith that information. From the customer perspective, CRM is defined bythe interface (or touch points), and the promise of a better experience.

If CRM falls short on its promise, it will result from losing sight ofthe customer's experience. The brutal truth for the vast majority ofbusinesses is that customers don't want a relationship and they don'twant to be managed. They don't care how much you paid for your callcenter, or whether or not you know everything about them, so long asthey get what they want, and get it quickly. What matters is thecustomer experience: convenience, relevance, and usability -- thefundamentals.

Although every customer touch point is critical, a clear opportunity andchallenge is for companies to raise the bar on the newest touch point,the Internet. Here's a simple, but real example. A major financialinstitution has done the work to integrate data and access betweenbanking, brokerage, and credit card accounts. Online customers have theability to seamlessly move between their account pages on the company'sbanking and brokerage Web sites. Then there's the catch. The bankingsite has a very simple, almost rudimentary, interface but it deliversvery fast and reliable service. The brokerage has a complex interface,and is prone to errors. The result is a Jekyll and Hyde experience forthe customer. What is gained on the enterprise side by data integrationis lost in customer dissatisfaction with the interface.

The previous example may sound obvious, but consider this. A great dealof knowledge and best practice has grown up around the traditional touchpoints of most organizations. There's a right way to treat a customer ina showroom and to answer the phone in the call center. There aremonitoring activities and customer satisfaction scores. As a relativelyyoung channel, the Internet has a long way to go. The good news?

Something can be done about this right now.

The solution is to place as much value on the customer view as on theenterprise view of CRM. Learn what the customer's goal is when they usea Web site, and most importantly, their process. What event likelyhappened before they visited the Web site and what do they hope willhappen after they visit the Web site? What information will they havewhen they arrive at your site, and more importantly, what do they needto bring in order to complete a given transaction? Knowing all this,revisit Web site designs and look at them through a new filter ofconvenience, relevance, and usability. Understand the customer's processand make sure that before you try to know everything about a customer,you at least know that which is most relevant to their goals.

The complexity of integrating data and systems to achieve the vision ofCRM will occupy most large organizations for some time. It's a big job.

We shouldn't wait to step into the customer's shoes and address theinterface that defines their experience with the enterprise.

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