By Chris Bucholtz
Dr. Natalie Petouhoff is fond of saying, “The fish rots from the head.” She often uses it in describing failures of customer service that stem from shortcomings of leadership. Without executive buy-in, all the insight a service organization may uncover will never be translated into improvements to service processes.
But that’s the way it is across the entire CRM spectrum, to a degree: any part of your customer relationship system can be scuttled if leadership isn’t behind it.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is strictly a technology issue; it’s much more likely that leadership will de-rail its CRM processes through apathy, inattention or ineptitude that affects attitudes within the company.
Here’s an example: in one business, which had an intensely sales-oriented culture, a salesman became well known for stretching the truth about his company’s products during sales calls. It wasn’t that he didn’t have a grasp of the product – he simply took a divergent path from the truth when it became useful in closing a sale, counting on the idea that the customer, once signed up, would somehow overlook the fictional part of his sales pitch.
If a smart sales manager was managing him, this salesman would have been gone, cut loose, canned like a ham – and tout suite. Instead, he was allowed to continue his selling shenanigans – after all, he was meeting his goals, right?
Eventually, his antics gravitated up to the CEO via his increasingly disgruntled peers. This gave the CEO a chance to drop the hammer and make a statement: we stand behind our product as it is, but we also stand with our customers. Did that happen? Well, I said this was a very sales-oriented culture, didn’t I? The CEO’s comment was, “boys will be boys!”
Let me predict the future or this business: this salesman will continue with what’s working for him; his business will experience a remarkable rate of churn, with unusually high rates among customers he closes; social media will begin to ring with complaints about the company’s less than honest sales practices; and, perhaps too late, the leadership will realize that the damage to the company’s business costs it far more dollars than the salesman’s dubious efforts bring in.
Being a straight shooter with your customers is no longer a characteristic of exceptional businesses – it’s table stakes. If you do your customers wrong – during the sales process, or during any part of your relationship with them – they’re going to exact their revenge on you via social media. Pete Blackshaw wrote a book back in 2008 called Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000; X I think Pete underestimated the latter number when it comes to customers who feel they’ve been treated with dishonesty.
This is just one way that a business can poison the CRM well – these methods have always existed, but now the well is worldwide. Although I’ve often said that CRM starts with hiring, if you’re a big enough company you’re likely to get some employees who are poor fits. But if you’re a leader, you need to excise these employees immediately; tolerating or even condoning them will put you on a customer-powered path to failure.