The Customer is the key to Social CRM and Sales

6 minute read

I’ve just read the summary of the Social CRM event held in DC last week, where some hardy souls braved the weather and flight chaos to attend the Social CRM summit. The summary sets out 6 key takeaways that are all worth considering, but I want to draw your attention to one in particular.

Companies MUST align their entire existence around helping their customers accomplish what they are trying to do. The debates about E20, Social CRM, Social Business, and corresponding terms and definitions are largely irrelevant. In short, organizations must know their customers (based upon more than simple transactional data), partner with their customers, and align their ENTIRE value delivery chain around helping their customers meet their needs as quickly and effectively as possible. This is my charge to the C-Suite.

So, it’s all about the customer. Not taking from the value of the article, the core premise is not new. However, the pervasiveness of social media should deepen your resolve to bring this to the fore in everything that you do. The well-documented Whirlpool/Twitter example is clear evidence.

I came across two other stories in the last week that support this. The first, about NetGear, was positive, and the second, about DiscoverCard and reported by Robert DeSisto of Gartner on the Gartner Blog Network, was negative.

I heard the NetGear story from John Golden, CEO of Huthwaite – one of the charter members of the Dealmaker Partner Network. John was one of the few people who managed to get a flight out of DC last week, and was in Atlanta last week for a meeting of the Dealmaker Partner Network. John recounted a personal story of customer service that impacted his decision to buy something. With John’s permission, I include his story here.

I had a timely reminder recently about how business can be generated from places other than directly from a sales person. My home PC had seen better days and I decided to buy a new so headed to the store, selected one and as any good consumer worth their salt, I decided to buy something additional that I didn’t particularly need, in this case a super new wireless router. I raced home to setup the PC so I could experience Windows 7 for the first time and once that was running I started to setup the new wireless router. To my frustration I discovered that the install CD for the router did not support Windows 7 so I dutifully went to the website and to Microsoft’s website and searched for solutions, tried a few but to no avail. Inevitably my quest for instant gratification had turned into mounting frustration and as a last desperate throw I turned over the box and saw the 800 # – now it being about 3pm on a Sunday afternoon my expectations for this avenue were extremely low.

Anyway I dialed and a woman in India immediately answered and I explained my predicament to her. Within moments I began to relax as she very professionally and carefully walked me through how to install the router on Windows 7 (which was not that straightforward) – and at every step she waited patiently as I executed the task (including when I climbed up on the desk in the home office and sent some plants and a broadband router flying across the room which delayed us momentarily as I reset everything) – at the end of the process she checked everything was working, including sending me off the another floor in the house with a laptop to check the wireless signal. I left the call resolute that I am going to buy NetGear products in future because if she is representative of their people then this is a great company.

I was reminded of this today because I got an email from NetGear telling me that my free tech support period was coming to an end and that I could purchase additional support going forward. Normally I would have ignored or deleted this email but thanks to my initial experience I am considering buying it.

So what is the takeaway? Well thanks to excellent customer support I will buy more NetGear products in the future and I may purchase the expanded support package – all of this because of someone who wasn’t actually a “sales” person.

And then there was the DiscoverCard story. This was reported by Gartner analyst Robert DeSisto, under the heading, DiscoverCard doesn’t get CRM. Ouch!

I am new to the Gartner Blogsphere. I will be using this space to share real world situations. No theory, just plain real world circumstances. My first post is my own personal experience on how one company, Discover Card, just doesn’t get it when it comes to CRM.

My story starts on May 22, 2009 when I mistakenly sent a payment to my landscaper for $x,xxx that was intended to pay my monthly Discover Card bill. The only way I found out I made this mistake was my wife was declined to make a purchase on our Discover Card on May 27th. After she informed me, I went online to my bank and found the mistake, a mistake I freely admit I made. I called Discover Card, they tell me I must pay the bill and only then could they eliminate the finance charges on my account. It seemed like a reasonable request, I complied. Keep in mind, I have never in 10 years carried a monthly balance on my account. However, I have purchased a significant amount of goods for which Discover has received healthy transaction fees from the merchants. So my expectation was they would waive all finance charges and late fees.

On June 2, after my payment was posted, I again called Discover Card. They informed me that they could waive the finance charges but not the late fee. After being a customer for over 10 years and always making payments in full, Discover Card was not going to waive a $40 dollar late fee! I asked Discover whether they were willing to sacrifice $1,000s in future potential transaction fees for a mere $40. Discover Card’s response was that it was their policy. After asking for a manager and not getting one, I informed them I was no longer a customer.

Discover Card demonstrated CRM at its worst.

What’s interesting to note of course is that the negative story is broadcast vehemently, and social media is a simple vehicle to do that. If customer snafus happen – then it’s likely that the story will be told. Of course, avoiding embarrassment shouldn’t be your primary motivation for delivery a quality customer experience – after all that’s what you promised to your customer when you sold them your product – but perhaps these two stories might help to remind us that the customer is once again the key to sales, and Social CRM.

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