Loyalty is a two way street, or it should be Direct Magazine June 28, 2000

The scene is childhood in the 1950’s. You’ve just come home from a trip to the supermarket with your mother. She passes you a sheet of little green stamps and a book to stick them into. Finally, after weeks of collecting and licking and sticking stamps enough books are full to warrant sitting down with the catalogue of all the neat stuff you could “buy” with the books of stamps.

For those of us too young to have participated in that primordial, philatelic pastime, let’s fast forward to the mid ’80’s. In droves we joined the ranks of”frequent flyers”, flitting from airline to airline to take advantage of the latest promotion for triple miles between Oshkosh and Oshawa. It was fun…for awhile.

Then came the ’90’s   sales slid…costs climbed…profits peaked.

Suddenly, like a virulent contagious disease that remains undetected until the emergency wards fill up, the dernier cri was unleashed on an unsuspecting consuming public…customer loyalty programs! Things to collect like membership cards, points and more points. Stuff to receive like newsletters, free samples, special services. Places to belong like clubs and circles. Wonderful words to describe you like Premium, Select, Priviligé. You and your peers, whoever they are, from kids to seniors.

Cookies, coffee, cat food, credit cards or cars, it seems no product is immune (or not for long) from the scourge of customer loyalty programs. In fact, I’m sure it could be a full-time occupation just keeping up with them all.

” But, but, but…”, I hear the marketing managers sputtering. “We have to get customers to stay with us. We have to compete. We’re building a database that allows us to track customer behaviour around the clock. We have all this information at our disposal. Look at this powerful new program, these prestigious new premiums, our bountiful new benefits. We’re giving away gifts. We’re giving away goodies. We’re giving away margin…”

You’re giving away the farm.

Know why? Loyalty can’t be bought. At least, not for long.

Not to mention it may all just be getting to be a teensy bit much too much for people to take. In medicine, when the disease takes over the patient dies. In marketing, when the customer reaches overload…you know what happens next.

Let’s put on our consumer hats for a minute. I ask, “Hey, Marketing World! This is not only about my loyalty to you! What have you done to deserve my loyalty? You’ve pushed merchandise at me. You’ve mailed me more stuff than I ever care to read. You’ve invaded my privacy. I’ve got a wallet full of every conceivable form of membership identification. Every breath I take, every move I make has been data captured, data processed and data based (or may be it’s de-based). Hello, out there. Anybody home?”

All I, and, I think, most consumers really want from a “loyalty program” is:

  1. To perceive that what you’re trying to get me to do has some genuine substance and relevance for me…personally. Too often marketers seem to assume people are just sitting waiting for their first next bright idea. Wrong. My life has context and texture and a lot going on in it. That wonderful database will tell you all about it. Now, what are you going to do for me that ninety-nine others won’t do?
  2. Not to have to work at this loyalty thing. Just make it easy for me. Don’t ask me to remember to carry goofy little cards around, or make me wade through encyclopedias of instructions and wait weeks and weeks before collecting “my rewards”. Relationships with my nears and dears keep me busy enough, thank you. Don’t ask me to go out of my way to work at one with you, because I simply won’t.
  3. A little love in your heart, as the old song goes. OK, that may be pushing it, so I’ll settle for a little empathy…human being to human being. The target market of one. What that looks like is well-researched, substantiated approaches, real thought put into the use of technology, delivered through tactics that aren’t intrusive in an obvious way.
  4. Delivery on your promises…and then some! You earn the right to receive my loyalty and maybe, just maybe, I’ll stick around.

 Charles de Gruchy remembers how it was

Interactive and what hasn’t changed – Strategy Magazine February 13, 1994

It’s been said that the trouble with the future is that it usually arrives before we’re ready for it and, in interactive media, the future has started to arrive, heralded (as it usually is) by the unmistakable sound of money hitting the table.

If you’re looking for opportunities to grow your business via interactive media, the key word is opportunities. We’re a long way from a significant reality…and not just in the technology department.

Somebody finally thought to ask consumers what they think of it all. A study conducted by Advertising Age found that only 19.1% of US consumers are even aware of the concept of interactive media. 80.4% were not aware of interactive media at all! Despite the proliferation of front-page banner headlines, business news stories and hyper hype.

