Category: Learning

Beware Of Inactive Inboxes

We have a curious problem in our apartment, Not something which can be resolved by calling a plumber or electrician.

There are 8 flats in this apartment and we have a small association of owners. We meet once in a while and discuss things such as maintenance fee, current issues, possible solutions etc.,

In paper, this sounds good, But in reality, it’s near impossible for us to gather all the house owners (just 8 of them) in one place. So, we kept postponing these meetings and many issues went untouched.

One fine day, we decided to sort this by using the power of internet. Someone created an Email group, asked all the owners to join there and we started interacting regularly. As we could read / respond to Emails offline at our convenience, this was very useful and we all liked it.

All, except two.

One of these owners, had an Email ID, But never used it. So he missed all important updates and was always raising a flag on every issue ‘when did you discuss this? I am not even aware of it!’

‘But we sent you an Email.’

‘Sorry, I don’t check my mail at all, you should have called me in phone and informed.’

Another owner, didn’t even know what an Email is. In fact, he never touched a computer in his life till date. So, he missed all updates too.

Thankfully, the other 6 owners had active Email IDs, and were checking / responding to Emails. But we could see some mismatches in the frequency of checking Emails, for example, couple of us checked Emails every few minutes, while others did it by end of the day, or even end of the week. As a result, we couldn’t make any decisions fast enough.

To summarize, eventho’ we had an Email group and discussing things, there is no assurance that all the concerned people get updated promptly. This brings down the overall effectiveness of the Email Group itself.

If this is the case with just 8 members, imagine what will happen with Marketing teams trying to push messages to hundreds of thousands of customers in their CRM Database. You may be sending a beautiful Email Newsletter, but 20% of your contacts may never open it, another 20% may open it late, effectively spoiling your party.

With “Social” messages, the risk is even higher. Most of your contacts in the CRM Database, may not be active in Social Media / check updates regularly, What is the point in touching base with them at great expense? May be they need to be contacted in a different channel?

To take care of this serious communication issue, it is advisable for marketing organizations to start analyzing their existing contacts and split them into different buckets such as:

  • Email Aware
  • Email Active
  • Social Media Aware
  • Social Media Active
  • None

This is just a sample, we may have more buckets like this, but the point is, if we know how active the contact is in various channels (by just asking them, “What is your preferred mode of communication? Email / Phone/ Twitter / Facebook / Others?”) we can push the same message to different people in different channels and expect a higher HIT Rate.

For example, a single campaign message may go to 20% of my contacts via direct mail (Post), another 20% in Email, 40% by Social Media etc., based on the bucket where they are. This way we ensure that a message has a higher chance of making an impact, by not falling on an inactive inbox / facebook wall.

Naga Chokkanathan

Senior Director, CRMIT

(Originally Published in http://nagachokkanathan.wordpress.com/2012/03/29/why-not-beware-of-inactive-inboxes/)

Understanding Service Delivery Gaps

The earlier article on Excelling in Service Quality would have helped you to identify the five elements of service quality (Reliability, Assurance, Tangibles, Empathy, Responsiveness) that you have to focus on to exceed your customer satisfaction. But what is more interesting to understand is to know what creates the Gap between the perceived levels of Service Quality VS the expected level of service by the customer. The Gaps model helps you to understand that better by splitting the gaps into four different constituents. Understanding these gaps, measuring and narrowing down the gaps would help you to reach the ultimate objective of exceeding your customer expectations. The below picture summarizes the Gaps model where Customer Gap = Gap 1 + Gap 2 + Gap 3 + Gap 4

Gap 1 generally arises due to difference in understanding of customer expectation by front end analysts who elicit customer requirements. You can consider this as not knowing what the customer expects / the knowledge gap. This can happen due to multiple reasons like capability of the Analyst who elicit the customer requirements, not interacting with the right mix of customer contacts, not listening the customer, Language / cultural barriers, not asking the right questions, too many layers of management etc

Gap 2 arises due to translation of analyst understanding of customer requirements to service specifications / design. This is the services design and standards Gap. This primarily happens due to constraints (technology, people, process) that limits your ability to map the customer needs, not so flexible in-house processes to adopt to customer needs, lack of capability in translating the requirements specs to a well rounded design etc

