What does mint chocolate chip ice cream have to do with CRM?

One of my “rant buttons” is the way Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is usually discussed as a software-oriented, direct marketing, customers-in-the-aggregate, technology tool. Shouldn’t we focus, first, on how to manage human relationships with individual customers, and then look at how the technology can support those one-on-one relationships? In practice, it usually doesn’t work that way. Here’s a recent post I wrote on tompeters.com that sums up these thoughts.

Last week, during a presentation to 200 employees of one of our health care clients, my associate, Caroline Ceisel, made a spontaneous comment that put customer relationship management in usable, human terms. Caroline was leading a discussion on how to use information we learn about an individual patient, at one point in time, to personalize the patient’s relationship with the practice at a later point in time. Caroline said, “It doesn’t matter if you know your girlfriend likes mint chocolate chip ice cream if you don’t ever get her some.”

From where I was standing, near Caroline at the front of the room, I could see the faces in the audience. They practically glowed with understanding.

Sure, technology is very helpful in remembering those “nuggets” about individual customers. But those nuggets only matter once you pull them out and use them to give customers what they want. Think of all of the nuggets about individual customers that are sitting in your CRM database. Is your company using that information only to execute more streamlined direct marketing campaigns, or are you using that information interact with individual customers in ways that are relevant to each customer?

Remember, it doesn’t matter if you know it. It only matters if you use it.

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