So, who’s going to be the home shopper of the electronic future?

Traditionally, 60% of shopping from home has been conducted by women, but when it comes to TV shopping almost 50% are men. Does that say men spend more time watching TV? It probably depends on the day of the week and the progress of the home team!

Not surprisingly, age plays an important role in TV shopping. In theory, retired people have the time, money and interest in TV to be good prospects, however, scarcely 11% of retirees actually shop from TV. Meanwhile, almost 45% of TV shoppers are under the age of 35. Compare this to traditional catalogue shoppers where less than 33% are under 35 while almost 14% are in the senior age bracket.

Traditionally, the majority of paper catalogs appeal to a, relatively, up-market crowd. Almost 40% of catalog-shopping households earn over $40 thousand. TV shoppers, on the other hand, have been decidedly down-market with almost 45% earning $25 thousand or less.

Given the billions of potential sales dollars all the articles about interactive tell us about, the gentrification of TV home shopping is to be expected. Upscale American catalogers are not jumping on the band-wagon to sell junk jewellery to housebound women from blue-collar households with overextended credit cards which is how traditional marketers have generalized home shoppers.

Interactive television and the super information highway has become the buzzword of the 90’s, but, by the time it all comes into existence, I’m afraid, we’ll all be tired hearing about it.

There was a wonderful cartoon in the Globe and Mail recently. The scene is a dark and stormy winter’s night. Snow is piled to the eaves of an isolated house. The first dialogue balloon says, “Another ferocious blizzard! No power! No phone! No TV! No computer! We’re totally cut off from the information superhighway!”  The responding balloon says, “Isn’t it wonderful?”

Despite all the news stories assuring us it’s just around the corner, at the moment, interactive TV is confined to some very localized testing in the US among a few thousand households. Predictions are that systems will roll out from 1996 to 2000 and that by 2000, $3.5 trillion in worldwide sales will be conducted through interactive TV. Meanwhile, the Canadian company, Videotron, has had a modest head start in Quebec since 1990 with the largest, most advanced system and 230,000 subscribers.

What does it all mean for marketers? For starters, don’t panic–time is on your side so let those with the most money iron out the bugs first. Likewise, don’t cancel your printing contracts. The paper media won’t disappear. It will  (or should) change to integrate with all marketing efforts in whatever media, so get ready for a metamorphosis. Tune in now to learn for the future. Get involved, if you can, in helping mold the products and services consumers will be offered. Build relationships with people, and companies who are in the fore-front of technological developments.

Since the superhighway is still in the future, in the meantime, try to learn how to use television. And, look for co-venture opportunities because it’s often too expensive to do on your own.

In the end, always keep in mind that it’s only the media that has changed. You still must offer high quality products at affordable prices, satisfaction and personal service.

Joel Barker, the author who made “paradigm” the business buzzword of the early 90’s said, “The best time to look at new ideas is well before you need them”.

And, I say, the time to start looking at interactive media is now But, look hard before you leap! Don’t forget about that 80% of people who have yet to figure out what interactive media means…and could care less!

Charles de Gruchy remembers how it was

Privacy at any price! Strategy Magazine March 05, 2002

Anybody here seen my old friend “accountability”?

The one thing traditional direct marketers can now say about the dot com world is that it provides an opportunity to validate many of the strategies and policies that have guided profitable companies for many years. Now that profitability is coming back into fashion, maybe we’ll start to hear more about how that happens. In the meantime, the dot coms are learning  some old lessons the hard  way. Lessons learned long ago by traditional direct marketers and list owners. Such as privacy policy. The difference now is that the issue of customer privacy is further complicated by the issue of company bankruptcy.

As a consequence,  it may be time to really start seriously worrying about the potential for government intervention in privacy. But, guess what, it may not be in the form of legislation. The government may just sue you. That day came recently for toysmart.com.

