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In the Worldwide Madness of Going Digital, the Tendency is Doing Everything Digitally; However, There is No Substitute for the Personal Touch!
October 08, 2008
 
By Nadji Tehrani, Chairman and CEO
(This article originally appeared in the April 2007 issue of Customer Interactions Solutions.)
 
In many of these editorials, I have often stressed that companies live or die from repeat business. Repeat business, naturally, comes from customer care, customer satisfaction and overall customer relationship management (CRM).
 
For one thing, it costs 10 times more to find a new customer than it does to keep a present customer satisfied. This alone should give any savvy manager reason to place maximum value on customer care, customer satisfaction and CRM.
 
Having worked with a lot of businesses and, most notably, the airlines, I have noticed that customer care leaves very much to be desired. Not only has food service on long flights disappeared, but you might say that the friendly service has also gone out the window with the food. Hence, so many airlines are in trouble. Don’t let anyone tell you that it is all because of fuel prices.
 
Today’s mad rush toward the digital world has created many problems when it comes to CRM. In this digital world, the tendency is to do everything electronically and automatically, and this could be the biggest mistake of them all.
 
Even before the “digital madness” began, customers — particularly those with issues, concerns or problems — expected near-immediate response to their inquiries. We are now in an age when e-mails and instant messages to colleagues and friends are often met with instantaneous response.
 
The importance of responding to customers in a timely manner has never been greater. In whatever medium you are responding, if you want to have the best chance of satisfying your customer, your response had better be immediate, or nearly immediate; i.e., within the same business day for morning inquiries and the next business morning for afternoon inquiries.
 
Lessons Learned From Telemarketing
In the early days of telemarketing, we learned that you need to tailor-make the message to show value or benefit to the audience in question. We also learned that one-size-fits-all never works in a telemarketing script or any other kind of presentation to customers. The bottom line: just like in direct marketing, the most effective way to get results from your marketing dollar is to customize your message to your audience, which is the definition of database marketing.
 
Lessons Learned From Database Marketing
If you allowed me two words to describe database marketing, I would call it “mass customization.” We learned that mass customization works exceptionally well, as opposed to “shotgun marketing,” which many marketers used earlier with very little results. Customer care and CRM could learn a lesson from the above experiences. In other words, not all customers would like to get their customer service answers digitally, and not all would like their inquiries handled by phone. Therefore, the dilemma is: what else can we do to solve this problem?
 
A great lesson that we learned in the early days of telemarketing could certainly be applicable to CRM today. Those lessons could be summarized as follows:
 
  • If the customer responded to your phone calls via e-mail, this means that the customer prefers to receive all inquiries via e-mail;
  • If the customer responded to your phone call with another phone call, this means that particular customer prefers handling all sales-related questions by telephone;
  • If a customer prefers to use a fax in response to your telephone call, we learned that with that particular customer, we should communicate via fax.
 
The Old Telemarketing Rules Also Apply to CRM
Instead of responding to all customer inquires via e-mail or digitally, it would be wise to find out the customer’s preference. In other words, if the customer prefers to be contacted by e-mail, then and only then can we respond to his or her customer service matters via e-mail.
 
If the customer, on the other hand, responded by a telephone call to your e-mail regarding CRM matters, then you should make a note of that and always try (whenever possible) to respond to that customer by phone.
 
In the same way, if a customer sent you a fax regarding a CRM matter, you should then consider responding to his or her customer care questions via fax. In my humble opinion, there is really no other way except asking the customer how he or she would like to be contacted.
 
The Personal Touch is Vital
Regardless of the preferred mode of communication with customers, one should never lose sight of the personal touch. E-mail and fax are generally a very cold way of handling a potentially serious CRM problem. A great lesson that can be learned from relationship marketing is that personal touch (i.e., a personal visit followed by a telephone call) can often go a long way toward solving a customer service problem and/or a serious CRM problem.
 
One must always recognize that relationship in business is everything. If the customer has a strong relationship with a vendor, he or she would tend to neglect small problems and somehow manage to remain satisfied. However, in the absence of a strong relationship, every little problem could become a major problem; in other words, a mountain would be created from a molehill. If we understand that relationship building can be done only through personal visits, personal contact and personal social participation, then it is absolutely vital that we always keep that part of CRM as the highest priority in customer relationship management.

Nadji Tehrani is Chairman and CEO of Technology Marketing Corporation.

Edited by Erik Linask

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