HIgh Priority!

CRM: Putting the RM Before the C

By Erik Linask, Group Editorial Director  |  March 01, 2012

This article originally appeared in the March issue of Customer Interaction Solutions

Verizon and AT&T (News - Alert) both began using terms like 4G and LTE in their advertising well in advance of network and device rollouts, preparing customers for the next great thing in communications. Remember the HTC (News - Alert) Thunderbolt ad that was initially launched without the “coming soon” moniker at the end? (http://tmcnet.com/59102.1

Every time I saw it, I confirmed my decision to wait for the thunder to come in order to trade in my BlackBerry (News - Alert), rather than escaping early on the ferry to Steve Jobs’ iLand. It’s a decision I would take again.

But, what I also wondered as I watched the two top American wireless carriers boast about their new networks, was are they neglecting what may well turn into a key customer segment for them – the Baby Boomers?

We dedicate a tremendous amount of editorial real estate to interactions with customers once they have purchased products and how to retain them. Yet, we sometimes neglect the fact that, in order to offer quality customer service and care, we must first acquire customers. There is customer relationship development to be done before any CRM can happen.

Which brings me back to the Baby Boomers. Those of us in the tech world know LTE (News - Alert), 4G, WiFi, Droid, App, and all the other terms and acronyms that go along with today’s mobile services. But unless you follow the space to some degree, you’re not going to know what they are.

So, when I saw this Saturday Night Live skit poking fun at Verizon, I thought back to the first 4G commercials. How can you sell a product when your buyer doesn’t know what it is? How do you build a relationship and turn a prospect into a buyer when he doesn’t know what you are selling or how it will help him? Here’s the SNL skit: http://tmcnet.com/59101.1.

Yes, more smartphones and tablets are being purchased by younger generations, and to a large degree, they are much more in tune with the latest tech trends and language than their parents. Which is precisely why mobile operators must focus on those parents, making sure they understand what the latest technologies mean to them. They already see what their kids are doing with their Motorola (News - Alert) RAZRs, the younger, more exciting siblings to the originals many parents are still using. But they don’t have use cases to which they can relate.

So, operators have to find those use cases and approach this market segment with them. It might be about keeping in touch; or it might be about playing a role in their kids’ education; or it might be about following local sports organizations; or it might be about avoiding long lines and creating the best possible amusement park experience.

It could be just about anything – but they have to be depicted as simple, personal, logical use cases, not as chilling acronyms and eye-glazing tech lingo.

The fact is, at some point – the sooner the better, so operators can reduce spending – we’re operators will seek to shut down legacy networks completely. But, not until the strong majority of legacy subscribers have voluntarily migrated to newer technologies. Anything else would be damaging. In order for that to happen – before operators can shut down their legacy networks – they will have to convince Baby Boomers they want to be on LTE networks.

But, they can’t do it by creating an “old person’s nightmare,” as SNL referred to the scenario. Rather, they need to understand that in a BYOD world, where devices, services, and applications are all very personal, so, too, must be customer relationship building, retention, and acquisition efforts.

The theory extends to all businesses. By building the right pre-sale scenarios, providing the appropriate education, and setting the appropriate expectations, customer relationships begin at a much higher level and, even when challenges arise, they will be more likely to be tolerant as they are overcome. Furthermore, beginning the relationship building process in advance of the actual sale is likely to have a positive impact on overall revenue.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi