Archives for September 2011

A Bit Off Target – A Twisted Customer Service Tale

I love Target.  I had to state that right out of the gate.  Because, its the ones we care about the most that we should be most interested in helping to improve.  And, that’s the context in which I relate this little diddy.

Driving home from some random errand on my honey-do list last weekend with my son, he wanted to stop at Target for lunch.  (please hold the critique on the dietary choices I allow my kids to make).  Target has a lunch counter that serves pizza and other such delights. 

We made our selections.  And as the cashier began to ring it up, my son spotted a golden ticket!  Another child, who’s parent was clearly as health conscious as I, was drinking from a twisty straw.  A TWISTY STRAW!  Everyone knows sugary drinks taste a thousand times better through a twisty straw!

So, with the cash register reading $13.85, I asked for a twisty straw (two, if you must know).  But, here’s the kicker.  I was told that you can only get a twisty straw with a kid’s meal.  Curious.  I inquired again.  I got the same answer.  So, I looked up at the kids menu choices.  The most expensive item on the kids menu was less than half of what was currently on the register.  Soooo….I alerted my customer service cousin to that fact.  And, the response was: “I know it doesn’t make sense.  But thats the program”.

So, I ordered a kid’s item, pulled a five spot out of my wallet and got change along with my twisty straw (only one). 

I slumped into my chair and as my son reveled in the joy of his roller coaster drink experience, I pondered.

How off target was this experience?  Nine dollars lost in revenue.  A befuddled customer.  And a policy that was followed to the letter.

Twisted.

Customer Data and Pork Bellies

The law of supply and demand.  You’ve heard of it.  You may have studied it.  Any of you that are economists (real ones. not just those like me that have it on their resumes under “education”) know a heck of a lot more about it than me.

With my elementary understanding of the subject, I got to wondering the other day about the economic value of customer data; voice of the customer, customer insights, whatever label you give it.

Has customer data become a commodity?  Have we hit a point of dimimishing returns? (pulling out all my econometric knowledge now)  How does your organization determine the investments it makes to acquire, store, manage, analyze and take action on customer data?

Customer data is overabundant.  And, with the explosion of the social web, It’s easier than ever to access.  And, yes, companies can’t seem to get enough of the stuff.  But, as fast as demand grows, supply is growing at an exponential rate relative to demand.  Just look at Twitter alone.  As of May of this year, Twitter was generating over 35Mb of data per second. Do the math.  That’s 2 gigabytes per minute; 3 terabytes a day.

The struggle I’m having is understanding what is driving the demand.  Since the time I could spell Cobol, there’s been this adage that says “Most corporations are data rich yet information poor”.  Catchy, right?  So, if this is to be believed, shouldn’t the focus be on doing more with the data an organization already has?  Of course, if its crap, then, by all means, get different data.  But, I’m not sure you need more of the same.

Do more with less.  Isn’t that what the new economic reality dictates?  Maybe its something to consider when it comes to customer data.

Customer Intimacy Doesn’t Scale

After twenty five plus years of CRM, is there any other possible conclusion to be reached?  And for that matter, as Esteban Kolsky challenged me last week when I tweeted this statement, does customer intimacy even exist?  Or should it?

Now don’t get me wrong, we see all around us countless examples of great customer experience (and no, I’m not talking about this).  My friend Stan Phelps is on a wonderful mission to find random acts of marketing and customer service lagniappe.  And he’s found plenty.

But none of that has anything to do with intimacy.  Nowhere in the definition is the mention of the word “customer”.  And my point is further exemplified when you compare these descriptions of intimacy with the watered-down, tepid description of customer intimacy here.

Asking Esteban’s indulgence for a moment here, lets assume it actually does exist.  It exists at my corner antique book store.  It does not exist on Amazon (sorry Amazon.  I dig you.  But its true).  It exists at my local hardware and feed supply store (yes, I live in a place where feed supplies are still in demand).  It does not exist at Lowes.  And it exists at my favorite bakery where the owner knows the personal details of every occasion for which I’ve ordered one of their totally decadent chocolate three layer cakes.  At the bakery counter of Wegmans?  Not so much.

Think about it.  I chose to call out these big companies intentionally.  They happen to be some of my favorite companies with which to do business.  And, all of them deliver a pretty darn good customer experience.

But, are we intimate?  It’s just not possible.  Intimacy doesn’t scale.