Stop The CRM Oversimplification!

Earlier this week, another of the CRM professionals I admire, Esteban Kolsky, wrote a post entitled, “Engagement != Experience != Relationship — You Know That, Right?

I appreciate the way Esteban’s post sallies forth to slay the sacred cow of engagement. I find something in it that I agree with as well as something I disagree with. Pour yourself a beer or a cup of coffee and read on as I attempt to advance the conversation.

What I really think Esteban is talking about here is that experts in all fields, especially CRMerati, tend to oversimplify things to the point where they’re abusing terms like engagement and experience. He rightly points this out regarding Alan’s tweet.

Where’s The Pareto Principle When You Really Need It?

But, then he uses the same rationale when, further down, he paraphrases Scott’s statement that there is no engagement.

Here’s what I’m seeing in my organization; the majority of our customers don’t want us to contact them, except in exceptional circumstances, if then. The segment representing those that do want an active relationship is extremely small, but their lifetime value is HUGE in both purchasing power and influence. We’d be foolish not to create strategies aimed at furthering their loyalty. This involves both relationships and improving the experience.

At the same time, for the largest segment which is those who don’t want a relationship, we’d be foolish to try to establish a stronger one. However, we should improve the experience to encourage them to come back as opposed to interacting with our competition. Martial artist Bruce Lee once described his fighting style as, “My style is no style.” Likewise with this transactional group, our strategy is no (engagement) strategy.

Like this beautiful world we live in, this issue is not black and white. Rather, it is a complex palette of many hues and colors that make our lives more complicated because we have to deal with many different segments rather just one or two. Remember the slogan, “Know when to say ‘when?'” We need to know when to engage and when not to. The problem is, different segments require different strategies, not a single one based upon an oversimplified view of engaging or building relationships.

What Do I Mean When I Say, ‘What Do I Mean?'”

–Monty Python

Esteban also comments:

There is still room for relationship-building with customers, even in an experience-driven world, since not everyone is looking for an experience.

I agree with the first phrase and take exception with the second. First of all, people may not be looking for an experience, but to me, even a transaction at an ATM is an experience. As I pointed out in an earlier post, part of the problem here boils down to semantics; how we each define “experience.”

For example, I believe you CAN have a relationship even when the customer only wants a transaction. (If you disagree, it’s most likely because we define “relationship” differently.) Again relationships are not just black and white, on or off. I believe it’s more accurate to plot them on a spectrum from minimal to maximum. I don’t want an email every other day from my cellular provider, but I do want an email when my bill is automatically paid or I’m getting close to exceeding my minutes or data. Therefore in one month I have a minimal relationship that consists of one email about my bill. That’s the relationship I want.

I believe relationships can range from “Don’t call me; I’ll call you,” to that of a customer evangelist who goes out of her way to refer people to your organization because she thinks your product or service is the greatest thing since the invention of the automatic dishwasher. Tell me how this evangelist is not engaged with your organization or that she doesn’t want a relationship with you when she knows everyone in the store closest to her and she continually brings her friends in to buy from you.

I join Esteban in bemoaning the abuse of various words and concepts. I challenge all of those interested in this and related topics not to oversimplify, rather to embrace complexity when called for. As someone responsible for CRM/Customer Engagement strategies and tactics in my own organization I’d be better served by more writing on actionable ideas that acknowledge the difference and complexity between and among customer segments.

Your turn…

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