Forget e-commerce. Forget CRM. Forget e-mail routing software. Please throw it all
away. Perhaps you think I've lost my mind? Maybe it seems I have experienced a breakdown
of some kind? Sadly, the latter is true, as I intend to plead temporary insanity during
the writing of this column. I hope that this brief, but logical, documentation of the past
two weeks' worth of events will help you understand that if we don't concentrate our
efforts on providing better, more user-friendly Web sites, we will drive our customers
insane as well.
I have been involved in the call center market since 1982, since the debut of this
magazine in June of that year. As the years passed, I have seen the introduction of many
tools designed to help companies better communicate with their customers: ACDs, predictive
dialers, speech recognition technology, e-mail routing, Web chat and more. Lately, with
the e-commerce craze coming to a head, there is even more emphasis on augmenting Web sites
with bells and whistles that will allow customers with questions to contact companies.
C@LL CENTER Solutions writes about many bells and whistles, such as Internet
telephony, Web callback and chat. Many of you are spending hundreds of thousands of
dollars or more to implement these solutions. I am glad to be part of an industry that
helps companies improve their customer service. The problem is that many companies are
missing one of the most important aspects of the customer relationship: building a better
Web site. I don't mean faster, or more computationally correct. Just make the blasted
thing intuitive and tell me important things I need to know before I place my order!
Perhaps I seem upset. I am. Here's why.
I take allergy medication daily and purchase it in 30-day amounts. Usually, I go to CVS
Pharmacy once a month to pick up my prescription. When I learned I could request refills
over the Internet, I didn't waste time getting online. There, I learned that CVS would
ship the medication to my home, saving me the trip to the pharmacy. Since I have an
aversion to standing in line for up to an hour with 15 other people every month while my
pharmacist fills my prescription, I decided to try ordering my medicine from www.cvs.com. When the time came for me to select a shipping
method, I chose next-day delivery as my preferred method. All other methods took too long
and I needed the medication quickly.
I promptly forgot I had placed my order until my medication ran out. I went to my
mailbox at this point, expecting a package from CVS, though it occurred to me that a
next-day parcel delivery service probably would have delivered the package to my doorstep.
I checked a seldom-used entrance to my house and saw three stickers from UPS marked
"Attempted Delivery." It had not occurred to me until then that I would have to
sign for the medication when I ordered next-day delivery.
Now, it seems logical to me that the most frequent users of e-commerce are working
people who don?t have time to wait in line at stores. I am such a person and I am not
inclined to wait at home for UPS to come knocking at my door, seeking my signature.
The only way to resolve this issue was to contact a www.cvs.com
call center representative, who very pleasantly told me that she would call in the
prescription to my local store. I couldn't help think that this defeated my original
purpose. If I had been informed of the specifics of the delivery method, I wouldn't have
ordered online in the first place. In speaking with some colleagues about this issue, I
was told (although I have yet to confirm this) that all prescription drugs must be signed
for upon delivery. In either case, it would have been helpful to have been informed of
My second unpleasant experience took place when I ordered from the Vitamin Shoppe's Web site. I have been a Vitamin
Shoppe customer for over five years and have traditionally called in my orders. Recently,
I went to the company's Web site to order and noticed that the descriptions of the various
products on their site were littered with abbreviations, errors and omissions.
Furthermore, few pictures were present to help me ascertain what product I was purchasing.
This can and indeed did cause me a problem. While browsing the site, I was looking for
multivitamins. I decided to order from a manufacturer that produces the Vitamin C
supplements that I like. When my package arrived, I found that my two bottles of
multivitamins totaled over $70. A glance at the labels revealed I had been shipped
"Multivitamins For Women." Although I am no expert on this issue, I assume
something in the formula makes these vitamins unsuitable for men. I felt unwilling to take
on the process of returning the vitamins. I am sure they would have taken back the order,
but I decided not to bother. I gave the vitamins to a friend and purchased different ones
from the local health food store.
I imagine I am not alone in these two unpleasant experiences. E-commerce is one of the
most powerful marketing methods we have, but many of us are not spending the time needed
to make sure our Web sites are easy to navigate, user friendly and filled with useful
For those of you who have been in this industry since the late 1980s and early 1990s,
you may remember that these same issues were a major problem in the world of IVR. Often,
customers would get caught in interminable IVR loops with no hope of escape. Today, it is
much as it was then: Every technology we present to our customers must have a human
aspect. All the technology in the world won?t help you forge strong customer relationships
if your Web site stinks!
Its More Than Software
Recently, while waiting at my home
for a ride to the airport on my latest business trip, I heard the sound of a soft yet
annoying tapping noise at the window in my garage. I opened the garage door to find that
the sound was being produced by a bird trapped inside my garage, repeatedly flying into a
window. Approaching the bird to set him free only increased the speed at which the poor
bird slammed into the various window panes. Eventually, some coaxing led the bird to the
open garage door, where it escaped.
As I pondered this scene on my way to the airport, I couldnt help but wonder if
many of us are going through the same exercise in futility as we try to build a customer
relationship management program in our offices.
When I arrived at the trade show, I realized my hunch was correct. It seemed that every
vendor at the show touted itself as a complete CRM solutions provider. Further
interrogation led each vendor to explain to me that their CRM solution is vastly different
from everyone elses. Of course, when 25 people tell me that their solutions are
unique, I get skeptical and so should you. How can anyone implement a CRM solution when no
two solutions providers agree on what CRM means?
Recently, I had an opportunity to speak with Jody Wacker of Apropos Technology, who told me, CRM is not a
product, it is a process. Jody is absolutely correct. Vendors are touting complete
solutions, but providing superior CRM must be the mission of the company first and a
software solution second.
I would venture to say that a company with limited technology, but a desire to provide
their customers with the best service will always come out ahead of a company with
superior software that doesnt have the drive to provide their customers with the
Having said this, it seems obvious that the best solution is a mix of the best
technology coupled with the best philosophy of providing world-class service and support.
To that end, it must be up to you to concentrate on making sure the philosophy of ideal
customer service is already instilled in your organization. If you are aiming to learn how
to implement the best CRM solution for your company, come to CTI EXPO Fall 99, December 7-9 in
Las Vegas, and witness the live CRM demonstration sponsored by Quintus Corporation.
In keeping with TMCs history of providing you with the most relevant,
up-to-the-minute demonstrations, Quintus will exhibit a live, working CRM demonstration
that coexists with the live, multimedia, blended call center right on the show floor. The
live, multimedia call center in at CTI EXPO Spring 99 in Washington D.C. had a
final tally of 11,000 phone calls made during the event. No other show I have attended has
ever done this on the show floor and believe me, I attend them all.
Quintus will demonstrate a variety of stations that are vital in any CRM
implementation. By coming to the show, you can learn firsthand about the actual substance
behind what has become a tremendous amount of CRM hype in the call center industry. Best
of all, you will learn how CRM works into the overall call center implementation.
As customer service evolves and we struggle to evolve with it, it is important to know
what direction to fly in before we start flapping our wings. Apparently, birds are
resilient and can rebound quite nicely after repeatedly flying into a window. Perhaps you,
too, have hit a window once or twice in your career. The goal of this publication and
indeed the mission of TMC as a whole is to provide you with the information vital to
your career and your company to keep you soaring on the right trajectory. Nothing is worse
than devoting your resources to a misdirected initiative. Please come to CTI EXPO Fall 99, December 7-9 in
Las Vegas, Nevada, and we will help you prepare your customer relationship
management for the next millennium. If you register online today at www.ctiexpo.com, youll save $25 off the
admission price of the show. I hope to see you there.