Keeping Track of Customer Purchases to Optimize Cross Selling

Cross selling rules define the interdependency of products and services.  If product A plus B plus C are chosen, the Customer Relationship Management matrix then indicates to the sales person that products E and F are the most likely “add-on products” to this mix.  Cross selling, upselling or even down selling only works when the matrix recognizes the key product mixes and also allows for some independent selling by the sales person.  In other words, it’s not enough to “know” the customer they must understand the customer.

Is this what I really need..
There is a small upscale boutique that I frequent for items that would be considered 'health and beauty'. Their products are expensive.  Why spend additional dollars for items that could be purchased at a third of the cost in a local grocery store?  I do it because of their ability to know and understand my “needs.”

From the moment I enter the store, their attention is focused on me as a customer.  In this era of self-serve merchandising and big box stores, it is a pleasure to be treated as a valued customer.  I simply  give my telephone number to the sales clerk and within seconds the Customer Relationship Management system has displayed a complete list of all my past purchases.  The system then provides them with a list of potential add-on products to those purchases and complementary products.

Effective communication..
Within moments, without my touching an item on the shelf, the sales clerk has lined up the last several items I purchased on the counter and inquires if I require a refill on any of these, "Ms.Morris, you purchased this on 22nd April this year, would you like another bottle of the same?"

By doing so, she knows I am far more likely to make a purchase or at least share my feedback, which she will update on the CRM  software.

The next step is the recommendation of new or supplementary products.  If I have purchased product Y in the past, would I like to try the counterpart to it – product X?  Would I be interested in this new line of products which complement what I am currently using? 

While the CRM system may drive this information, it would be of little use if the sales clerk does not have the freedom to take an initiative with the customer. Though, the information displayed by the CRM does give them confidence that they are not randomly offering a new product, the options suggested are on the basis of a simple logic using my purchase history and average budget. In many cases, when I have been reluctant to move to a new product or add a supplementary product on, the clerk has had the autonomy to offer a discount on the product or a sample size of the product.

The ability of the sales clerk to manage what the system tells them is what enables the successful cross selling of products.  In some cases, it even encourages what is known as the “down sell” – suggesting a new product or less expensive brand to replace current purchases.
Optimal customer experience..
What makes this relationship so successful?  It is not just the information which the system provides, but the ability of the sales force to use that information effectively.

By collecting my basic information at the on-set of my purchase at the store, they have been able to track my purchase history, frequency of product purchase and types of product purchased.  They make use of this to send e-blasts of new products or loyalty sales.  This is not to be confused with a customer loyalty program – there is no points program, there are no “frequent buyer” discounts.  What does happen is excellent customer service based on customer driven information.

So, back to the original question of why pay more than necessary?  Simply stated, it is because they have managed the relationship effectively and efficiently and sometimes, it’s just nice to be managed.

A 360° Customer View can Ensure Lower Churn

Cell phones have become a necessary evil and mobile service providers seem to capitalize on people’s needs. I have multiple uses for my mobile phone – some typical and the others based on my personal needs, as a result, my mobile is to me, what a teddy is to a three year old. The thought of being without it gives me nightmares - I use it to finalize deals, order groceries, send emails, check social updates, buy tickets, check prices, calculate currencies, create reminders and lots more..

XTel was my mobile service provider for over 10 years, however, after a mammoth new mall popped-up near my building, I could only make calls from a particular balcony. "Wow!" I thought initially - no late night calls from friends demanding a designated driver for their ride from nightclub to home, no sales pitches at odd hours and so on.. Also, I’d started with XTel’s services shortly after entering college and felt a sentimental bond! The idea of switching to another service provider with a new mobile number seemed pointless for the first few weeks.

One morning, I read an email from a friend saying he’d tried calling me several times to ask if I’d like to accompany him to the Jazz Yatra, but could not connect to my phone. The realization hit me - I was cut-off at home without a functional mobile connection! I switched off Chet Baker playing through my headphones and called customer service from my father’s phone. The call was transferred from one IVR menu to another and was three minutes later answered by a customer service representative. I attempted to explain in detail the problem with network connectivity and internet access from my apartment since the mall had been constructed.

