From the Editor: Knowing Your Customers

FRAMINGHAM (08/15/2000) - Customer relationship management is a way for large organizations to gain the depth of understanding of their customers that comes naturally to smaller, local businesses. This understanding makes it possible to build customer satisfaction and loyalty, better focus marketing efforts and sell more stuff.

Done well, CRM helps large companies do these things significantly better than any non-tech-enabled business could ever hope. While we all wax nostalgic for the good old days when the owner of the corner store knew our names and our preferences, that nostalgia has less to do with getting more of the stuff we want when we want it and more to do with our desire for human connection and community.

I live in a community where those types of well-established small businesses still exist. The same guy who sold my kids their first pair of shoes sold me mine. Destino's sub shop is still owned and run by the Destinos.

When I shop in town, it's not because I think I'm going to get a better selection--or even that the local bookstore owner knows my taste in fiction (Amazon.com Inc. does that better, though it still thinks I'm into architecture because my husband ordered a bunch of books through my account once). It's because I get a kick out of walking into a store and having the owner say, "Hi Abbie, how's Tony? Are you looking for something for yourself or for the kids?"

A website welcomes me back by name because it put a cookie on my machine.

Everyone who goes to the site gets the same treatment. Somehow, it just isn't the same.

No, the appeal of CRM lies in consumerism. There's nothing better than being offered exactly the stuff we need or want (or can be talked into wanting) as soon as we need or want it, without having to go on a hunt. That's something that big companies with lots of resources and smart technology can get really good at.

While the promise of CRM is tantalizing, it takes a tremendous commitment to get there. When we decided to explore CRM in this year's CIO-100, we knew we'd find few companies that were doing all aspects of it really well. We hoped we'd find 100 that were best of breed for parts of it (we did) as well as a few who have almost got the whole thing within their grasp.

The fact that it all came together is thanks to Senior Editor Mindy Blodgett, one of our resident CRM gurus (and our new special projects editor), and the whole CIO-100 team. They did a great job of presenting useful and insightful information on all facets of CRM. We hope it helps you in your own quest to master the customer connection.

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