Wrapping Up 2003

  |  December 11, 2003   |  Comments

CRM Strategies' year in review.

That time of year has come again -- time to go through everything we talked about this year and close the book on 2003. It's hard to believe it's been a full year (and 24 more columns for ClickZ) since my last wrap-up. This year went by really quickly.

CRM encompasses every discipline, and this year we really ran the gamut of topics. The common thread among all was customer loyalty through a better user experience and more company decisions based on a customer-centric culture. Below, where we've been in the last 12 months.

Customer-Centric Policies

We spoke a lot this year on the (ever-present) problem that companies are not customer-centric from the top down. Lip service alone doesn't change company culture among the ranks of customer service reps. A company has an ego problem if its corporate goals and policies talk only about itself, not the value it provides to customers.

All company policies must be written in a positive and customer-centric way, and reaction times (to customer complaints) must be swift. "As soon as possible" is a variable that will upset customers if you respond to them too long after they had a problem. Finally, we talked about a company's customer reactivation policies, and how long to keep customers' accounts active.

User Experience and Customer Service

Another big topic this year was customer service and user experience. We looked at some high-profile companies and their high-profile user experience mistakes. Many of these companies will never improve because they won't admit they have a problem -- the first step in any recovery process.

Consumers are getting smarter and are less tolerant of companies that don't keep pace. Companies can no longer use big words to confuse customers to explain their way out of a bad design or an ineffective back-end. Other companies are getting it right, and customers are savvier about figuring out where businesses stand. If you don't get your house in order soon, customers will not wait. They'll simply find a better, smarter company.

Though I usually keep to high-level ideas in this column, we did delve into site-design specifics this year. We examined navigation page overuse. Better navigation schemes get users to content more quickly. We also talked about the proper use of desire data, product/service information that entices people to buy.

Marketing, Marketing, and More Marketing

No CRM column would be complete without spending a lot of time on various marketing topics. This year we focused on many different marketing disciplines. One of my goals was to write more about multichannel marketing. To that end, we discussed the basic principles of running an effective multichannel marketing campaign, learned how to choose when to launch a new channel, and debated whether channibalism exists.

We also looked at viral marketing, which had a resurgence this year in the form of viral communities such as Friendster. We discussed viral marketing and how it relates to another common marketing practice, "householding."

Brand marketing is always a hot topic for me. So many brand marketers don't understand a brand is not just based on what billboards look like or what the company slogan is. Brand is much more closely linked to the user experience. A topic that is rarely discussed in brand marketing is brand migration. This year we looked at UPS' attempt to migrate its Mailboxes, Etc. stores to a new brand, The UPS Store.

E-mail marketing is, of course, a huge topic for all of us who run interactive campaigns. Without email, we would have limited ability to proactively reach our customers online. But, email is a dialogue, not just a direct marketing channel.

We talked about how to make email more interactive and less "read only." We also talked about how to use personalization in subject lines in new ways. Instead of simply using a person's name, make subject lines more relevant to the products people own and the problems they're having.

Holiday marketing is always a relevant topic. Whether we talk about Christmas and New Year's or my birthday, gift-giving online represents a huge percentage of online sales. We must harness several different gift-giving techniques when crafting a gifting strategy for our companies. In addition, we need to be more creative and create personalized holidays, celebrating people's anniversaries with our companies or other special dates that are meaningful to individual customers.

A New Look at CRM

We took a step back this year and looked at two ideas important to CRM in general and useful in every facet of CRM, from user design to marketing. Specifically, we talked about education as a CRM tool. We need to educate customers and show them how to make more informed decisions.

Knowledge transfer is a loyalty-building practice and can be a strategic differentiator. We saw this idea carried out at places such as Home Depot (where you can learn how to do home improvement projects and buy all the needed supplies) and Kraftfoods.com (where you can learn how to bake and get a list of ingredients for several recipes).

CRM is only effective if users actually understand the messages. So, we addressed making CRM accessible so all users can benefit from our services. Deaf and blind people compose a significant percentage of online users, because technology enables them to do things more conveniently online than in stores. If CRM initiatives don't include accessibility, you're ignoring what could be a substantial part of an online user base.

Mass Customization Comes of Age

Finally, we talked about product mass customization. In the first mass customization column, we discussed how important a personalized user experience is to a company specializing in personalized products. In the second column, we debated whether mass customized products would catch on in various buying segments where brand and cachet were more important than convenience and self-expression.

So Many Topics, So Little Time

We certainly covered a lot of ground this year, but there is so much more to talk about! My topics this year were greatly informed by you. Your feedback and questions give me a sense of what topics you'd like to discuss.

Please take a moment to send me a note. What topics do you want to talk about next year? What topics from this year most interested you? This column focuses on all aspects of CRM, customer-centric design, and personalization. I wouldn't be practicing what I preach if I didn't custom-tailor my topics to your interests. I can't do that without your feedback, so send me an email today!

Happy holidays and happy New Year! Thank you for spending this year with me. I look forward to another year of exploring CRM with you.

Until next time,

Jack

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jack Aaronson

Jack Aaronson, CEO of The Aaronson Group and corporate lecturer, is a sought-after expert on enhanced user experiences, customer conversion, retention, and loyalty. If only a small percentage of people who arrive at your home page transact with your company (and even fewer return to transact again), Jack and his company can help. He also publishes a newsletter about multichannel marketing, personalization, user experience, and other related issues. He has keynoted most major marketing conferences around the world and regularly speaks at Shop.org and other major industry shows. You can learn more about Jack through his LinkedIn profile.

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