In early June, the company filed for bankruptcy protection and authority to sell its assets by public sale. The assets were split into the expected categories including leases, furniture and equipment, software and operating systems. An additional category included web site applications, trademarks, product designs and customer lists and related information. Because this was a public sale, the assets were listed in the Wall Street Journal and….  The public nature of the process brought the issue to the attention of the companies own privacy …mark licensor, Truste. With overtones of government sanction, Truste  has established itself as a leader in authenticating the privacy polisies of the companies whish are licencees. By offering the customer list and related information as part of a public sale of assets of the bankrupt operation, toysmart.com  stumbled over their own privacy policy, the policy they had paid Trustee to endorse. Truste, viewing the sale as an attempt to pass customer information to a third party without customers’ consent, began its stated process of dealing with the situation. First, trying, unsuccessfully, to make contact with toysmart executives. In the frenzy of dealing with a crumbling company, no doubt toysmart executives thought messages from Trustee were the least of their worries. Their mistake was forgetting the process their license gave leave to Truste to pursue….alerting the FTC and suggesting that the potential sale mioght be classified as unfair and deceptive marketing practices. The FTC agreed, and sued to prevent the sale of the database.

Parent company, Disney, has very quickly stepped in to stem a potential public relations nightmare resulting from the situation. But, let’s look at what went wrong.

  1. Remember to never say never — Users have a right to informed consent; and   No single privacy principle is adequate for all situations Two cornerstone principles that govern the TRUSTe program: Let your own self-regulated privacy policy back you into the corner of unfair and deceptive business practice
  2. Right hand/left hand     One size rarely fits all. One of the two cornerstone principles of Truste is that “No single privacy principle is adequate for all situations”. While toysmart’s policy worked really well to bring    Self-regulation in response  to fear of legislation      “When you register with toysmart.com, you can rest assured that your information will never be shared with a third party.”
  3. “All information obtained by toysmart.com is used only to personalize your experience online.”
  4. Stating a privacy position
  5. It’s not about protecting customers’ privacy. It’s about ethics. Now, there’s a concept.
  6. Jumped on the TRUSTe bandwagon but didn’t read the fine print
  7. Need to overcome consumers’ reluctance to purchase on-line
  8. Privacy policy for the wrong reasons
  9. And, now a few short years later, enter the privacy policy backlash.
  10. Closely followed by the Truste initiative, which, as the name suggests, was designed to provide a “seal of approval” around a licensee’s treatment of customer information. And, conversely, provide reassurance to consumers that certain expectations would be met.
  11. Treat privacy as policy not promotion.  In the headlong rush to e-commercialism, one of the early dot com challenges was overcoming consumers’ distrust of doing business online. Enter the notion of privacy policy. The thought was it would encourage people to buy—didn’t .
  12. Toysmart.com’s mistake was 2-fold. Tried to package up the customer list with its trademarks, goodwill, URL names
  13. Honor your  stated privacy policy

How many retailers are really concerned?  Now, many many more.

Charles de Gruchy remembers how it was

Losing and keeping customers Strategy Magazine April 10, 1994

Customer attrition is a lot like dandruff–by the time you realize you have the problem, it’s already too late to prevent it. Unless, in the case of lapsed customers, you’ve built a predictive model based on measurable characteristics of lapsed customers which can be identified among current customers.

The notion of value in keeping the customers you have versus constantly acquiring new ones is certainly not a new one, but you’d never know it to look around. Awhile ago I wrote a column about switching away from a hair salon I’d been faithful to for about ten years. Have I heard a boo, halloo of any kind? Not a whisper. Let’s see–ten years times fifty to sixty dollars a visit times twelve visits per year–that adds up to about six or seven thousand dollars they won’t be getting over the next ten years.

Meanwhile, the constant hunt is on for new customers…also known as the revolving door. In most companies, 30-50% of customers who appear to be new are actually lapsed customers who have re-surfaced incognito. Not because they’re coy and tryng to avoid being recognized, but because, as marketers, we’ve failed to keep them when we had the chance. And, to add insult to injury, we don’t even know they’re back.

The trick is to get in front of them. before they leave or, at least, to do something about it when they go. But, why does it seem so difficult? It must be difficult, otherwise wouldn’t there be a multitude of examples of well-focused reactivation activities I could tell you about. Here’s the closest I could get:

Recently, an acquaintance received the following missive from CITIBANK. The letter went like this: “It has recently come to our attention that you are leaving less funds on deposit with us. We are very concerned that this may be an indication of some dissatisfaction you have experienced with our service. Our goal is to provide our valued customers, like yourself with the best possible service and be bank of choice for all your financial needs. It appears that we may have fallen short of this goal with you and we very much what to know how we can correct the situation. I have enclosed my business card for your reference and I will be giving you a call to discuss any financial needs which we may have failed to satisfy for you.” Now, other than a little grammatical awkwardness, you might say that ain’t bad at all. Rather thoughtful with overtones of mea culpa. Refreshing coming from a bank.