Unfortunately for me, they never stuck to their commitments. I called them almost every alternate day asking about the resolution to my issue and why the technician had not showed up – “We called you before sending the technician, but we got no response from your mobile phone ma’am!” I was informed.

“You obviously have not read my complaint – there is no mobile or internet service connectivity in my apartment – why would you want to call me?” I would say every time through minced teeth, “just send a technician any time after 6 p.m. on a weekday.”

Sometimes, I would receive calls on my office phone to ask if I was satisfied with their mobile services and customer support. Usually, I was in a meeting and just disconnected the call. A couple of times, details were shared about the complaint I had made several months ago, but the usual response would be – “Ma’am, we request you to call 121 and mention your service request number – they are very efficient…We also have a new offer for 3G connections, would you like one?”

XTel kept making empty promises to resolve my issue - I was their valued “Platinum” customer. I remained cut-off from friends and colleagues the second I entered my building – it was like I’d landed on the dark side of the moon! Their customer relationship management, customer data management, and internal co-ordination was intolerably poor.

After missing another important call to ask if I’d like to meet an old friend visiting from Scandinavia before she flew back, I decided to switch to a new service provider - TelKom. Before the switch, I decided to clear all dues with the current service provider. Which I did.

XTel refused to close my account, saying some dues had not been cleared. I decided paying would be easier than arguing with their executives or receiving numerous reminders by SMS.

A customer services manager from Xtel introduced himself a few days later over the phone and asked why I was switching to their “inferior” competitor.

I did them the disfavor of not accounting the experiences I had with their staff across teams - my opinion wouldn’t matter for a company focusing on profits not customer satisfaction. Though, I did tweet to my 218 followers about my customer experience with XTel. 

Since they were refusing to let me switch – “Ma’am, your request should come at least two working days before the billing cycle is completed”, and I needed to remain connected 24x7, I had no choice but to sparingly use the existing number till the formalities were completed. Finally, I cleared the supposed outstanding payments again and tossed my old SIM card into the trash.

A quick call to TelKom activated their services to my phone within an hour – no more connectivity issues or exasperating customer service from a mobile service provider that was a dinosaur. 

My mobile phone rang a little later – “Good morning, Ms. Chatterjee. I see here on our CRM software, you mentioned having a very negative experience with your previous service provider when you applied for a new number with us. At our organization, customers come first, we would like to offer you free internet surfing and unlimited SMS for one month, we hope this will allow you to share your new number with all your existing contacts….” I was thrilled and shortly after disconnecting the call updated my social profiles with the new TelKom number.

Ensuring your CRM Solution has Scalability to Support Critical Strategies

Customer relationship management applications are used across multiple business processes in an organization. This means that at any given time multiple users log-in and access information from the CRM application. In such a scenario, 'scalability' emerges as a major challenge to support the needs of these varied users. An inability to add, update or view customer information by users when interacting with customers or analyzing information will lead to low user adoption and also affect performance, eventually leading to customer churn.

There are many ways to mitigate these risks, but the first step is to identify the issue. Once you understand the challenges you are likely to face in terms of scalability, you can choose the right way to deal with them or if you are looking to implement a CRM solution, these are some key factors to keep in mind. Here we take a look at some common issues and solutions which are best-practices.

