By Chris Blauth
Millions have enjoyed A Christmas Story, the iconic 1983 movie about nine-year-old Ralphie Parker, who yearns for a Red Ryder BB gun on Christmas morning. In the classic schoolyard scene, Ralphie's friends Flick and Schwartz debate whether or not a warm tongue will stick to a frozen flagpole. The banter escalates to the most serious of dares: a "triple-dog dare." With his reputation on the line, Flick gives it a try.
Many organizations, sadly, have fallen for the "CRM triple-dog dare." CRM providers wave the banner of improved customer loyalty, which according to Ekinci, et al, leads to higher shareholder value through "the creation and better utilization of customer knowledge." Yet for all the promised benefits (and billions spent), companies say their CRM is stuck as painfully as Flick's tongue, largely due to technology and user adoption issues. What's surprising, though, is that business leaders often fail to mention the most vital tool for creating customer value: a culture of service.
If a company lacks a culture that habitually satisfies the needs and wants of customers, no software can improve service or build a strategic advantage. So, before you speak with any CRM provider, consider two of the keys to customer loyalty:
- You earn customer loyalty through a series of defining moments (points in time when a customer forms an impression about your organization).
- To build a culture of service, create positive defining moments in every personal interaction.
While few organizations can afford to deliver the same services to every customer segment, no organization can afford NOT to create positive defining moments for every individual customer. A "customer" is anyone who counts on your products or services. A customer, either external or internal, may have more or less value to you, may have a long- or a short-term relationship with you, may interact with you face-to-face, by phone, in print, or online. In a culture of service, every customer experiences positive defining moments in every service encounter.
Taking that "triple-dog dare," Flick suffers a minor blow to his ego. Messing with CRM before embracing a culture of service, you risk more serious consequences. You may even, as Ralphie's mother says, "Shoot your eye out."