Eliminate the customer

MANAGEMENTSPEAK: Work smarter.

TRANSLATION: Work harder.

-- This week's anonymous contributor worked hard and smart on your behalf to figure out this translation.

You'd think CRM vendors would get customer relationship management right, wouldn't you?

Not always. Some practice CEM (customer elimination management), CRM's evil twin, instead, as when a sales representative from one well known CRM vendor refused to talk about the subject with an interested prospect.

When asked, he did send some literature, a FedEx Corp. box filled with various brochures and folder covers. He apparently expected the recipient -- the CIO for a major division of a Fortune 500 enterprise -- to assemble it all for internal distribution.

For some reason, CEM is incredibly common among technology vendors, while CRM is impossible to find. Here's another example, lightly edited for length and anonymity:

"I log an inquiry from ABC Corp.'s Web site, get a call back for a preliminary assessment, and then am given the name of a salesman assigned to call on me. The salesman leaves me a voice mail the next day.

"When we make contact I give him the basic rundown of what we're looking for, he offers some solutions, and we set up a time to meet.

"So far, so good. Responsive, attentive, quick turnaround, sounded like he knows his stuff. I'm thinking this may not be so bad. Ah, but the moment you let your guard down ...

"A day before the scheduled meeting (with the CIO, myself, and two other IT managers) he calls with a request. 'Can we please move the meeting to the following Tuesday?' Hmm. OK, cut him some slack, everyone has something that unexpectedly comes up. We reschedule to Tuesday morning.

"Monday before the meeting, he calls again. 'Can we change the start time to 15 or 30 minutes earlier?' Sorry, everyone's booked up at that time. I ask if there's a problem; he says no, our original time is fine.

"Cut to 20 minutes before the scheduled start time. He calls, obviously on his cell phone. 'Take down this phone number,' he says and gives me an 800 number. 'That's our conference number. You should really be talking with the technical guru. He'll be at that number at 9:00.' What about you? 'Oh, I'm on my way into the city to pick up my boss, so call that number, OK?' I'm thinking, 'Um ... no.' I say to him, 'Um ... no.'

"And his reply?

" 'OK, bye.' (On my honor, that's what he said.)"One more time: CRM isn't technology. It's a business strategy. When a sales manager figures a free ride is more important than having a sales rep attend a scheduled meeting with a prospect, CRM software can't fix the problem.

Know any technology companies that actually practice CRM? Send Bob an e-mail at RDLewis@ISSurvivor.com. Bob Lewis is president of IT Catalysts (www.itcatalysts.com), an independent consultancy specializing in IT effectiveness and strategic alignment.

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