3 Reasons CRM applications can face scalability challenges
Scalability is a common issue faced by any software which offers a complex architecture utilized by numerous people at the same time.
  1. A CRM application is used to input data, seek answers to queries, aid in business decision-making, apply presentation logic and much more. These complex processes tend to put a lot of burden on the servers supporting the applications. Such an issue can be tackled through advanced clustering or chaining multiple servers.
  2. Another major reason for scalability problems is the customization of CRM applications. Every business has unique needs which need to be tackled through specific CRM processes. This customization leads to an increased complexity in the CRM solutions offered. Such complexity in the software further increases scalability issues, especially during periods of high usage.
  3. As businesses grow and internal processes change and become more complex, growing volumes of information from numerous channels and multi-system integrations can cause downtime. 
Organizations invest time and money in implementing a CRM software to enhance performance, managers need to look into the scalability capabilities of a CRM solution - it is important to ensure that there are no backlogs as transactions increase. Processes need to run smoothly regardless of the number of users or volume of information.
Tackling scalability challenges to avoid downtime
Ensuring optimal network performance and secure access to the CRM application for all remote and internal users will increase server efficiency by reducing its utilization. This helps users to access information seamlessly and does not affect configured alerts, escalations, assignments, etc.

With any CRM application, it is essential to understand the individual needs of your business before taking on an integrated solution. The risks of scalability also have to be identified for your specific needs. Is your business growing? Are there more users or transactions being added to your CRM application? If you think the work load will be increasing, it is very important to choose the right CRM software from the start, keeping in mind that it should be able to scale easily to accommodate the increase in traffic.

Make sure you check your CRM software on these important scalability parameters:
  • Is the response time being affected as user load increases?
  • Does the server run smoothly, no matter how complex the task, and without any deadlocks or leaks?
  • How much additional maintenance would it require under normal working conditions?
  • Is there undue distress on the server due to inefficient caching?
  • Most importantly, is the CRM application stable and efficient when many users are accessing it simultaneously?
Make sure you understand the range of work load the application is likely to get at peak hours and test it on the same range to ensure its capabilities in dealing with the extensive work load.

Complex tasks and multiple user access will be a common factor for any CRM solution - if it freezes or loses time and data, the application will be a hindrance with no visible ROI. At the end of the day, your CRM application is only effective if it works under undue pressure - optimizing performance even at erratic peak hours when employees are expected to deliver a consistent customer experience. 

David Fernandez 

Resolve Customer Complaints Effectively to Improve Loyalty

Although millions of people are hooked to online stores, I was rather skeptical about their credibility. I didn’t want to buy something which I could not touch and carry back home with me after swiping my credit card. However, I’d always wanted to buy my husband an exclusive watch and had run out of options at the local malls.

Another birthday was approaching and I was steadily running short of time without being able to identify the right timepiece. My friend suggested an online store - I could not help but jump on the bandwagon and place an order after identifying the perfect antique replica with an artificial crocodile leather strap and black dial. I was a bit paranoid the watch might not look as attractive in real life as in the website image and carefully read comments posted by other customers. Eventually, I felt confident enough to place an order and typed the message I’d wanted them to engrave on the watch. I received a phone call from their verification department in a couple of minutes to confirm my order and was informed the watch would be delivered within 5 working days.

Four days later, a Friday, the watch arrived. I was thrilled by their promptness and glad to see the watch looked better in reality than its photograph. I flipped it over to read the personalized message, my jaw dropped – my husband’s name, the personalized message and my name were all incorrect! It wasn’t for our Anniversary and his name was not ‘KC’! Cursing, I dialed their customer service toll free number, which sounded its incessant beeping and irritating pre-recorded “You are a valued customer. Your call is important to us, please hold the line..” message which didn’t alleviate my stress levels. Finally, a customer representative came online and I fumed about the goof up and shouted out that his Birthday was in a couple of days! She responded politely all through my ranting, which actually helped calm me a bit and assured me an employee would phone me within a few hours.

Forty five minutes later, a soft spoken person informed me that the issue would be resolved in a couple of days, I inquired if he meant “working days” or “days” since the birthday was on Monday?

The next afternoon, a Saturday, I received another call from someone in the company who introduced himself as the ‘store manager’. He apologized and assured me that my watch would be delivered by Monday. However, I informed him about the importance of it being delivered before - it was my husband’s birthday gift and was told they would prioritize my delivery.

