The customer connection

Welcome to Mastering the Customer Connection, a joint project for enterprise computing professionals from Computerworld and CIO.

The views expressed within, and success stories gathered here, can be summed up as 'it's not the technology, stupid'.

The technology challenges are awesome, but as Ovum consultant Stewart Armstrong says in our Virtual Roundtable (starts page 19s), the situation to be avoided at all costs is where the business decides it needs a CRM system, asks IT to get one, ticks the box, and then sits back and waits.

Nobody sat back and waited at private health insurer MBF. For this company, the recent, politically charged and financially challenged years endured by the health insurance industry were sufficient to ensure support from the very top for its $5 million CRM project. The insurer's trek to better CRM took it past a number of milestones, including an international study tour, detailed examination of customer interaction, strategy building, communication of the objectives, and groundbreaking systems integration work. Paul Sanderson, MBF's customer servicing manager, expects a four-to-one return on the investment over five years.

If as a customer, you have ever felt like punching someone in the nose, you will know that customer relationships often slip up when an organisation's left hand does not know what the right hand is doing. Consultant Bill Laberis retells some of his experiences of this dismal reality (page 3s). Bill's situations can be traced to inefficient or nonexistent links between islands of information. So please don't think the very high SI hurdles are trivialised as you read comments that say CRM challenges are mainly business related. These hurdles must also be jumped before useful, '360 degree' customer views are gained.

Meanwhile, don't thump some schmuck for his or her poor attempt at customer service. Without tools, training, and sufficient authority, causing customer hassles may be the best they can do.

David_Beynon@idg.com.au, editor-in-chief

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