CRM. As in, Customer Relationship Manglement

I've had a CIBC Gold Visa card for more than 10 years and have never really had any problems with it. On the other hand, I've never had much reason to sing its praises either. Every month my bill comes along with some printed promotional material and I send back some money. That's pretty much been the beginning and end of each of my CIBC Visa encounters.

I’ve had a CIBC Gold Visa card for more than 10 years and have never really had any problems with it. On the other hand, I’ve never had much reason to sing its praises either. Every month my bill comes along with some printed promotional material and I send back some money. That’s pretty much been the beginning and end of each of my CIBC Visa encounters.

Last December, however, they sent me something different – a small white box with the teaser, ‘Important Information for CIBC Customers.’ Inside was a festive note thanking me for being a customer. Also enclosed was a CD of holiday music. I was so surprised, you could have knocked me over with a magnetic strip… so grateful, that I almost wished I hadn’t switched most of my card activity to MBNA.

Yes, after years of relative neglect by CIBC Visa, another credit-purveying suitor, MBNA, had come along and I’d agreed to give them a chunk of my credit card ca-chinging activity. With one exception, which I’ll mention in a moment, I’ve been delighted with my decision. Got a problem? Some helpful person at MBNA is there to solve it. Got a question? Someone there is genuinely happy to answer it. And on a regular basis they phone or write me letters, offering something special or just checking how things are going.

MBNA doesn’t even overlook the envelope they give you to make your payment in – through the window, the copy reads, ‘Thank you. We appreciate having you as a Customer.’ (I can’t figure out why they have that cap on Customer, especially when they don’t in the French translation, but let’s not quibble; it’s a nice touch.)

So when I received a non-bill mailing from them in December, I paid attention. In fact, I got quite excited, as the envelope looked like it was wrapped with a bow and stated: ‘It’s a Holiday Gift and it’s got your name on it.’ Hey, I said to myself, if CIBC Visa gave me a CD, my MBNA buddies are probably going to give me a DVD player. Or maybe a TV!

I tore into the envelope with the enthusiasm of a kid on Christmas morning. But was there a gift certificate for electronic equipment inside? No. For anything? No. The so-called gift with my name on it was a sheet of MBNA access cheques. That’s no kind of present, even if it does have my name on it. They send those out almost monthly. Talk about lunch-bag letdown! What’s the idea of tricking me, I demanded to know.

Yes, Virginia, normally exceptional CRM practitioners like MBNA can suffer the occasional cerebral cramp over a marketing campaign. Even the great Peppers and Rogers can. The difference is, the latter will admit an error even before you’ve noticed that one has been made, and will do more than what is necessary to make things right.

I’m referring to an e-campaign they ran last summer, inviting their newsletter subscribers to answer a questionnaire. If you completed it, you got entered into a draw to win a free copy of Don Peppers’ and Martha Rogers’ new book, One to One B2B. But a few months later the Peppers and Rogers Group did an online mea culpa. Something technological had gone wrong, they explained, and they hadn’t been able to enter all respondents into the draw. So they said they’d send a book to everyone who had entered.

Everyone!

I responded, saying that I couldn’t recall whether I’d entered. If I had, I said, I’d love to take them up on their generous offer; if they didn’t have a record of my having completed the questionnaire, no sweat. A month later the book arrived, autographed by Don Peppers.

I still can’t remember whether I’d responded to the questionnaire, and I don’t know whether Peppers and Rogers was able to prove I had or hadn’t. My guess is that they had no record but, just to be safe, sent the book free of charge to anyone who asked for it. If that doesn’t raise the standard for CRM a few notches, I don’t know what does.

But I do know this: if you neglect someone long enough in a personal relationship or treat them badly, they’ll eventually hook themselves up with someone who shows they care. It’s the same with customer relationships. Also, it isn’t enough to just tout yourself as being the leader in your field; every once in a while you have to prove it – as Peppers & Rogers did – even if it costs you a whack of dough. It’s what leadership – and CRM – are all about.

Bob Knight has long been involved in CRM and would love to exercise his skills on you, contact him at b_knight@telus.net