Gap 3 is due to difference in the way the design is done against how it is actually executed. This is the services performance gap. This primarily happens due incompetence of delivery staff, process non compliance, employee-company conflict, high empowerment leading to people taking ad-hoc decisions etc

Gap 4 is due to difference in what is promised to the customer against what is actually delivered to the customer. This is due to you not in a position to deliver what you promised to the customer. Most obvious reason could be false promises by Sales / Marketing staff to the customer, poor expectations management etc

Unless you have tight measures to manage each of the Gaps by having right checkpoints, audits, surveys, reviews etc you may not be able to reduced the Customer Gap which is the difference between the expected service of the customer and perceived service.

Venkatesan Sundaram

Senior Director, CRMIT

(Originally Published in : http://venkysundaram.wordpress.com/2012/03/28/understanding-service-delivery-gaps/)

Clarity In Communication

Saw a newspaper advertisement for a general insurance service, with the following text prominently displayed:

No Claim Bonus

Of course, people in the insurance industry / those who bought insurance / made claims earlier will immediately understand this as:

If you don’t make any claims in the policy period, you get a bonus

However, assuming most of the  people reading this advertisement (and are primary targets) are laymen and won’t understand this “No Claim” terminology, what will they see in this Ad?

No Bonus

You may call that silly, but when I look at the words “No” and “Bonus” near to each other, I naturally assume this company is refusing to pay me bonus (for whatever reason). There is no clarity to teach me that they are actually paying me bonus, for not making any claims.

This whole  communication gap could’ve been avoided if the company did some beta testing of its Advertisement text, they would have come up with better alternatives such as:

Bonus for No Claims

Attractive No-claim Bonus

When millions of dollars are spent on advertisement, we can never ‘assume’ things, it is better to be clear, than create a wrong impression in the target readers’ mind.

Naga Chokkanathan,

Director, Presales, CRMIT

Misusing CRM : How to understand / avoid this

How many times have you seen a person trying to use a hammer while fixing a car’s engine, despite knowing the fact that he will not succeed? Or may be somebody trying to drive a nail from the rubberized side of a screwdriver, which is equally useless. We all know that every tool has a purpose, but still there are some always looking for an opportunity to use a tool for a reason other than what it is designed for. Same is the case with CRM.

Some businesses often make the mistake of taking Customer Relationship Management as software where all the data can be populated and problems will be solved magically. However, the truth is, CRM works like a discipline, where CRM software can be used to upgrade the discipline and automate its data management features. It is a tool and only using it right can facilitate you in finding success. Its applications do not create a problem, but the pesky users who work with it make it happen. Let’s have a look at common misuses of CRM.

CRM Systems & Sales Managers

With one of the toughest job profiles in an organization, sales managers are always fully loaded with the responsibility of motivating and communicating with group of people regarding byzantine information, be it lead changes, new collateral, sales contests and so on. Therefore, sales managers get an automated insight into sales pipeline through Customer Relationship Management software via how quickly sales staff enters the data into CRM. Though blunt words from managers, at times, can prove helpful for salespeople, but overdoing it may cause a drop in usage of CRM system. And due to the unpleasant behavior of the manager, sales staff will quickly catch on to the source of his anger and will gradually stop using CRM system, thinking that why load the system with data that will ultimately drive manager to turn around and use the data against them. So, if sales managers do not want to get into a situation where they will have only a partial idea of how the pipeline looks like, they should be careful while using info from CRM system.

CRM : A Silo Or Tool for Breaking Silos?

CRM is very good at collecting data, be it comprehensive reports or customer records, but these are just a way to increase the office paper costs, particularly if not put to some use. This is a common problem, because many organizations make sure that data is flowing into the system and is keeping sales organized, but actually fail to connect with the rest of the organization. The data that was equally helpful for support, marketing and R&D team may not be able to make it to other constituents, just because there is no pathway. Now, this is an organizational issue that should be tackled at the outset of CRM strategy development. So, it is always advisable to use CRM system in a way that it breaks down silos, rather of becoming a silo itself.

