For the most part, customer relationship management (CRM) is a misnomer. Most CRM systems do what they were designed to do. The problem is that very few of them do exactly what you want them to do. How can you tell the difference? Suppose you ask the question, “Does you system do this?” The moment the vendor tells you, “This is how we get our system to do that,” instead of simply showing you, you know you have a problem. You have just been shown a workaround.
Most CRM solutions started out as sales force automation tools. And automating a company’s sales force is very different from managing customer relationships.
But that is hardly their biggest problem.
I’ve written many times that if you haven’t reinvented your online and mobile presence in the last three to five years, you may be better served by simply deleting the URL, unless, of course, you are satisfied by simply having a digital place where all your customers can do is read about how good your organization thinks it is. But if that is your only reason for having a website, perhaps you should simply take your site’s text and photos to a publisher, have them print and bind the material, and offer it to your customers as a gift.
I met last week with a health system executive who told me that their website had more than 20,000 pages. If you read a page a day, it would take you 60 years to read every page. As a point of reference, most people who track this kind of data would tell you that the longest book ever written is Marcel Proust’s novel, In Search Of Lost Time. His muse only covers 3,031 pages, and there is no record of anyone reading the entire book.
Why not turn your health system’s website into a coffee table book? “Our Lady Of Healthcare: An illustrated History.” Need some ideas for the table of contents?
- The Early Years
- Fun Facts About Our Staff
- Pictures To Color While You Are In The Waiting Room (Bring Your Own Crayons)
- 5 Favorite Menus From Our Hospital Cafeteria
- People Who Gave Us A Lot Of Money
- Silly Gifts From Our Gift Shop
The world has changed, and most firms have not changed with it.
In the same vain that your health system has not kept up with change, neither has your CRM vendor. Mark my words, in the next three to five years, if you understand what is going on around you, you will be discussing closing your call centers, or at least making them significantly smaller.
Why? Because nobody wants to be forced to call a company, ever.
Look at your desk. Within reach rests a thin black or white device. It is about two and a half inches wide and about five inches long. It is an electronic Swiss Army box. It does photos, texts, emails, banking, music, books, documents, and a hundred other things. It can be a flashlight and a shopping cart.
You can even use it to call people. My children have these. I do not think they have figured out how to use it to call anyone. The people who actually use phones to make calls want to call friends, not vendors.
CRM Vendors. Have you been paying attention? Here is my denouement. It’s French, like “la plume de ma tante.”
If you are in a planning meeting, mute your phones and pay attention. Forget about defining requirements for release 5.09.17. Nobody really needs the update. Your customers’ customers certainly are not holding their breath for it. I have seen the future, and CRM ain’t there. At least not one that can be accessed by calling an organization.
At HIMSS this year, I had the following conversation with a CRM executive. He had asked me to share my thoughts about what long-term strategy they should be pursuing. This is what I shared.
- You have what was an essential tool when the only access to an organization required using a phone.
- They had to call an organization during the hours the call center was open.
- Decades moved on. You added functionality for the people who had no other choice but to call an organization.
- Organizations started to learn that their customers did not want to be forced to call them; they wanted a choice of access channels.
- Oops! CRM vendors do not offer a choice of access channels to their customers. Voice only; nothing digital.
No amount of added functionality is going to change the paradigm.
But what would happen if the CRM vendor asked the question, “How could we design an online experience that is direct-to-consumer?” Bypass the organization. Skip the call center and meet the customer’s needs interactively online. Design it around a mobile-first strategy that featured user-centered design. And add a natural language processing feature.
The upside is huge.
- 24 x 7 access.
- Zero wait times.
- Zero abandoned calls.
- Zero repeat calls.
- The right answer every time, at any time, on any device.
- No personality conflicts between customer and agent.
- The marginal cost of the next contact is zero.
- Customer acquisition and retention increase.
Big Hint: The winning CRM solution will be a cloud-based, cognitive, interactive customer portal.
The first CRM vendor to market with this wins.