But, now picture this. This letter was received by an elderly widow living alone who, for the first time in her life, has a significant investment account to worry about. Key words…to worry about. This letter made her worry. This letter upset her. The letter was from a bank. Banks are serious stuff. It sounded as though there was a problem. Whose problem was it? Hers or the bank’s? What should she do about it? Needless to say, it didn’t help that the Branch Manager never made good on the promise to call and follow up.

 Charles de Gruchy remembers how it was

Definition of database marketing DM News June 22, 1996

When a prominent national newspaper tells us something, we usually tend to pay attention, don’t we? And, when an authoritative columnist speaks, we are equally compelled to usually believe them. So, when, under these circumstances, we are told that packaged goods companies are turning away from database marketing as a strategy because it’s too expensive it must be so. And, further, when one of those companies named is a mighty brewer, surely we must hoist a glass in gratitude for the enlightenment shed upon us. Mustn’t we?

But, wait. What’s that wee small voice I hear? A murmur of dissent? A whisper of protest? “But, they weren’t using database marketing,” hisses the chorus. “Oh, but they were collecting thousands of names through this really cool and innovative CD-ROM give-away coupon transit contest survey billboard premium promotion they were doing,” rejoins the prominent columnist, “And, you could even enter the contest on the internet. But, then the company was sending out mailings to all those names and found that it was just too expensive and that’s really why they’ve stopped using database marketing.”

In his book, Voltaire’s Bastards–The Dictatorship of Reason in the West, John Ralston Saul in an enlightening chapter called “Life in a Box–Specialization and the Individual” talks about the problems of language in communication “One of the specialist’s most successful discoveries was that he could easily defend his territory by the simple development of a specialized language incomprehensible to non experts”. In other words, is it possible that non-traditional database marketers are not being well-served by the self-styled experts in the field?

If so, is it any wonder then that companies are announcing that they’re stopping using it because it’s too expensive and doesn’t work when they’ve never had help to understand what the terminology “database marketing” really means ? For most, it seems, including our prominent columnist, database marketing is “direct mail” by any other name or as newspapers invariably put it “junk mail”. I wonder if that’s because it has to compete for space in the blue box with the mounds of “junk news”? But, I digress. Back to the point. The point is definition.

What is direct marketing? An interactive system of marketing which uses one or more advertising media to effect a measurable response and/or transaction at any location.

What is database marketing? Database marketing is using the information you have about your individual customers’ and prospects’ actual behaviours and purchases to profitably match the products and services you offer with the ongoing needs and wants of your customers and prospects. If that sounds circular, it is. The success of true database marketing is all about closing the loop…and, further, being able to put profitability dollar signs on the value of doing so. Ideally, this information is all kept in a marketing database, an organized collection of selected data about individual customers and prospects that is accessible and actionable for marketing purposes. It is much, much, much, more than a mailing list even with the addition of a few answers to survey questions!

Recently a large multinational soft drink company announced an exciting new database marketing program where people can collect points every time they purchase the product which can then be redeemed for clothing bearing the mighty drink logo. In the course of this transaction, the customer’s name will be gathered and further exciting and wonderful things will no doubt be coming their way if they will only keep an eye on their mail.

Is this database marketing? The mighty soft drink company seems to think so. Your first reaction might be that it’s just one more creative way to turn an entire customer base into walking advertisements for the product and at the customer’s expense no less?  Or, is it just another slick sales promotion? Or is it just a very expensive way to build a mailing list to which very expensive direct mail packages will be churned out under the guise of building loyalty and customer relationship. Why, then, will I not be surprised when in 12 months or less another solemn announcement is made that database marketing is too expensive and doesn’t work.

All I can say to both the mighty brewer, the mighty soft drink company and their cohorts in consumer marketing is, be sure you know that what you’re announcing because if it doesn’t work as well as what you started doing in the first place your customers won’t let you go back!

