The Great Upgrade

Last time we examined at a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis that looked into the Great Retirement.

Clearly from that report I can see that there are two great job exits going on, the first accelerated retirement among the 65 to 74 age cohort and the other, The Great Resignation, of people leaving jobs in search of something better.

Obviously, there are numerous cross currents that explain the upheaval, and some may be contradictory. But all point toward CRM as a tool for getting business through these times.

Retirement vs. Resignation Cohorts

First, a quick word about work conditions. It’s easy to blame Covid but it’s not the whole story. As someone in the potential retirement cohort I can say that suddenly there isn’t enough cash in the system to get me on an airplane to go to a conference, at least not yet. For many that makes retirement a no-brainer.

But even without Covid my legs are too long for the space the airlines think I need, and then you have factor in the mask, the flight duration, how much your seatmate might wish to drink, and that’s just for starters. Also, my immune system might as well have a welcome mat for Covid tattooed on it due to age alone.

The resignation cohort is different. It’s younger people who may not be happy with pay or working conditions and who simply believe there must be something better out there. Some of these people work in the service industry and frankly there isn’t a lot that CRM can do to help in, say, fast food.

Between those cohorts resides a large group of service providers that Salesforce just surveyed. It looks like a good study with over 1,000 responses evenly divided between workers and managers.

Caveat this however: the study was performed by Salesforce Research. While I can’t fault the study, I can suggest it would have more credence in some circles if it was only paid for by Salesforce rather than conducted by an arm of the company.

What the Study Revealed

First, let’s acknowledge that customer service is a tough place to make a living. You don’t typically encounter people at their cheeriest best when your job is to get something straightened out that the customer might have reasonably expected to not break.

Straight form the report, we get this high-level data”

  • 71% of service agents have considered quitting in the past 6 months
  • 50% of service leaders claim they have seen an increase in resignations in their department
  • 86% of service agents report they need more from their company to stay, and are calling for monetary compensation, career growth opportunities, and better management
  • 81% of service agents say they do not have new, advanced technology/tools to do their jobs

My eye goes immediately to the bottom half of this short list. The third item tells us there’s trouble in River City and an almost complete failure to manage customer service from an agent perspective.

Actually, after all these years and tons of technology, it more likely shows the job is undoable. More precisely, the job might be more than educated people in a Western democracy want to do.

The difference doesn’t matter because the last item, which is statistically almost tied, says that service agents don’t have the tools they need.

Déjà vu All Over Again

How could this be? After all we’ve spent on customer service systems, training, and people, it looks like we’re at the same place we were five, 10 or 20 years ago. (It just occurred to me that I am writing this on Groundhog Day, LOL!)

In fact, we are at that place or places. What’s changed is the way customers decide they want to interact with vendors. Twenty years ago, social media was making inroads and you can find different inflection points all along the continuum to the present that caused changes to customer service.

But I think we’d be mistaken to say, Aha! We need more, better, newer customer service systems, or maybe we need more automation. I think the right answer is that the CRM systems now in place are still too hard to change. You might reasonably say this is nonsense because we have so much new technology, so many powerful platforms that this can’t be the case.

Platform Era of CRM

Unfortunately, what’s in the showroom is not necessarily what you are driving. I want an electric car, for instance. What I think the report may be suggesting is that if you haven’t upgraded your CRM in years, the marketplace is passing you by. Precisely. Covid high tide has left a lot of us stranded on the beach.

Today, we all need to be on platform-based CRM, and we need to become ninjas at platform-based application development and deployment. This especially goes for the newest tools on the platforms which include an array of analytics, machine learning, and voice assistants.

It’s highly likely to me that any vendor will be able to generate a report like this most of the time. After all, vendors pursue things in reactive mode so there’s always an element of catch up to be factored into news like this.

That said, platform is one of those things whose time has come and then some. If your CRM isn’t platform-based and the Salesforce data resonates you know what to do. Let’s call this the “Great Upgrade.” 

Denis Pombriant

Denis Pombriant is a well-known CRM industry analyst, strategist, writer and speaker. His new book, You Can't Buy Customer Loyalty, But You Can Earn It, is now available on Amazon. His 2015 book, Solve for the Customer, is also available there. Email Denis.

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