Sunday evening, my watch reached me – I was surprised, thrilled and relieved – the thought of wishing my husband empty handed had been horrific! The delivery boy dialed a number on his phone and handed it to me, the person on the other end was their store manager asking if the watch was exactly as per my instructions. I handed over the previous delivery to their employee and thanked the manager for keeping with his commitment and understanding the importance of this gift for my husband. He mentioned that there were multiple departments involved with capturing, preparing and delivering their orders – IT, call center, warehouse and the delivery team. Often, there would be lapses in sharing information related to customers without a common system, also, often managers could not pinpoint where an issue originated. Their legacy system had been implemented to simply capture details of orders, the rest was handled through assorted software programs and rough notes scribbled on paper!

My husband was pleasantly surprised by the gift, he appreciated my thoughtfulness but was unaware of its history! I received a parcel from the company a month later, a day before my birthday - the same watch in a ladies size with a birthday card and message which read “We apologize for almost ruining your husband’s birthday surprise, hopefully this will partly make up for it”. I smiled and felt my customer experience wasn't so bad after all!

The next time I called them to order a cuckoo clock a year later, they had all my details at their fingertips, “Good afternoon, ma’am! Are you calling to order a gift for your husband’s birthday next week?” the agent asked. 

“Uh..Yes..” I said, a little startled and asked “How did you know?”

We ensure you there will be no mix-up with the delivery this time! We have imported customer information from previous interactions into our new CRM software – it displays all the important dates and order related activities”, he responded. “I also see that you live near the Metro Mall, we have recently opened a new outlet there - may I SMS its address?” he continued.

“OK” I responded, happy to shop with them, “Do you stock chiming clocks too?”

4 Ways Leveraging Big Data will Improve Performance

Every organization, irrespective of size and scale of business is capturing large volumes of information, often generating terabytes of complex information – big data. This information can be details from multi-channel devices related to internet downloads, social media, online purchases, credit card usage and much more for thousands and sometimes millions of people.

Analysis of “big data” so to speak, is gradually becoming the foundation to innovate, successfully battle competition and underpin growth of productivity and crucial consumer information. Adopting a CRM system is an effective way to display the key takeaways and display this information across the organization in a palpable format. Additionally, the existing data can be built upon through customer facing teams to further identify customer needs and organizational loopholes.

The primary functions of CRM solutions are to reduce costs by automating customer oriented processes - collection and analysis of customer information in order to live up to customer expectations, thereby elevating customer satisfaction levels. However, visible results and pay-offs that justify the investments made in these systems is a must - profitability and productivity need to tangibly improve.

As trends come and go, particular channels gain exponential popularity, businesses need to ensure they can capitalize on these opportunities. For example, collating and analyzing data related to mobile phone usage – type of phone, popular downloads, average call time, no. of text messages, etc. can lead to optimal product and service offerings, thereby increasing sales volumes and reducing customer churn.

The bottom-line is that data is multiplying in quantity and increasing in complexity and organizations need to understand and incorporate this within their systems. It is imperative to form new strategies on how this information capture can be fruitful, so as to successfully translate into organizational triumph coupled with superlative customer experience.

Insights into spot-on data usage
The conventional factors of production, capital and labour, now have a new ally – and that is data. Data explosion has seeped into every industry, each business, all functions. 

A recent business research brought to surface the fact that companies could encounter huge savings in operational efficiency by sensibly using key information. Intelligent use of data enables error and fraud minimization and gives an upward push to profits and revenues.

Surveys indicate that roughly 200 tera bytes of data is stored in each company spanning across approximately 1100 employees, in America. India is not far behind.

Data analytics – The contributions
  • To begin with, correct usage of accumulated data can lead to significant value creation, and also bring about both transparency as well as usability of information at higher levels and frequencies. 
  • Next, when companies gather and store variable data in digital form, it becomes easier to gain accuracy and detail about performance data – starting from production and inventory information progressing to all the subsequent levels. As a result, volatility of situations can be comprehended and performance levels witness a considerable boost too. 
  • Several well known organizations are conducting experiments with the help of collected and analyzed data to help them make better management decisions and improve overall decision making. Some others are making use of organized information for low as well as high frequency forecasting exercises, so as to enable them to make necessary business adjustments on time. 
  • The most obvious and vital function of CRM data is its contribution in effective customer segmentation, thereby leading to tailoring products and services exactly as per customer preferences.
Customer feedback – A jewel in the crown
The value of customer feedback for an organization is undisputed. But, how this information is put to use can make or break an organization.

