CRM : Look beyond numbers

July 20, 2012

A few days back, I got a marketing call from my mobile service provider; they suggested a new bill plan for me. It was very attractive, had a lot of benefits when compared to my current plan, and the price was also reasonable (Rs 1000).

So, I decided to shift to this new plan and gave them my decision. I got an SMS immediately; everything went smoothly. I started enjoying all the new plan benefits and felt happy about the right decision.

One month later, yesterday, I got the bill, and it was a shocker because it had Rs 2000 as the plan cost instead of Rs 1000.

I am sure all of us would have faced this kind of problem before; we would dial the call center, shout at some helpless lady there that the company has cheated us, threaten them that we will go to court, and finally, (if lucky) get the refund back. This post is NOT one such story; believe me.

My intention is not to share my frustrations with you or throw dirt at the mobile company (That’s why I am not even mentioning their name here). Instead, I fully understand that such service issues can happen at any company, and I want to think aloud on what is the best way to handle them.

Coming back to my story, I immediately contacted their call center, informed them that they had charged me Rs 2000 instead of Rs 1000, and asked for a refund (and reason). The gentleman on the other side of the phone was very kind, apologized for the error, took just a few seconds to understand the real issue, and gave me a solution almost immediately. (Maybe many people are facing the same problem!)

Actually, the plan to which I subscribed is called “Package 2000″ (or something similar), which means the fixed rent on this plan is Rs 2000 per month, and then they enable something called a “50% discount package” on top of it. As a result, you will get a Rs 1000 discount on your bill every month, bringing the effective rent to Rs 1000 only.

In my case, they never told me about this complexity and simply sold it as a “1000 Rupees package”. Technically, it is not cheating, but they should have mentioned it clearly during the “Marketing” phase.

Okay, Marketing is done; I am ready to buy the package; at least now, someone should have told me that the plan is actually called “Package 2000″, and I would have asked, “Why 2000?”. They missed this step too.

The biggest mistake was they forgot to enable the “50% discount package” for me. As a result, I got a bill for Rs 2000 now, instead of Rs 1000.

The call center person could revert it back to Rs 1000 very easily, and enable my “50% discount package”. I am happy; I even gave that person a “5/5″ rating as feedback. But, the bitterness is there with me that they didn’t handle this right.

What could they have done differently?

  1. They could have created a simple “Package 1000″, instead of a complex combination “2000 Package” + “50% discount” (Owner : Product Management / Marketing)
  2. Even otherwise, They could have told me clearly about the package, instead of selling it to me as a “Package 1000″ (Means, you are hiding facts about your products to your customer, just to make a sale) (Owner : Marketing / Sales)
  3. They could have put a process in place, to ensure that “2000 Package” always goes with “50% discount” package, just to make sure no customer gets a surprise after their first bill (Owner : Delivery / Deployment / Billing)

These are the “Expected” reactions; if they want to go one level up, they can “surprise” or “delight” the customer by taking a few more initiatives, but that would be too much to expect at this stage 🙂

Now, let us analyze this entire story from a Customer Relationship Management standpoint; these are the transactions and the result:

  1. Marketing call to the customer: Success
  2. Sales to the customer: Success
  3. Delivery of the product (package): Success
  4. The customer raised a complaint about the Billing
  5. Customer complaint resolved in 2 minutes: Success
  6. The customer gave a “5/5″ rating: Super Success

Do you see the problem? My mobile service provider will NEVER know that things went wrong in my relationship with them, and they will never know that there are a number of improvement suggestions they need to work on if they just look at the statistics above. Unless and until I write a long email detailing all these to their senior management, they will be under the impression that everything went smoothly. Even after I write one such mail, there is no assurance that action will be taken against it.

This proves, beyond doubt, that CRM is not just transactions; it is the overall relationship that matters. If you just look at the customer records/activities/feedback numbers, you may be missing the real picture altogether.

There is a very famous quote about statistics; let me borrow it and modify it slightly: “CRM systems and reports are just like mini-skirts; they give you good inputs but hide the most important things!”

Naga Chokkanathan

Senior Director, CRMIT

Originally Published in

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