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).

Collaboration Thinking

I’ve recently being doing some work with friends on a personal project and during the course of our work, notes were shared via mailing a ms word file to all the team members asking for input and additional ideas.

I have to say that I can’t work this way anymore. I don’t think this way anymore.

I’ve become used to working collaboratively on the same document at the same time. Mailing around files to share is the past. Sharing a link and jointly and simultaneously working on the same document is the present.

I’ve also noticed that this is hard to explain to someone who has not worked this way. If someone challenges you to work with some of the new tools like Google Apps, you need to give it a try.


2A) Collaboration Tools

Given I write about collaboration frequently, it would obviously be a front-burner topic that needs investigation and understanding in a new role. You need to understand how your employees are working together to share information, work on projects, communicate with each other and generally get things done. This would include the following topics:

  1. Review the health and status of the email eco system. Is it appropriately robust, secure and reliable? Is SPAM filtering effective? How is the system protected from malware? If a locally hosted system is it secured and is it relatively up-to-date on patches? How is the uptime on the service?
  2. Look at other collaboration systems. This might include Sharepoint, wikis, instant messaging/chat services, and Yammer, etc. How are these tools being used and ask similar questions to the email service. Are your employees using these tools? How much overlap between tools do you have?
  3. Telepresence/Video Services. What tools are you using and how are they being used? Are the appropriately secured? Are they being used? Is the technology up-to-date? Are they easy to use?
  4. Partner Connected Tools. For the above tools, are they being used to connect with customers and suppliers and if so, do you have the proper policies and security setup? If email is the only option for your folks to connect with partners, then you might want to consider alternatives since there is not a lot of control on email.
  5. File Sharing. How are files routinely being shared between internal work groups and then with external partners? Is the proper security in place and at the same time are the tools and services easy to use?
  6. Other Tools. After reviewing the above tools that are supported by your company, what other tools are being used that are not supported? For example, if your IT team doesn’t support Dropbox are your employees using it anyway to store files and to share with 3rd parties? Lots to think about here. Depending on your business you might need to put some restrictions in place or roll out a supported platform and steer use to the supported platform.
  7. Social Platforms. And then what about services like Facebook and Twitter and the like? Are you allowing or blocking and if so why or why not? I’m not recommending one way or another, but you need to have a discussion on it and be purposeful in your direction.
  8. Mobile. I’ll likely write more on this later, but how can all the services above be accessed by mobile workers.

There is a huge inventory of topics on this one post and they are complicated with lots of interdependencies and lots of security implications. Your collaboration services are inherently in conflict with your security needs so you’ve got to understand both sides of that coin for these services. The point of listing this for new CIOs is to make sure these topics get carefully reviewed.

What have I missed on this topic?

Speed Wins

I’ve been thinking about the conflict between the need to keep ones intellectual property (IP) secret vs the need to collaborate with large numbers of people and organizations in a fast fashion with a minimum amount of friction. The ideas of fast sharing and collaboration inside and outside an organization are inherently in conflict with the needs to keep IP protected.

Collaboration tools, methods and policies require that information access is only on a need to know basis and that approvals in some fashion necessary. Inherently that slows the move of information down and the resulting collaboration is slowed.

Certainly some vendors will tell us that ‘their tool’ doesn’t slow things down but we all know that they do. Setting groups and complicated permissions to manage need to know is overhead and slows down the communications in the organization.  New employees, new partners, new projects all require administration and setup.

The other camp would argue that speed wins and that as my friend Rich Becks recently said to me, information is perishable and moving fast with high quality collaboration and fast learning will win in the long run.

Certainly both are needed and an proper balance point must be found for each organization’s needs. IP must be protected and especially the key IP  of the company must be protected. However, I do tend to think that speed wins.

What are your opinions and lessons learned in this regard?

Sharing a Few Good Articles

Over the last few months, I’ve been tweeting lots of articles that I’ve read that I’ve found to be particularly interesting. You can see the latest ones in the twitter log to the right. However, here are a few that I’ve not shared that merit some review and don’t fit so well in a tweet.

  1. From Fast Company, the 100 Most Creative People in Business 2012 and here is an article about that article.
  2. There is a great post on HBR called Breaking the Bad Data Habit which is a great reminder of several points. First, make sure you are getting data from the system of record for your organization, not someone’s spreadsheet or something someone heard in the hall. Second, always cite your source in your slides or documents. If you see a presentation which does not do this then challenge the material. Finally, if the data is wrong then stop and find the right data.
  3. There is a wonderful article about culture and Creating An All In Culture. Transparency and lots of communication are key. Tell the good, the bad and the ugly. Enlist everyone’s help to get better.
  4. Velocity is the only innovation out come that matters.  The pace of change is getting faster. Get used to it.

Like I said, I mostly post these kinds of things on twitter but today I thought I share a few good ones here. Also, I’ve added a few good books to the reading list page.

Comments always welcome.


Insanely Simple

I’ve got a new book to recommend to the IT folks out there. It is called Insanely Simple by Ken Segall.  It goes along perfectly with my earlier post about the need to simplify things. This is a telling of how Steve Jobs was fanatically focused on the simplest possible solutions at Apple. While I don’t want to bow down to Steve, I do think that there are some excellent principles in this book that apply to IT and to company processes and decisions.

Have small teams? Simple documentation and instructions? Simple packaging? Refuse to accept no as an answer? All relate to IT.

The book is recommended. I’ll be adding it to the recommended book tab. And I’m handing out copies of this book at work.

Ken’s web page can be found here.