Various channels of communication like web transactions, phone calls, meetings, social conversations, social media, e-mail, contact center interactions etc. enable customers to interact with companies and put forth their ideas, thoughts and overall feedback. Such feedback can be extremely insightful and empower organizations to make productive and meaningful decisions to heighten customer satisfaction, thereby offering an outstanding customer experience.

A huge contribution that big data makes is the role it plays in improvising on the development of next generation services and products. Proactive product maintenance is one such aspect which basically means sensors built into products - which indicate ‘probable’ failures before they are even noticed by the consumer. This ultimately translates to timely and innovative after sales service.

It is therefore of cardinal significance for companies to put in their best efforts to ensure that crucial data does not sit motionless in data banks and ‘customer feedback’ should not remain just another unused file.

To institute real customer-centric change, prolific usage of customer feedback is essential.

Data Mountains – Value enhancement and productivity upsurge
The scope and scale of data accumulation by firms is increasing at astonishing speed. As a consequence, the collection, access and productive use of data is rapidly changing the way companies conduct business.

From the competition and potential-value-capture angle, every organization has to take big data with utmost seriousness and absolute drive. This is because data alone will eventually turn out to be the key infrastructure for growth and expansion of firms and also help face competition with confidence.

In almost every industry, new entrants as well as established players employ data driven strategies for innovation, to compete with rivals, and most importantly, to soak in the best and maximum value from abysmal, updated and real time data.

This holds true for almost every sector and industry. For example, retailers making optimum data use have the full potential to elevate their operating margins by over 65%. Even companies and consumers encounter several important benefits.

However, it is seen that though the deployment of big data will make a difference across various sectors, some sectors stand to gain more. Challenges, advantages and opportunities will differ between sectors. Broadly speaking, banking, finance, insurance, electronics, IT, and government are the sectors which will benefit the most from the optimum usage of big data.


The discussions so far make an obvious and strong indication that simply having oceans of data sitting idle in repositories is not enough. Only effective and productive use of accumulated information brings forth a plethora of benefits as discussed above. Implications of smart utilization of big data are many – and data oriented leaders and managers across all sectors and levels have to grapple with the same.

A string of issues have to be given due attention in order to capitalize on the complete potential of big data in totality. Policies and issues concerning security, liabilities, privacy and the likes have to be addressed. It is also crucial to ensure that important information is easily accessible and in order to achieve this, organizations will have to ascertain that data from multiple and varied sources (including third parties) are seamlessly integrated with existing company systems and data.

The right technology and appropriate talent have to be amalgamated with well structured workflows and appropriate incentives in order to bring about optimization of big data, and this in turn will tantamount to big opportunities.

3 Top Benefits of Data Driven Marketing and CRM

The world of business is experiencing a phase of continuous and game changing alterations. With major economies facing the heat of bloated fiscal deficits and the looming prospect of a global economic slowdown, the phenomenon of cost cutting is seen as a discreet organizational policy transcending industries and geographies. With continuously shrinking revenues, the major brunt of this cost cutting is being borne by the marketing department. Contemporary market conditions are not offering the same results to the various marketing efforts as they did in the past. Now, marketers are required to focus on reaching out to prospective customers with limited budgets and stay ahead of fierce competition too.

Data driven marketing and CRM are coming across as one of the most pursued strategies of modern day marketers. It is a form of marketing based on data analysis through which insights are generated and accurate decision making is facilitated. This approach is targeted towards customer retention through satisfaction and delight by meticulously determining the targeting, timing and content of marketing communications.

Not only does this form of marketing warrant the maintenance of imperative data like customer activity, buying behavior, prospective customers, competitors’ numbers and much more, it relies heavily on how effectively are these numbers made use of.

