As a lead up to our Customer Strategies and CRM Conferences* in April and May, we are beginning to receive and review entries for our 2014 CRM Excellence Awards. I first suggested the idea of an award for the businesses that best represent excellent customer service almost 12 years ago, based on what we saw the amazing Don Peppers and Martha Rogers doing around 1-1 Marketing. They were so far ahead of everyone, and they were instrumental in our move away from calling our practice “Technology enabled Relationship Management” (TERM) to CRM. Looking at what was really going on back in 1998 – 2002, it was all about changing the CIOs focus away from technology and vendors and TO the end customer who buys a business’ goods and services.
What is so great about the CRM Excellence Awards is the focus on business leaders who marshall their corporate (or government, or educational staff) resources to better understand customer wants and needs, and to address them through technology and process change, while keeping an eye on profitability and growth. These are not questions of business ethics, or morals, but about common sense: what makes a customer choose you? Choose you even if something has gone wrong in the past? How do you move them into a position of trusting you? Recommending you? Recommending you to another and for that other to make a buying decision the next time they consider a purchase? How do you get a customer, once they have made a purchase, stay with you?
As we have built our conference presentations, we struggle with calling any of the presentations by the name, “Customer Service.” That is so yesterday in terms of hype, while so ‘today’ and ‘tomorrow’ in practical terms. Today the mantra is Digital. Digital Media and Digital Commerce and the Digital Industrial Revolution and Digital Marketing. These are all important concepts that encapsulate the transformation and aggragation of sound, images, movement, position, disposition, temperament and connections into digits that can be combined and analyzed. Anyone who compares the 2000+ employees of NetFlix and compares their product to what Blockbuster delivered just ten years ago – with maybe 50,000+ employees in 8,000 or more locations. Poof – digitized! Billions in corporate valuations and tens of thousands of jobs vaporised.
At the same time that so much is undergoing digitization, the way that we treat customers, recognising them, understanding their status and situation and expectations, and the service we provide them, is still vastly more important than an ad about a happy puppy or a gamified app or offer. There is only so much Bread and Circus before they catch on that it is a gimmic.
Back, then, to the best CIOs: they know that technology is a differentiator, and they know that it is how technology is harnessed to provide a terrific product and customer experience that counts in the long term. And that is why we don’t focus on “Vendor Excellence Awards” but Customer Excellence Awards. We don’t gush effusively about vendors in our blogs or our presentations or our printed research, but we do gush about businesses that have done a great job for their customers. It would be great if one day the two merged: that we had a fantastic software vendor that was providing such a great customer experience that they end up on the short list for the CRM Excellence Awards! Who knows: it could happen.
Thanks to all of you who helped us locate the great businesses we are evaluating for the CRM Excellence Awards – keep your suggestions coming!
* As a reminder, our US conference, Gartner Customer360 Summit, is 19-21 May in Orlando and the EU conference, Gartner Customer Strategies & Technologies Summit London is a few weeks earlier, 28/29 April, in London.