The customer is wrong

According to Yoda, 'Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.' Although the road to the dark side of CRM follows a different path, it also leads to suffering.

Management Speak: Our customers are part of the team.

Translation: They're the test department.

-- This week's anonymous contributor is part of the Management Speak Translation Team.

According to Yoda, "Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering."

Although the road to the dark side of CRM -- dubbed "customer elimination management" (CEM) by another Lewis -- follows a different path, it also leads to suffering. As evidence:

My broadband service works great, but I've been travelling, which means I need dial-up capability. No problem: my ISP has a mobile access option, which I duly set up according to the instructions. Just one glitch: I can receive mail but can't send it.

That was over a month ago. Through endless hours with this CEM (see Customer disservice) practitioner's online chat-and telephone-based technical support, I've learned the following.

  • The two help channels use different problem management systems and have no access to each other's records.
  • Level three support, aka network operations, isn't allowed to talk directly to customers. That's their policy, and it's unbreakable.
  • For that matter, level three support can't talk directly to level two, either. The telephone system has been carefully engineered to prevent it, even though the two groups work in the same building.
I've extracted some lessons for establishing a successful CEM practice in your own organisation.

First, make sure organisational boundaries are high. Use technology and your accounting system to reinforce them. My service provider went the extra mile: although the parent company owns an excellent dial-up ISP with the same core brand, broadband is a different division; so it set up a separate dial-up service rather than piggyback on an existing one that works exceptionally well.

Second, institute bad metrics. From my various conversations it's clear this company only measures the number of problems resolved. This ensures an unrelenting focus on dealing with the easy ones. Letting a few tough ones go for a month or three won't affect the performance reports.

Third and most important, the more policies the better, and make sure every employee knows they're all that matter. Since my first article on CEM I've received an avalanche of CEM stories, and most included at least one episode of "That's our policy". A thick policy manual and CEM go together like toast and jam.

If you're wondering, I tried to offer my provider a chance to respond. Unfortunately, the company keeps its media relations group well-hidden, as carefully sequestered as its level three support engineers.

Hey, do you think it's the same guy?

Have other CEM tips? Send Lewis an email. Lewis is president of IT Catalysts, an independent US consultancy. Send letters for publication in Computerworld to Computerworld Letters.

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