The data, that is put to use for the same, can be primary or secondary. Its entire objective, though, circumvents around assisting the development of such knowledge as knowing the best media for targeted visitors, areas where customers are lost and the destinations which work as the goldmines of business. This will help make marketing efforts more targeted and precise.

Moreover, marketers can also derive many benefits from this form of marketing. While some of them endeavor to maintain impregnable relations with their customers to build patronage, some others use these marketing tools to cross sell their products and even develop better service standards with the knowledge that they have garnered. Finally, by relying more on maintaining strong customer relations and on data driven marketing, marketers can ensure that all their activities are being held accountable and the amount spent on them is being weighed against the revenue that they manage to generate.

What one has to understand and appreciate is that data driven marketing is no more an option but a necessity to exist. “Accountability” is the buzz word and your marketing efforts are not spared of its loom. The smallest of activities today are evaluated on ‘return on investment’ that they generate and that is possible only with the help of data driven marketing. Let all your marketing activities be comprehensively evaluated against the generated results and see how your marketing department converts from a cost centre to an investment centre, one which generates substantial returns.

Three critical benefits of data driven marketing and CRM in marketing:

Customer Knowledge: The starting point of any customer relationship management effort is the knowledge about the customer. Not only does a marketer collect data about the names and addresses of the customers, but details like buying history, quantities purchased, personal preferences, size of the family, key dates and much more also makes its way into the database. This data is extensive enough to initiate an exhaustive customer relationship management vigil. Without spending a fortune on marketing, the marketers can utilize this database and establish a strong sense of loyalty among the customers. The same data could also be collected about the company’s prospective customers. This data would help in finding out the most fruitful and result generating ways of converting prospective customers faster and cost effectively.

In addition, analyzing details of converted and dormant leads greatly helps in improving marketing strategies and increasing conversions. Demographics play an important part in designing effective campaigns, data driven marketing provides the most pertinent details for marketing teams.

Cross Selling & Up Selling: An organization, today, cannot survive through pure ‘sales’. One has to explore newer avenues of escalating the revenue generated from a customer. That is what CRM and data driven marketing can ensure for organizations. The available data could expose those areas where the same products can be sold more frequently to existing customers. However, this is not all, marketers could also sell new and different products to the same customers. This could give an exponential rise to the revenue of the company. By understanding what the customers have been buying from competitors, marketers can explore untapped opportunities.

If customers are satisfied and their experience with an organization is positive, then marketers can sell them more products their company offers. Offering products that are the most relevant to a customers needs at the right time is facilitated by effective use of a CRM solution. The CRM interface displays best-fit products based on existing and real-time information for each individual’s records.

Ultimately, the objective of any organization is to improve its sales without compromising ‘customer experience’ and thus bring about sustainable growth in their revenues. From past research, there are numbers which suggest a direct association between the effective utilization of data driven marketing and the sales of an organization. There is a clear indication that companies dedicatedly makes use of data driven marketing and CRM solutions, they can considerably accentuate their sales numbers.

Accountability: Each activity that the member of a company’s marketing team performs, should be evaluated against the results that it generates. Therefore, adopting the lean approach of accommodating only the best and most beneficial is appropriate. Monitoring all activities based on assorted criteria is simplified through a CRM solution’s reporting and analytics tools, allowing senior management to slice-and-dice report data for studying marketing related activities.

While all of these benefits are alluring and might incite a large number of organisations to initiate a data driven marketing campaign, one has to understand that its success depends on ‘attitude’ more than anything else. One has to continuously be on the prowl to find insights from the data that is available, collecting raw numbers has no value. CRM or data driven marketing, a perspective has to be developed and cut through the organizational hierarchy to make it an organization-wide culture, rather than just a single department or a few people’s strategy.

Optimizing Customer Experience with Effective CRM Strategies

‘Customer relationship management’ is a key factor in the success of any modern business today. Companies spend time and money developing CRM rules and methods for dealing with their customers. Unfortunately, sometimes those rules and methodologies that look great on paper can cause more frustration than satisfaction.