 Charles de Gruchy remembers how it was

Business Requirements — does anyone do this anymore? DM News April 19, 2001

Final Business Requirements Document contains, at minimum:

  • Executive Summary – Includes a brief description of the organization, business needs and our recommended approach to satisfying those needs.
  • Glossary of Terms Contains terminology and explanation of any acronyms used throughout the document and client’s business.
  • Business Model – (which should equate to a normalized data structure).

 

  • Review of Data Sources – Including frequency of update and approximate volumes.
  • Process Flows – Required to populate the database to be built from the model with the input data.
  • Output Requirements – Including online response times and reports.

 

  • Appendices Containing more detailed information, reference material and other collateral that may assist systems analysts during the detailed design phase.
  • Organizational Overview Key players, their roles and responsibilities.
  • Business Recommendations Business process modification and /or re-engineering; recommendations for both automated and non-automated initiatives that will leverage the solution’s capabilities and expand its scope. To cite one example, a marketing database deliverable could be a standardized customer list with accurate names and addresses, accessible at the individual and household level. If an organization is plagued with unpaid bills, and undeliverable mail has been identified as a primary cause, this file could be utilized by the organization’s billing department to reduce or eliminate the problem.
  • Gap Analysis Description of where the organization is today, where it wants to be in the future and what it will take to get them there.
  • Development Prioritization Summary of all features and functions described in the document with each prioritized based on business need (benefit) versus relative ease / difficulty to implement (cost).

In general, the BRD is written for three main reasons:

  • Project ControlPuts parameters and critical checkpoints around the project and becomes the definitive source of information on the development process for the Project Sponsor as well as the Project Team.
  • Project Design Specification Defines the project, the scope, the solution design, the issues and the critical success factors at the business level for the entire Project Team, particularly those responsible for technical specification and actually building and implementing the project/solution on behalf of the client. It helps ensure the end result meets client expectations.
  • Perpetual Resource A project archive that will describe and explain the overall function of the system–why it was commissioned and what it contains. Also serves as a training resource for new members of the project team and/or new employees of the client.
  • Development Prioritization Summary of all features and functions described in the document with each prioritized based on business need (benefit) versus relative ease / difficulty to implement (cost).

Architecture

  • Complete solutions (“plug, configure and play”) that can be deployed rapidly, are open (able to be integrated with other software, database management systems and custom deliverables) and are scalable (modules that can be purchased separately and integrated per client need)
  • Platform agnostic: the solution can run in any environment
  • Security enabled to the individual row / column level, maintained at the user and user group levels
  • Interactive query accelerators and other techniques (e.g., a ROLAP or OLAP component) designed to ensure acceptable response times and provide maximum flexibility when used in an interactive mode
  • A “thin” front end that can be customized to address the needs of all targeted users, facilitating a collaborative environment and enabling simple maintenance from a central location (i.e., web based)
  • The ability to integrate sales reporting, call reporting and web site registration capability, whether within the suite or by interfacing with another product. This is an essential component in migrating the solution from a marketing database to fully functional CRM support.

Process to Monitor and Report Progress

The Status Meeting, Issues Log, and Project Plan will be utilized to monitor progress. The Status Meetings themselves will be sufficient to report progress to the core team.  It will be the responsibility of theLEAD Project Leaders to report progress to other constituent groups within their respective organizations. All information required to accomplish this task will be available via the updated project documentation used to report status during the core team meetings. Should CLIENT require status reports in another format, it will be the responsibility of the Project Leader to deliver the report within his/her organization. To avoid duplicate work on the part of the Project Leader, however, issues related to format and presentation of the project collateral materials can be negotiated between the respective Project Leaders prior to project kickoff.

Approach for Dealing with Issues

The Issues Log will be managed by the LEAD Project Leader. When a core team member raises an issue to the LEAD Project Leader, the project leader adds the issue to the log and includes the information below.   Proper escalation to the client will be done as it specifically relates to the issue at hand (i.e., urgent issues may require an immediate e-mail or phone call to the Project Leader; less severe issues may wait until the next weekly status meeting. This prioritization is the responsibility of the person reporting the issue.) Review of the Issues Log is a critical component of the status meetings.

