Customer Experience


Turning Research Into Product

Oracle just published some commissioned research that gives us insights into both CRM generally and the times we live in. A study of more than 1,100 people across several generations found the following:

  • Almost half (43 percent) of consumers have blacklisted a brand as the result of a bad experience; more than one-third (34 percent) of consumers said they would never shop with a company again after just one bad experience.
  • Consumers are twice as likely to trust family members (77 percent) and friends (75 percent) than any other source for shopping recommendations. The next most trusted source is colleagues (38 percent).
  • Politicians (2 percent), celebrities (7 percent), company employees you engage with online (12 percent), and influencers/bloggers (14 percent) are among the least-trusted sources of shopping recommendations. (Ouch!)
  • Consumers from different age groups have very different attitudes toward sharing personal information. Sixty-four percent of Gen Z and Millennial consumers are comfortable sharing personal information to receive better experiences, compared to 50 percent of Gen X and 35 percent of Baby Boomers.

There’s more, and you can check out the Oracle website if you’re inclined — but what does this say to us, about us, and about CRM?

About CRM

Research like this spawns development, including product development and messaging, when an existing product can be turned toward a newly discovered problem. I’d say this research might do a little of both.

It’s worth noting that this is not the first time Oracle has pursued this angle — partly because it’s a good one and partly because the company has technologies that help minimize the likelihood of a bad experience. All that’s fine, but perhaps we need to be thinking in another direction at the same time.

One area of white space in the sprawling CRM product set right now is any kind of technology that helps to recover customers who’ve cut the cord, so to speak. It’s entirely possible that each of us will have an experience with a vendor in the next year that produces grounds for divorce, but we’ll hold on.

The supply of vendors in most markets is far from huge, and a personal policy of cutting off a vendor for one bad experience or even a string of them might not always be viable.

Consider Amazon, for instance. There’s only one Amazon, and it invests heavily in the customer experience, but it still has “oopsies” (a new technical term for ungraceful customer relationship endings). Most vendors aren’t Amazon and don’t command Amazon’s resources, so it’s highly likely that they have even more oopsies than Amazon, which we can agree is far from perfect.

What happens when a customer runs out of vendors to trash? Therein lies the fallacy of the very human impulse of “off with their heads” or some such custom. The point is that we need vendors almost as much as they need us.

Divorcing a vendor might have worked in the early days of many tech-driven markets when new competition was spinning up as fast as venture capitalists could cut checks. These days aren’t those days, and some recalibrating of consumers’ attitudes toward markets and vendors might be in order. The impetus will come from CRM vendors — not some customer-driven kumbaya moment.

The opportunity for CRM vendors is to develop both technology and business processes specifically oriented toward clawing back customers who’ve gone away. Not all of them will be mad. Some simply might have fallen out of the habit of dealing with a vendor. Maybe they were on vacation. Whatever — those customers need rescue, too, and there should be technology to help the process.

About Us

We’re in the midst of a big natural experiment in which many customers suddenly decided they didn’t like any of a provider’s offerings and have decided that the whole edifice should come down.

However, notice in the natural experiment, as well as in CRM, that pulling the edifice down is not the same as setting up a new one in its place. Pulling one down is no guarantee that a new, revised, and refined edifice will ever hove into view. Often, what’s left after the revolutionary teardown is simply chaos.

My Two Bits

We’ve spent most of the last 20 years trying to make CRM applications work. We’ve gone through converting from client-server to the cloud by integrating social media and analytics, as well as machine learning, bots, automated interfaces, and more — all with the view of getting to a point where our machines can serve our customers.

Maybe we should give that a rethink. Perhaps we need to make sure there are easier ways to get out of a process and speak with humans, and maybe we need to consider how to recycle customers when they get angry enough at us to churn away.

In the natural world, if you clear-cut a forest, a forest might regrow, but it will take thousands of years. The initial phase of that process is a lot of weed growth. If you want trees, you have to plant trees, and maybe the same now must be said of customers.

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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