Charu Mehta

CRM Consultant, CRMIT

Listening To Customers : Very Valuable!

Here is a wonderful CRM story I read today, about listening to your customers!

J Sainsbury Plc, a London based prominent retailer has recently decided to chang the name of their “Tiger” bread to “Giraffe” bread. Reason? Feedback from a customer!

So, what’s new? Everyone listens to customer feedback, once in a while they change the product name, Nothing great!

True. But this news item is unique because, the feedback actually came from a 3 year old baby, and the big fat organization listened to this very young customer and decided to make the required changes.

Lily Robinson, the now-famous baby who gave that feedback, saw the tiger bread and stated that it has more resemblance to Giraffe Bread.

Chris King, working in J Sainsbury’s customer service team picked up Lily’s letter and replied “renaming tiger bread giraffe bread is a brilliant idea, it looks much more like the blotches on a giraffe than the stripes on a tiger, doesn’t it?” and he thanked little Lily Robinson for helping them see the spots for what they are.

Reading this story, one thing that really stroke my mind was how listening to customers can prove helpful. We all are familiar with the fact that listening is one of the most important skills, when dealing with customers, but do we really know how to listen?

Well, the reality is that we just pretend to listen and usually, try to overcome the situations by stating “thinking about your response” or may be “wondering how this will impact your work”.

To really listen to our customers, we need to put ego aside and open ourselves to the customers. Although this is difficult, it is an effective way to drive a positive impact on customers. This helps to enhance the customer experience and improve the product and service base.

When a customer complains, that means he / she wants the products of our company to serve him / her better. This is an effectual way to share the important happenings in our industry that customer is actually seeing from the opposite side of the street. So, just love when customers complain.

To learn more about how an open minded approach to negative feedback boasts earnings and morale, read this interesting article from ‘inc’ magazine :
http://www.inc.com/vanessa-merit-nornberg/why-i-love-when-customers-complain.html

Charu Mehta,

CRM Consultant, CRMIT

SmartCon

Sugar CRM conducts a conference called SugarCon and they are promoting it heavily through various channels. Today I got an Email about this conference and found a curious announcement there:

To be frank, there is nothing new in this scheme:

  1. All major conferences invite experts to present sessions
  2. It is quite common to ask them to present their topics / ideas online
  3. With the emerging Social Web, participants vote and decide which topics should be presented in a conference

Now, Sugar CRM has combined this #1, #2 and #3 to a powerful Email Campaign, whereby it asks general public to submit their ideas and present them, if those ideas get enough votes. Smart, But nothing great.

But, look at it from the Social CRM perspective, you will understand how Sugar CRM has scored many big wins here:

  • By making this sound like a contest, they are inviting clicks, whether people submit ideas or not, they will come to the website and read all about it
  • They have opened this ‘Submit your ideas’ to everybody, not just experts, a perfect Social Web Scenario (More participation, better conversations, better relationships)
  • By adding a prize (Free pass to SugarCon) element, they have made this more attractive, BUT it is not going to cost them anything, in fact having a speaker for free saves them money!
  • But, what if many people jump at the opportunity and submit stupid ideas, just to get a free pass to the conference?
  • No problem, introduce votes, Only if your topic gets high number of votes, you will win your pass
  • This actually means, Sugar CRM needn’t appoint anybody to moderate / filter out junk topics, they are filtered by the real users, for free!
  • OKay, What if I ask my friends and coworkers to vote for me?
  • Again, No Problem, When you do that, you are indirectly selling my product (conference) to others, getting me new leads, again for free. So let me go and encourage you to do it (Notice the place where Sugar CRM actually asks you to spread the message, for your own sake of course 😉 )
  • They haven’t announced how many such ‘public’ sessions will be presented in Sugar Con, Means they can control what is the ‘minimum number of votes’ you need to win the pass, and this can be used to eliminate all those ‘stupid, yet popular’ topics
  • Best part is, they are making the CRM community think of innovative topics to be presented in SugarCon, that way it will be driven by real users, not just few experts / thought leaders, Priceless!
– Naga Chokkanathan, Direct (Innovation), CRMIT