CRM ...The Emperors New Clothes

The story of the emperor's new clothes is a fairy tale about men who fooled the emperor into believing that they had made him a beautiful suit of clothes. In fact they had not made anything. The emperor went out in public wearing nothing but his underwear because he didn't want to appear stupid since they had told him only the wisest people could see the fine fabrics.When the emperor went out in public a little child yelled..."The emperor isn't wearing any clothes!" Today I am that child.

"CRM doesn't cover your mistakes or fix your problems and you have been lied to about its ability to "manage" your client relationships!" CRM is a system that is based on faulty logic. The premise that companies can manage clients is foolish!

Business 101 will tell you that clients manage businesses. They tell the company what to sell, when to sell it, how to sell it, where to sell it, and will stop buying it on a whim depending upon a long list of uncontrollable situations (they are getting older, economic circumstances, politics, trends, health issues etc etc.)

What does CRM do? It lulls CEOs, sales and marketing department heads into believing that they can hold onto clients by using data alone. CRM bogs down sales & marketing teams and creates massive amounts of additional work, keeping them connected to their computers instead of visiting clients. CRM requires cleaning just like any other database and the larger the database the more time it takes to clean. The sharing of information within a company can, in some instances, actually slow down the process of customer service, since more people are now involved in decision making processes. The bottom line of customer service is pushed to the side and direct mail marketing moves forward. Direct mail marketing has abysmal response rates and even if it was improved is a poor alternative to actually communicating with clients.

Now is the time to go put on your clothes and fire the tailors!

You have spent a fortune in purchasing the software, you spent thousands of dollars on man-hours used up in training and retraining, sent memos and held staff meetings, paid tailors(I mean consultants), and still are no closer to getting customer loyalty than you were 6 months ago. As a matter of fact it may be worse because client services have suffered while you spent all this time getting CRM up and running. Cut your loses and run!

Now pull out a clean sheet of paper and write down this "to do" list...

1. Set goals for customer service that involve "WOW" customer service principles. Design a quality customer service program. Set a start date and end date for evaluation purposes.

2. Read a book a week on client relationship marketing and "WOW" customer service and give yourself a test to make sure you have retained the information. Then USE it! Make sure all your employees do the same to one degree or another.

3. Evaluate all your employees, are they happy, do the have a vested interest in your success, would they want to be your client? What is their body language on the job, enthusiastic, angry, indifferent, bored? Get rid of dead weight! If a customer is likely to meet your employees it MUST be a positive experience. Pay your front line employees what they are worth. Smiles and enthusiasm are worth at least $1.00 per hour.

3. Reduce advertising budget... increase marketing budget... understand the difference.

4. Cut out or reduce systems that tend to isolate you from your customers, voice mail mazes, advertising campaigns designed for the general public, autoresponders, self help kiosks or webpages, overseas customer service centers.

5. Increase communication through handwritten notes, visits with clients, feed back and brainstorming sessions that put the client and the business on the same side of the table as partners, reduce outsourcing, reward good clients frequently, use greeting cards with commerative stamps instead of postcards with bulk postage ( Customers think, "If I'm not worth 37 cents you don't need my business."), put some thought into client gifts (diabetics don't appreciate candy) and finally ask, ask, ask, ask, ask, ask, ask, for referrals! Then ask for referrals again.

Don't look to CRM to solve the problems of customer loyalty. Look at your relationships with your clients.

Meredith Gossland is owner of Lasting Impressions2, a Small business marketing service, specializing in multicultural marketing and high quality low cost customer service. she can be reached at

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