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Great Expectations?

Great Expectations?

Call me a cynic, but I'm not sure about CRM. I'm sure about the "C" and the "R", but the "M", or management bit, seems more skewed to pissing people off than making them happy chappy customers for life.

Here's why. For the past 10 days I've been in the US - by all accounts, the CRM capital of the world. Well, sort of, kind of, could be, I guess. The Yanks are certainly a friendly and eager-to-please bunch. For example, whenever I called down for room service, they managed to know my room number and name. Well, sort of, kind of, could be - at least 50 per cent of the time they called me Mr Kennedy, but that's okay. After all, there is a Mr Kennedy; he just didn't happen to be travelling with me on this particular trip.

What the hotels couldn't manage was to remember that I had requested a smoking room. Now, whenever I can, I stay at a particular hotel chain. I am a long-time member of their privilege club and have completed a customer preference profile. It would seem to me, if you're ever going to have a shot at managing a customer relationship this would be it. But alas (and a lack of ever having a reservation for a smoking room), all this hotel chain managed to do was regularly disappoint me. In fact, because I was aware that they were endeavouring to more than meet my needs, I was even more frustrated.

But here's the real corker, and I was merely a minor participant in this one. While my husband hadn't been with me for the majority of the trip, he was also in the US and we met in San Francisco with the intention of travelling home together. When we checked in, while our seats were together, they weren't in the upper cabin (a preference indicated in our airline customer profile). It wasn't a big deal, and we didn't request a change, but the woman at the counter must have overheard my remark to my husband about being downstairs. She voluntarily checked availability of seats on the upper deck and told us we could move. In fact, she gave us a choice of rows. We changed seats and went away happy customers.

However, in pleasing us she had managed to affect the airline's relationship with another customer.

An hour or so later, I was paged in the airline's lounge. Evidently the seat I was in had specifically been booked months ago by another passenger. Let's just say, this woman was very, very, very unhappy. As a result, in order to keep her happy, we had to change seats and another person had to change his seat.

But the best is yet to come. When it came time for our meal service, the already very, very, very unhappy woman discovered that her customised vegetarian meal was not available. Evidently it had not been entered into the computer - even though the woman insisted she had rung up only that morning to confirm her request (and seat assignment). Another fine example of managing a customer relationship. I can assure you she won't be travelling with this particular airline any time soon.

After listening to her extended harangue, my husband and I smiled at the thought.

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