What the customer wants…
I have been a cellular customer with our local phone company since 1997. My family and I also have all of our other telecom services, land line, internet, and television with this same company. In today’s competitive market, I thought my long term loyalty and bundled product mix would be worth something. It did not seem to be.

My cellular contract with the company was due to be renewed and the new iPhone4 was out and being marketed by numerous other cellular companies in my immediate area. The company I have a contract with, however, was unable to offer this new phone when my contract was expiring. When I was interacting with their representative, I inquired about the iPhone and when it would be available through them. Unfortunately, the representative was unable to give me a time frame, but assured me it would be “quite some time.”

I renewed my long standing contract and left somewhat unsatisfied with the answer, but wanted to continue with a company I felt had the same loyalty to me as a long term customer as I to them.

Loyal..So what?

Within two months, what to my marvelling eyes should appear but the advertisement for the iPhone4 at my service provider! Adding insult to injury - the ad was a full window sized poster in the self-same store where just two months prior I had been told it would be “quite some time” before this phone was available!

I returned to the store and engaged the same representative who had serviced my account. I requested an upgrade from the phone I had to the iPhone4, explaining that it would be a better business instrument for me amongst other things. The representative cheerfully looked up my account, commented on what a long term customer I was (obviously, I thought their Cloud CRM software is working!) and then with a smile told me it would cost CAD 400.00 to buy-out my current contract and then he could “sell” me the iPhone4 for a new $400.00 three year contract! I requested him to check again, I was two months into a contract and he was telling me that all my years of loyalty and all my product bundling came to nothing in the system which should have been managing my customer relationship. With a shrug, he told me there was nothing that could be done – it was company policy and perhaps I should consider a different phone company if I really wanted an iPhone4.

I asked him to call the customer service department for me. To my utter amazement, he handed me his personal phone and said – “call from this, if they see a store number come up you won’t get anywhere!” Could their system really be this bad? Yes, it could!

Because the system tells me so!

After what seemed an interminable amount of time, I was finally connected to a customer service representative. I explained the situation, careful to mention that I realized it wasn’t the representative’s fault that they were not given proper information on the release of the iPhone4. To which the ethereal voice on the phone said “that’s our policy.” “It’s your policy to keep your representatives in the dark?” I asked. The question went unanswered.

I continued to inquire about upgrading my phone on my current contract. Again, I was told “our policy is that you must complete or buy-out your existing contract before you can upgrade.” Of course, the service representative reiterated several times, what a valuable customer I am! It was at this point, I asked to speak with someone, anyone, who was in the position to look at my entire customer relationship record and authorized to make a decision.

Customer Relationship Management disconnected!

After numerous transfers and unassailable ‘service’ representatives, in exasperation, I asked to speak to the Customer Service supervisor. I was told that they “were not available” to take my call. I indicated that for a long term and supposedly ‘valued customer’ they should be willing to take the call and became insistent. Finally, the supervisor (or someone posing as him) came to the phone. Once again, I explained the situation and was told what a “valuable customer” I was and that it would only cost me $400. When I pushed for a reason again I was told “our policy...”

Customer Relationship Management reconnected!

I needed to speak with someone higher up the food chain – someone who could override the “policy” and make a customer situation ‘right’. I’m not sure if it was my tenacity or if I finally reached the right person, but someone who was very apologetic eventually did get on the line. What should have been a simple transaction, based on customer information in a Cloud CRM software, turned into a policy odyssey that left a customer eventually satisfied but puzzled and uncertain..

In an era of economic downturns and austerity among consumers, it is unthinkable that a company is willing to toss aside even one long term customer. It was apparent from the beginning of this transaction that everyone from the store representative to the last customer service representative had access to my customer history. What is also apparent is that none of them had the authority to work with that history.

When the system overrides the common sense of the company representatives, the system is at fault. Management must empower the company representatives to work with the customer history and make sure that customers are managed by the relationship and not the policy set down in the system itself.

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