 

Client: This is a CLIENT designee, the functional manager of the area that requested this project be undertaken.  This is the individual with final sign-off and acceptance authority over any project deliverables.  The Client is also responsible for the following:

  • Ensuring that contract and other negotiations are arranged and proceed on schedule and that any required legal documents are executed in a timely manner.
  • Reviewing the status reports, giving careful consideration to risk vs. return and resource deployment issues.
  • Advising the team on global, organizational issues and removing road blocks/impediments at that level.

Business Analyst: This is an employee who is responsible for:

  • Ensuring CLIENT’ overall satisfaction with products and services.
  • Providing price quotes and estimates to the client.
  • Approving all generated documents, quotes, estimates, etc. before they are delivered to CLIENT.
  • Ensuring that the appropriate effort is allocated to this project vs. other efforts within.
  • Working with CLIENT to properly scope projects and provide business leadership and vision to projects.
  • Providing customer base segmentation, profiling, predictive modeling, exploratory analysis, scoring, and DM name selection.
  • Translating analysis results into understandable and actionable marketing information.
  • Assisting in the development of business rules for marketing applications.
  • Drafting CLIENT user interview forms and/or checklists.
  • Drafting CLIENT systems/technical forms and/or checklists.
  • Conducting and documenting the interviews per schedule.
  • Developing the Data Discovery/Business Requirements Documentation

Project/Program Leader: Serves as the liaison between CLIENT and LEAD, and as the liaison between the functional groups within his/her organization. It is this person’s responsibility to:

  • Draft the required project management documentation and distribute updates to those documents on a regular basis.
  • Establishing a mutually convenient interview schedule with the CLIENT Project Leader.
  • Schedule, lead and participate in all required meetings with the appropriate documentation.
  • Compile status meeting minutes and ensure they are circulated with the other status report deliverables.
  • Identify issues via the Issues Log that have a potential impact on the schedule, make a risk assessment, and advise the Executive Sponsors (i.e., “raise the red flag”) when necessary.
  • Document and review all Change Order Request forms.
  • Coordinate project communication and workflow between the groups in his/her organization.
  • Serve as resource manager to ensure the account is properly staffed.

Technical Analyst

  • Contacting his/her counterpart and working together to address any discrepancies in file, record or field format or content.
  • Providing information to the team regarding services, procedures, functions, production schedules, etc.
  • Identifying areas where data and/or system integrity may be suspect through detailed analysis of the sample data.

Business Analyst: This is an employee who is responsible for the Data Discovery process and documentation. He/she will accomplish this by performing some/all of the following:

Systems Analyst: This is an employee who is responsible for:

  • Writing detailed program specs and system flows.
  • Interfacing with the programming group on behalf of the project team.
  • Testing programs once developed.
  • Certifying the system is production-ready.
  • Moving the system into production.

The process formally begins after the project has been justified and approved, and includes the following steps.

Planning

Defining the Project Scope

Creating the Project Plan/Issues Log

Defining the necessary resources

Defining the tasks and deliverables

Defining Timelines

Defining the final project deliverables

Data Discovery and Business Requirements

Conduct User Interviews

Documenting Results

Creating Business Model

Defining Logical Model

Review Information

Physical Database Design and Development

Designing the Database

Identifying the Keys

Creating Indexing Strategies

Performing Capacity Planning

Creating Database Objects

Data Mapping

Reviewing the Update Cycle

Reviewing Security Requirements

Analyzing Hierarchy Changes

Determining File Layouts

Developing Transformation Specifications

Data Extraction

Loading the Data

Extracting and Moving Data

Transforming and Integrating the Data

Testing Extract, Move, Transform, and Load Processes

Data Management

Automating and Scheduling Data Extraction Process

Automating and Scheduling Data Transformation Process

Automating and Scheduling the Data Load Process

Creating Backup and Recovery Procedures

Conducting a full test of all the Automated Procedures

Application Development

Creating Predefined Reports

Developing Core Reports & Screens

Testing Reports and Screens

Documenting Applications

Data Validation and Testing

Validating Data using reports

Validating Data using standard procedures

Interactively changing the data

Rollout to LEAD Users

Installing the Physical Infrastructure for all Users (database connectivity, configuring workstations, and data access tools)

