Customer Relationship Mismanagement

It’s interesting to me how badly large companies screw up the use of their CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software. The whole point of acquiring such expensive software is so you can — as unobtrusively as possible — manage your organization’s relationships with its customers, from advertising and initial contact through maintenance and warranty repair, then the eventual trade-in and upgrade of whatever it is you sell.

I have yet to encounter a company that does CRM right, although I will allow the possibility that the companies that do it right are doing it so right that it’s not possible for me to notice they actually are doing it right.

The central idea of CRM derives from the notion that a corporation can maximize profits by making all of its points of contact with a customer transparent to the entire organization. The result of proper use of such technology would be only bothering your customer when it’s appropriate to do so, in a way that is similarly appropriate.

Let me tell you about some encounters I’ve had with CRM done wrong. And yes, I know I’m making a sizeable assumption that these companies have CRM in place. I do think I can safely assume at least one of the examples below has such a thing in force.

I bought a car in December 2012. I keep cars for around ten years. I buy them new, take them in for service at appropriate intervals, take good care of them, and run them until they suffer catastrophic failure or become otherwise unreliable. Until my car reaches that terminal state, I am not interested in replacing it.

Starting about one year after purchase, the dealer began contacting me via flyers, emails, leaflets, catalogues, personal letters, and phone calls from salesmen (they’ve all been guys so far), asking me to drop by their office and discuss trading in my car — something completely uninteresting to me, especially since trading at the one year mark would make absolutely zero financial sense.

I receive at least one such contact every month — sometimes several. They waste an incredible amount of money just on me; I can’t imagine what their total budget is for this absurdity, which is at best neutral in the eyes of their customers and at worst a positive annoyance. When I bought the car, I told the salesman I keep cars for a long time. This information could easily have been entered into their CRM system. Used correctly, they could save a ton of money not bothering customers who do not wish to be bothered and from whom they could expect no sales traffic.

Their service department is similarly hobbled. They have a habit of automatically creating service appointments for me to bring in my car and have the oil changed and whatnot, then they barrage me with reminder emails and phone messages on my home answering machine for an appointment I did not make and have no intention of using. They invariably schedule these appointments for times and dates that are incredibly inconvenient and far too soon. If I obeyed their exhortations to bring in my car, I’d be changing the oil every 2000 miles or so, which is patently ridiculous.

At work it’s even worse. My employer has expensive and lengthy contracts with many technology companies, including a leading SAN vendor and one of the major computer manufacturers. Nevertheless, I receive cold calls from the sales departments of these companies, asking about the status of our SAN or server needs. This is especially amusing because I have nil influence on our large purchases. I tell the salesperson we have an ongoing relationship with their employer, so there’s no need to cold-call — we’re their customer already. It would be just as stupid for me to wander downstairs now and ask my wife to marry me. We’re already married!

If these companies were using CRM correctly, the cold-callers would stop before dialing and check to see if they already were working with my employer — or better yet, they could have their CRM system cross-check their intended targets against the list of current customers and remove them from the list, thus getting rid of the possibility of annoying people I assume they would like to continue doing business with.

On a smaller scale, I recently bought a ticket to a local cinema showing of “The Day of the Doctor“. A week before the event, I got email from Fathom offering to sell me tickets for their showing of “The Day of the Doctor”. Why was it so hard for them to run a cross-reference against their list of known purchasers of tickets for the event?

What are your stories of inefficient or inappropriate customer reachout from an organization you’ve done business with?