Supply Chain Fails

A year and a half ago I ordered a number of actual, physical paperback books to give to some friends at an event where I was speaking. The book was one I wanted to hand out related to the topic of our discussion and my time with them. A certain big book company began shipping these books in separate shipments from around their universe. However, the books kept coming and went way over the amount I ordered. I kept getting new shipment notices in email when I had already received the ones I had ordered.

This particular company is a big web based company and it is hard to actually talk to someone there. I sent emails and finally got a hold of a person and explained the problem. The first person couldn’t understand and didn’t fix the problem. I called again and got another person who did see the problem and managed to cancel what was happening. I offered to ship books back, but they said keep them and give them away.

Seven months ago I ordered some socks from another online business and got double the shipment.  Two weeks ago I ordered some running apparel and instead of three items, I got six. In both these cases, I offered to return the over shipment and they told me to just keep them.

A big company which ships a lot of books and two smaller, niche companies who are probably closer to the edge getting their order management and shipping wrong.

I don’t know if this is IT or order management or their online revenue engine, but in any case, companies big and small must get this right. You can’t stay in business long if you are getting so many shipments wrong.

I should have ordered iPads.


Real Customer Relationship Management

Yesterday at exactly 5:59 PM I received an email from the car dealer where I bought my car before the current one. I bought it probably 6-7 years ago and traded it in 1.5 years ago for a different car at a different dealer. The email was from a person I don’t know there complete with their picture letting me know that they were thinking about me on my birthday (today) and were wanting me to have a fantastic birthday complete with an exclamation point.

Two minutes later, I received an email from the dealer of my current car saying they were thinking of me and they were hoping my birthday would be amazing. This was from someone I didn’t know either.

Two minutes later, and four minutes after the first message, I got an email from the dealer where we bought my wife’s car 4 years ago, wishing me a VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY.

Emails at 5:59 PM, 6:01 PM and 6:03 PM.

I’m really touched that these people were having coffee at the end of the day and looking through the list of their prior customers and thought they’d drop me a note wishing me a happy birthday.

What are the odds that these three separate car dealers owned by different auto groups happened to be thinking about me all at the same time and wanted to drop me a note wishing me a happy birthday?

Organizations try to automate parts of their customer relationship management and more times than not they fail completely. I’d rather get nothing about my birthday than get an automated message trying to look personal. But I do think less of them when they have automated the whole process to a 3rd party and at an appointed time a cron job runs and I get fake personal email from them.


We wanted to wish you a
from all of us here at XXX
Hope you have a great one and
Drive safe!

Push for Electronic Payments

I went in Chick-fil-A today while traveling and noticed they accept Apple Pay. Walgreens, McDonald’s, and Panera Bread are sites I visit regularly and now they accept Apple Pay. I try to use it everywhere it is available.

The point of this post is to say that we need to use this wherever it is available. We’ve got to get the balance to tip towards electronic payments, with their higher security levels, and away from sliding plastic cards through primitive readers.

Do your part. If you’ve not set up electronic payments on your phone (whatever kind) get it setup and start using it everywhere that it is accepted.

Apple Pay can be used at these sites. Samsung Pay here.

Customer Relationship Management Fail (or Success)

thumb_CRM-ButtonI’ve been thinking a lot about CRM lately. About how some organization seem to get it and some simply don’t. And those who get it appear to be fantastically better than than the ones who don’t get it. I don’t understand why some organizations aren’t better at this(or don’t seem to be trying) when I perceive the return to be huge.

I have season tickets with two nearby sports teams. One gets it and ones doesn’t.

In the one case, I needed an extra ticket at a certain level to get a visiting family member into the club space. I called my contact there and asked if I could buy another ticket (they don’t sell single game tickets) and the reply was that ‘he would take care of it and there would be a ticket at Will Call under my name.’  No questions. No hassle. No charge. The same organization has done other great things for us that were not needed or even expected.

The other team, despite much more expensive tickets, barely knows my name. I once asked about getting a guest’s birthday posted on the screen at half time and I was told they would take care of it. Didn’t happen. Wasn’t there. Never heard back from my contact afterwards either. They also seem to take better care of their business customers better than their individual/family customers.

Another organization that I interact with bends over backwards to help me get things done. If I need help, they just take care of it. Even things that they shouldn’t have to do for me, they take care of it because they are great service providers to me. Yes, they make money selling me services but they bend over backwards to help me be successful.

I will routinely have sales executives come to visit me and I find that some know a lot about me and some know nothing. Some have read this latest post here which is funny and interesting to me. They comment on it. That is almost creepy, but it means they are doing some research and they are trying to better understand their customer.

Someone sent me an email recently commenting on my LinkedIn profile in a funny manner. They made the attempt to connect with me from that description. Another person a few years ago noticed my ‘donkey handler’ skill on LinkedIn.

Related, there was an article a few months ago which said the following about sales,

By providing personal, determined, and honest service instead of the hard sell, it’s possible to build long-term relationships instead of quick, one-time sales

Much to think about here. I think I could do sales (but I don’t want the travel).

Look for the Broken

A case in point. I bought a new car this weekend. Talk about a process this is broken, awful, sad, wasteful, slow, inefficient, irritating, and ripe for a re-imagining (can anyone say Tesla?).