Deploying the application

Setting up Procedures to backup the application

Creating Procedures for investigation and resolving data and application related issues

ADB Development Team

Resource Staffing Allocation
Executive Sponsor 1 5%
Sr. Consultant 1 25%
Project Manager 1 25%
Consultant/Business Analyst 1 25%
VP, Production Services 1 15%
Systems Analyst 1 20%
Developer 1 30%

 

 

Analytic Services –

Initial Customer Profile/Segmentation Team

Resource Staffing Allocation
Sr. VP Data Mining and Modeling 1 10%
Sr. Consultant 1 10%
Project Manager 1 20%
Sr. Statistical Consultant 1 90%

 

Build customer relationships before it’s too late! DM News October 23, 1994

Why is it that some companies have to be attacked by stiff competition before they start paying attention to their customers? Nowhere is this more evident than in Bell’s current frenzy to introduce a myriad of offers, services and options. It leads me to wonder how we were ever able to live without all these wonderful things, once upon a time, when the choices for voice communication were between Ma Bell or two tin cans and a piece of string. Why didn’t Bell care so much about our business then? Need I ask? They say, a little competition is healthy for everyone. At that rate, Bell must be getting healthier every day! I’ve never had so much attention from them. Just the other day I got a wonderfully warm and friendly letter that went like this:

“Dear Customer”: (even though the address was personalized), “My name is Sandy Davis. I’m a manager with Bell Customer Service Centre and I’m writing to you for several reasons. The first is to thank you for using Bell Call Answer Services…I want you to know that you’re important to us and we really appreciate your business”. So, Sandy, it’s nice to be appreciated. What took so long?

There was more.

“Secondly, we’d like you to think of us as a resource, as well as a supplier. At the Bell Customer Service Center, we want to respond to the needs of our customers. In order to help you better, we’d like to make our relationship more interactive. I think you’ll agree that we’ve found an interesting way to make this happen”. Now, it is nice to be appreciated but, Sandy and I, we’d only just met and this seemed like rushing things a bit , although, I must say, by this time I was beginning to wonder. Is this Sandy a man, maybe? Tall? Good looking?

The letter went on, “My problem right now is that I don’t know how to help you specifically. We haven’t had the chance to talk”. Why not? Sandy, dear, you have my number! ”

My hopes were soon dashed. (Besides, I’m happily married. )

Sandy continued, “I don’t know as much about your business as I’d like to. I certainly don’t want to just send you a shopping list of all our services…but I do want to see if there’s some meaningful way I can augment your business…That is why we’ve created a brief response form designed to help us learn more about your needs and preferences”. After more friendly phrases about  sharing experiences and viewpoints and thanking me repeatedly, Sandy signed off with “I’m looking forward to receiving your response and to the opportunity of getting to know you better.” Did this mean Sandy was suggesting, dare I say it, forming a customer relationship?

Enclosed was a one-page survey form

The first question asked me to rank the relative importance to my business of areas such as generating new business, building customer relationships, providing quality service, controlling costs and managing time. I guess Bell must have the luxury of choosing among these issues and, besides, how will the fact that all of the above are extremely important to me help them get to know me and my business better? The survey went on to ask such as things as whether I viewed the role of telecommunications in my business as operational, strategic or both, what my business growth outlook is over the next 18 months, how many calls I receive in a day and how often someone is available to take calls and, oh yes, how satisfied I am with my relationship with Bell. Interestingly, the only choices given for answering the latter were Somewhat, Moderately or Extremely–behind that one the operative philosophy must be that no bad news is good news.

Not one question asked me directly anything about my business telephone needs. And, here that rascal Sandy led me to believe that, at last, somebody really wanted to know what I, as a customer, wanted. Oh well, maybe next time.

Or maybe there won’t be a next time. No matter what the sector, the message from today’s competitive environment is simple. If you’re not making friends with your customers before somebody else comes along and does it, you’re probably too late. And, if you really want to know what your customers really think, don’t be afraid to ask them questions the answers to which you may not like, but, you’ll know the truth! Why wait till your customers vote with their chequebooks?

 Charles de Gruchy remembers how it was