Turning research into product
Oracle just published some commissioned research that both gives us insight into CRM generally and insight into the times we live in. According to a study of more than 1,100 people across several generations,
- Almost half (43%) of consumers have blacklisted a brand as the result of a bad experience; while more than one third (34%) 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%) and friends (75%) than any other source for shopping recommendations. The next most trusted source is colleagues (38%).
- Politicians (2%), celebrities (7%), a company employee you engage with online (12%) and influencers/bloggers (14%) are among the least trusted sources of shopping recommendations. (ouch!)
- Consumers from different age groups have very different attitudes toward sharing personal information. 64% of Gen Z and Millennial consumers are comfortable sharing personal information to receive better experiences compared to 50% of Gen X and 35% 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?
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 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 they invest heavily in the customer experience, but they still have 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.
So what happens when a customer runs out of vendors to trash? There-in 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. But these days aren’t those days and some recalibrating of consumers’ attitudes toward markets and vendors might be in order. But 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 might have simply gotten 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.
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. But notice in the natural experiment as well as in CRM, pulling the edifice down is not the same as setting up a new one in its place. Pulling one down is also 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 cloud, integrating social media and analytics, machine learning, bots and automated interfaces and more all with the view of getting to a point where our machines can serve our customers. But 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 must now be said of customers.