January 2009 - Miracle on 34th Street
By harvey.saks on Feb 09, 2009
As the holiday season comes to a close, I am still recovering from all the good cheer presented on the television as holiday movies filled the December programming schedule. At a very early age I was introduced to what is a classic holiday movie "A Miracle on 34th Street". This movie taking place in New York, my home town, introduced me at an impressionable age to the concept of Customer Relationship Management and Customer Loyalty. Would you believe it, before the age of 10 I became aware of Customer Loyalty. You can decide for yourself if the main character was truly Santa Claus or not, but he did revolutionize the way a major New York Department store treated its customers. Well, at least he did in the movie.
The selling tactic of this store Santa was to refer customers to other stores when this city institution of shopping could not provide the product asked for. The loyalty customers returned in response was so positive that other stores started offering the same service and many wondered if the store Santa was truly Saint Nicholas.
Many times I wonder if we lose sight of our own CRM initiatives focusing too much on the larger technology challenges before we implement simple tools or processes that would provide our customers the services that will keep them coming back.
A personal shopping experience is a good example of what I mean. After having waited a year for a new mobile phone handset to become available on the market, I saw it posted on a local wireless companies web site. The device was not orderable and I was told that I would be informed when it could be shipped.
Of course now anxious for this new toy, I checked their site and their competitors site weekly to determine when it would be orderable. Having not received an email back, I saw the device posted on the site. This was an opportunity for the company to have lost my business which they eventually did as I was willing to buy from the first reputable vendor offering the handset.
I always try and buy from companies that buy from my company so I checked the Web site before all others. Now dancing for joy the toy was available, I got out my credit card, ordered online receiving an online discount, all well and good. I was impressed when the package arrived as the modern delivery service used a wireless device to capture my electronic payment before handing me my phone.
Now those of you who know me will appreciate my frustration at the next stage of my adventure. Living in the Netherlands for over 6 years, I have still not managed to learn the local language. Opening the box, turning on the device for the first time, it started up in the Dutch language, my regions local language, and one I do not speak. All other phones were in multiple languages, but not so for the one I had waited so long for. After calling support, also very easy and friendly, they determined that I had to return the phone and order another.
But no English versions were available from the online store, I would have to visit the retail store and they could not tell me if the phone was in stock at any location. Of course the consumer store did not sell the phone in English and they sent me to the Business Center where I was told I could get the device.
The return policy was very easy, and I was still motivated to buy the phone from the business center. Capturing the address of the nearest store and putting it into my GPS navigator I set out to hunt my pray. Located in the middle of nowhere, I used my Saturday morning to wait in line only to find out that they had no product available and could not order any.
Now I was unhappy, my loyalty was greatly diminished as I traveled on a wild goose chase around the city only to be disappointed. They could have told me over the phone that they could not help me, but they did not. They did not investigate the potential loss of my business to a competitor or understand that it includes the members of my family as well. Instead they were happy to see me leave their store.
Getting back in the car, I went to a competitor. I was not surprised to find out that the phone was not popular in the English Language and that they had no handsets. What they did have was a desire to win my business and they took the time to order a phone that met my needs, winning a very lucrative service contract and the future business of myself, my partner, and her two teenage children still living in the house with us.
I am now a satisfied mobile consumer connected to the world,happy with my new purchase. I believe very strongly that if Customer Relationship Management starts with the Relationship before the Management it can be of significant value to a business. Sometimes the willingness to be of service rather than the service system is the difference between keeping a customer and losing one.