Monday, May 24, 2010

The power of CRM to alienate a customer

Last week, I was subjected to five calls in a day from an insurance company wanting to sell me a new improved high return insurance cover. The first time round, I listened to the caller, and politely advised her that I already subscribed to the said policy. I interrupted half way through the second time and told the lady I already had the policy. The third caller was not fortunate enough, and as soon as he announced the company name, I told him I had no interest in their products. The fourth could not get beyond the first line, and had to answer questions on how the CRM worked. And the last cut the phone when I advised him that I had taken a policy a few weeks back, and now wanted to cancel it. These were different sales agents armed with a database trying to “sell” insurance.

How many times do we wish that CRM solutions work the way they are sold to companies by the vendors? Why can’t the stupid CRM tell sales and marketing teams that the customer has already been contacted five times in the last week, and that the last interaction resulted in the customer calling the caller unsavory names for repeatedly calling him? This is despite the customer saying that he is not interested in one more credit card, insurance policy, new personal loans, or whatever the company offers. The problem compounds itself when the harried customer is already a receiver of the service.

Every customer facing enterprise seeks to implement a CRM solution to service the customer effectively, as well as to understand the customer requirements and behavior for tailoring the product or service based on customer preferences. All such initiatives start with big expectations; the processes are sometimes complex and time consuming. In a few cases, these initiatives are not aligned to reality at the front office, thereby rendering usage ineffective.

When data entry ends up being outsourced, the quality of customer information suffers. So when it’s not possible to find the customer quickly, adding one more record is an easy solution. Buy databases, simply upload, and in no time, rest assured that you will figure a dozen times. Attempts to scrub and de-duplicate may bring some efficiency, but as the number of records increase exponentially, the effort starts losing its efficacy.

Successfully operational CRM solutions have little relevance to the technology deployed, but are built on the foundation of strong processes, buy-in from every function which will interact with the customer, technology sizing that can address peaks in capacity, and a simple design that is effectively implemented and executed across the enterprise. The IT organization diligently reviews data quality with the marketing and sales organizations to ensure uniqueness of the customer records. Data quality is never an accident; it requires significant planning and discipline of execution. Despite the best efforts of men and women, we still end up with some challenges when integrating with external data. These are as yet being addressed through innovative strategies, but are not fool-proof. Maybe the unique identification number (UID) initiative will help solve this issue, but that is a long way off for now.

Coming back to my “friendly” insurance company, I called my insurance advisor with the promise of canceling all policies, should I get one more call from his company or their sales agents. He profusely apologized and promised to fix the issue. I am hopeful until the next bought database gets uploaded or a new agency is appointed or the pressure to acquire customers based on month end, quarter end, or yearend pressure begins, and the calling starts again. Sometimes I pity them the barrage they face every day for no fault of theirs, but then companies don’t appear to care beyond a point, as the universe of customers is still probably 1-2% of the addressable market. So who cares!


  1. Dear Arun,

    Yes as you well mentioned, "So who cares", I would like to point the issue with even little different angle. I break the issue in three parts :
    a) Having a technology
    b) Defining the technology
    c) Utilizing the technology

    Now when you had faced the problem of your policy issues, I must put your problem in point "C" category. Technology provides you all kind of information but which information to pick up and to utilize is in the hands of people categories called 'So Who cares".

    Its like how campaign manager defined the campaign, assign the responsibility and use the technologies. Their so called "Who cares" attitude then gets converted on "Ignorance or lack of knowledge" and again issue goes back to the technology inventor or implementer.

    Victims are "Probable" customers like you or the team inventing/implementing the technology. For others its "So who Cares".

  2. Anonymous4:27 PM

    Hi! Arun,

    I believe, the blame goes a lot more to organizational processes. Being in CRM Technology space for a long time, I have seen organizations crossing all boundries when it comes to following processes and so do their business associates. Take an example of a mega residential construction company in UP. I keep on getting sms's and phone calls from the brokers and agents inspite of the fact that my phone no is very active with DND facility initiated by TRAI. When I asked them if they bothered to check if the no that you SMS or call is registered with DND, they mentioned that the exorbitant targets and incentives do not permit them to do so and at the same time, there is no regulatory body to take necessery action against them (If there is, even I have not heard about them).
    So unless an organization sets up a governance team to ensure that the sales team and the business associates do not go hay wire, we shall continue with this problem for ever and ever.....CRM is system + process + governance.