CRM = Customers Really Matter!

by Peter Thorpe

Why do so many companies spend a fortune upgrading their systems and forget to upgrade their people?

Recently, I decided the time had come to upgrade my car. As always, I shopped around, looking for the best deal and that ever elusive enigma of modern times – a car salesman you can trust! (And yes, I used the politically incorrect term ‘salesman’ because my entire search failed to find even one car saleswoman for some strange reason).

Anyway, back to my quest:

Finally, I settled on a smart looking dealership on Sydney’s upmarket North Shore. The salesman was courteous and efficient and offered me what looked like a pretty good deal. I was starting to think my judgment was well placed, when a few days after I bought it, a well written letter arrived in the mail. It congratulated me on the wisdom of my purchase from said dealer and contained a Customer Satisfaction Survey, asking me pertinent questions about the levels of service I had received and my overall experience of the transaction. Questions like:
“Have you been contacted by the salesperson who sold you the vehicle since taking delivery?” (The answer to this question was, “no” but it was early days yet and I felt there was still time for the young man who sold it to me, to get in touch).

It went on to ask questions like – How satisfied were you with the following:

  • The salesperson’s product knowledge
  • The overall purchase experience
  • Were the vehicle’s features and operations demonstrated correctly?
  • Was the documentation and paperwork explained correctly?

A new acronym – SNACS
Let me tell you, by this stage, I was pretty impressed. I was about to add a new acronym to my vocabulary: SNACS – Sensitive New Age Car Salespeople! These people really know what they are doing, I thought. The last question was the cruncher:

• Based on your overall experience, would you recommend our dealership to your relatives and friends?

Aha, good marketing, I thought. These people understand the value of building relationships. I was beginning to feel that people’s general perceptions of car sales people were perhaps a little harsh and unjust. There really are people out there who know how to do it right. The others just didn’t know where to look!

But wait – there’s more…
Then, a strange thing occurred that changed my mind. I happened to notice that the dealer hadn’t signed and stamped the warranty papers. No big deal, I thought. I”ll ring the salesman (Lee, was his name) and ask him to correct this for me.

“Lee is tied up with a customer at the moment,” the receptionist politely informed me. “Can I get him to call you back?”

“Certainly,” I replied and left my number. Later that day, he still hadn’t returned my call, so I called again. Perhaps he hadn’t got the message, I thought or maybe he had forgotten. “Lee has gone out and won’t be back until late,” I was told. I enquired whether he had received my earlier message, she confirmed he had and I left a reminder. You can probably guess what’s coming next…

After my fourth unreturned phone call, I was starting to get pretty hot under the collar. By this time, any good will they had built up was starting to dissipate faster than an Icy Pole in the Simpson Desert. When I enquired as to why he had not returned my calls, the receptionist said, “Lee has been very busy lately. He’s been training a new salesman.” No doubt training him in the same mould as himself, I thought!

I finally got to speak to Lee, by obtaining his mobile phone number and ringing it until he personally answered. My first question to him was: “Would have ignored my calls like that, if I was a prospective buyer?”

Of course he wouldn’t! He didn’t have any problems returning my calls when I was buying the car. What happened to me after I became a customer? Did I suddenly contact some rare, communicable disease that was able to be spread over the telephone? And how did he know that I wasn’t ringing to give him the name of a friend or relative who wanted to buy a car?

He had probably assumed that the only reason I would be calling him was because I had a problem. And you can’t make money out of problems (in his opinion), you can only make money out of sales. Lee had broken the golden rule of relationship marketing – after sales care. For the sake of a 20 cent, five minute phone call, he had blown away any chance of ever selling me another car, let alone the dozens of recommendations and referrals I might have made to my wide network of business associates and friends.

The real meaning of CRM
This is a classic example of where so many sales people and companies get it wrong. They simply forget to perform the basics. They spend fortunes on installing high tech CRM (Customer Relationship Management) programs and forget to simply provide some good old-fashioned after sales service. They don’t realise that the best way to create life-long customers and advocates (unpaid salespeople who go around recommending your business to other people) is to simply pay attention to the customer’s needs after the sale has taken place.

This is why most CRM programs fail dismally. Companies go to great lengths to update their systems and software with the latest and greatest technology but they fail to update the most important part of any successful CRM program – their people!

They also fail to realise that happy customers are the vital ingredient of any successful business. Which brings me to a new meaning I’ve come up with for CRM – Customers Really Matter!