They have millions of dollars of inventory sitting out in the sun, snow, sleet, hail, rain just sitting.

You have to play a game with them to agree on a price. You know that whatever price they quote you is not the real price. They might tell you that you are getting a discount for some reason, but they can likely make that back up somewhere else with another variable (trade-in).

They low ball you on trade-in and act like they will have a hard time with that model, feature, color, type, etc. When you already know the trade-in value from looking it up online.

You agree on a price, but then there is another $199 in documentation fees.

If you decide you are going to leave, the manager needs to meet you and wants to know what he can do.

If you accept a deal, then you spend another hour doing paperwork. In our case, they had information from a prior car we had bought at the dealer that was wrong (address, email and phone) and no matter how many times we corrected it, the wrong data continued to show up on forms. They loaded a new email address into a system but they loaded it incorrectly and there is no way to edit it. The business manager lacks the mileage on our trade-in so she runs out to get it and it takes her 20 minutes while we sit waiting.

Throughout the whole process they keep telling us to rate them a 10 on the survey.

If Tesla, Uber, Airbnb and others can overcome entry barriers, they will crush these business models.

Look for the broken. And here is an article about doing it inside your own operations.



I think I’ve seen the future and it looked pretty good. We visited Disney World last week and experienced their new Magic Bands.

magic bandThe band is issued to guests and it is used for several distinct purposes in the park. They are mailed to resort guests in advance or can be picked up upon check in and they stay with the guest when they leave. It seems that they are mapped to an individual and can or should be used across different visits.

The purposes that I saw include:

  1. Grant access to hotel rooms on the property.
  2. Map park tickets purchased to the band to then allow the wearer to enter the park by presenting the band to a reader. No tickets or other ID required. However, after the band is scanned, they want a finger print scan which is probably used to make sure the same band isn’t used by more than one person on that day. No pin or other identifier is needed.
  3. Purchases at WDW are completed by having the band scanned and then entering a pin number. Note that one has to have a credit card mapped to the band in advance to allow such purchases. The purchase requires both the band and the pin number.  The pin number is set by the wearer when the credit card loaded.
  4. And, some places in the park, custom experiences are mapped to the band and that person. In Epcot at the Test Track participants can design a car then after riding the ride, the performance characteristics for that designed car are graded against others. In short, part of the experience is customized and remembered in the park. The end of this is hard to imagine but I’m sure Disney is on it. The list of possible customization experiences are endless. I would guess this same thing is being done elsewhere or will be soon in the park.

Wearing the band probably let’s Disney track where people go in the park and they can do that by age, home, where they are staying, party size, etc. Again, the possibilities of data mining are endless.

The benefit to the park visitor is that you literally do not need to have money or credit cards or room keys to spend time on the property. You can buy souvenirs, food and whatever with the band, it allows you in the park and it opens your hotel door. It is an amazing experience to spend a few days where this is literally all you need.

I’d love to better understand the underlying security model, but I suspect Disney is on it.  And, some will be concerned about their privacy as Disney tracks their movements. However, it seems to me that you are choosing to go to the park and you can choose not to go.

Upon leaving at the Orlando airport, I had to go back to credit cards and cash. The women in front of me buying a drink paid with cash and then walked off with $1 bills falling on the floor. Somehow she didn’t close her wallet correctly. I would have rather paid with the band. I saw another person still wearing his in the airport. Guess he didn’t want to take it off.

Overall, an amazing glimpse into the future. Kudos to Disney for this advance.

Comments welcome.

CRM and Big Data Fail

We keep hearing how Big Data is, or has, arrived. And we constantly hear about the importance of customer relationship management and CRM systems in particular and how they are transforming the relationship management process. This past week, I flew to Seattle to attend a very good IT conference and on the way up, I knew I was going to fly through my millionth mile on UAL. I was just a few thousand miles short and I knew it was happening on the leg from Denver to Seattle.

I wondered if, or how, or might UAL recognize the milestone? I wondered if they might approach you while on the flight and say,  “congratulations Mr. Brewer as this is your millionth mile flying with us. We are delighted to have you as a loyal customer.” Or perhaps when I landed there would be delightful little email from the Big Data engine at United recognizing that I just completed this milestone.

Well, nothing happened. I’ve still not heard a word.

I looked on-line to see my current status and here it is:

Screen Shot 2013-09-20 at 8.48.10 AM

This is not rocket science and yet here is a fail example. Instead of creating a delightful experience, nothing has happened and an opportunity is lost. How trivial would it be to have the computer system send me an email automatically without a single person involved? A simple email notice after the key leg was completed? Or how about tying together my social media presence and send me a DM or a tweet saying something?  Or how amazing would it have been to have the flight attendant stop by and say something?

No offense intended to UAL as this happens everywhere and I’m sure United will send a note to me sometime.  Well, those are the kinds of things still to be done. Each company, organization, industry has their opportunities.

If you’ve had an amazing experience(a win) along these lines, I’d love to hear about it.

PS. I posted this at 16:21 today and around 17:45 @united followed me on Twitter and then about 17:52 @united sent the following:

Screen Shot 2013-09-22 at 6.08.35 PM

So clearly UAL’s social media team is on the ball. Kudos to them for watching and then responding. Well done.