The changing face of CRM

Customer Relationship Management – a word so often used yet rarely put into action. I am a strong believer that companies need to manage, maintain and nurture relationships with their customers, not just when they buy their product/service, but early on in the decision-making process and once the supposed transaction is complete. Yet while many “big” name companies maintain that the customer is at the heart of their operations, that’s often not the case.

So a few weeks ago, I was in the market for a new cellphone. I didn’t want to change my service provider, so looked at the phones they had and after scouring the internet, reading reviews from experts and users I made the decision to pick a Motorola on an Android platform. I choose the phone, decided to have it shipped (in retrospect I should have walked a few blocks and picked it up, but Amazon has changed my purchase behavior more than I like to admit), and then proceeded to wait for the shipping information and tracking number. It was Monday morning and no information had arrived, finally I called customer service and was given an explanation that I would just need to wait. “But I paid extra for express delivery, it said 1-2 business days. Where is my tracking number? This would never happen on Amazon.”

Finally, I decided to let me followers on Twitter know about my experience. Small as my follower numbers are, it was some respite to tweet about it.

CRM Example

I proceeded with my day, hoping to see my phone soon before I headed out of the country. I somehow had an inkling that the company in question might pick it up. But I didn’t have much hope. After all there are probably thousands of people at that moment commenting and it is likely to get lost. WRONG!!

Good CRM practice, using Radian6

The next day, I get a reply from Virgin Mobile’s handle, apologizing for the delay and asking for details to follow-up. Needless to say I was surprised that they picked it up. Until I noticed near the time stamp the words “via Radian6”. I was aware that companies like Dell and Gatorade had established social media command centers to track the social media chatter. But to truly see the results of the effort is nice. There was a series of tweets back and forth with various @VMUcare reps. I could tell that Virgin had some good practices in place – Virgin social media reps put down their initials at the end of the tweet. I suppose it is a way to tag the individual with the response, this is a really good practice, as it ensures accountability.

My story has a happy ending, I got the phone (and totally love Android in case you were wondering). But most of all I was pleasantly surprised by how companies are using social media listening and engagement tools – particularly Radian6 to track customers. If you noticed the initial tweet I sent out, the sentiment on the tweet is mixed. This would have required a moderator to look at Radian6’s river of news functionality, drill down to the specific tweet, analyse it and then respond.

A few days later, I had a follow-up question for Virgin about my phone, and got an immediate reply.

Of course, for every one player at the top of the game there are laggards. I needed some electronic equipment and walked down to one of the top consumer electronic retailers store in NYC. The customer service experience at the store was terrible, and I walked out despondent. Not only were the employees totally negligent and complacent, there was literally no service. I stood in a line, only to find out that I needed to pay in another area of the store. I left the products with a sales rep and walked out. I decided to tweet about my experience again, hoping that someone could look at it and fix an issue with the store.

CRM and TwitterIts been a few days and I am yet to hear back anything. Granted it was a Friday but it was in the first half of the day. The sentiment on the tweet was negative, and I would imagine Radian6 would have picked it up immediately. Considering the size of this player, I would have expected an immediate response, but nothing. I ran a cursory analysis on the company in question, using TweetFeel and the results were not surprising.

Tweetfeel CRM results

The above results show that 60% of approx. 151 twitter conversations on the company in question are negative. This is a small sample size, but an indicator that all is not well.

I remember a time when I was back home in India and our air conditioning (from one of the leading manufacturers at the time) had broken down. We waited several weeks to get someone in the company to acknowledge our request and send a mechanic down. There were numerous excuses told and shoddy service provided.

Looking at this experience, it is amazing how far CRM has come today. If companies would just listen to what their current/potential customers are saying they can build a strong and loyal following – one that is not easily lured away by a new competitor. The tools are available and the talent is knowledgeable, but it takes a strong belief and dedicated company to back this effort with the resources it needs – irrespective of whether you provide a product or service.

What is your experience with CRM and social media? Have you ever tweeted a company about an issue and got a response back?

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2 thoughts on “The changing face of CRM

  1. India has yet to learn the basic concept of CRM. The current philosophy of customer relationship is “sell and forget”. Take for instance my car which I bought in 2004, and it has always been insured every year by ICICI. When my insurance got due in 2011, I was informed that they would not insure my car as there were too many claims for my make of car. I was told this in spite of the fact that I have never filed any claim with them since I bought the car. They realized the error of their way much later but it was too late because I changed my insurers.
    If this is the attitude of a huge organisation like ICICI, then one can imagine the attitude problem of smaller outfits.

    • Very true. The issue with most Indian companies is that demand far outweighs supply (a population of 1.3 bn provides a lot of good prospects). Plus the market for certain products/services is not highly competitive. Since customers are dependent upon companies, loosing a few customers is not seen as an issue. Hopefully that will change soon, although it will be on an Indian schedule.

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