Do EMC and Apple Have a Killer CRM Secret?

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Every intelligent major company has what is in effect a nuclear weapon development program, which, if it works, could allow them to take control of their market. IBM's is on artificial intelligence and Watson is the first warning. However, with Apple and EMC, not only are the weapons more subtle, they could revolutionize the CRM market if they decided to market them externally. But, in both cases, the firms have decided to keep these efforts secret and we've seen the result early on with Apple's market dominance and Steve Jobs' rise to CEO of the decade.


EMC looked at Apple, recognized what many Apple competitors missed, and then out-executed Apple in its solution and is well down the path to creating a customer-sourced nuclear weapon. And while I think it will give Oracle and other competitors heartburn, you'll probably like it a lot. In fact, based on folks EMC had on stage at EMC World this week, if you aren't currently doing business with EMC, you are likely to fix that oversight shortly.


Apple Example


Apple has a number of obvious advantages. It builds attractive consumer-focused products, it outspends its peers in demand generation marketing, and it has its own stores. It also has the most loyal customers and what its competitors and most other companies miss is that Apple has one of the most advanced internal CRM systems on the planet.


Let me give you an example of a story that I was told over drinks at EMC World: An executive late for a meeting discovered he had left his Apple power supply at home and his Mac battery was dead. His first meeting was at 10 and when he arrived at the Apple store he found that while there were people setting up they weren't going to open until 10. One of the employees saw his concern and asked what the problem was. He then said "wait a moment," went into the store, got a power supply, asked if there was an Apple-buying app on his phone and then used that to close the purchase. The end result was that the executive telling the story wrote a thank-you note to Tim Cook, Apple's CEO, naming the employee and reaffirming his loyalty to Apple.


You wouldn't get this behavior very often anyplace, but this is the kind of story commonly told of an Apple store employee and that is because each has a significant portion of their compensation tied to customer satisfaction.


CRM Fallacy


Now, if you think about it, this is exactly what CRM was supposed to do, but mostly all these systems do is manage orders. They really don't manage the relationship, which is more of an emotional connection between the customer and the vendor. Now recognize that to do this right, you'd have to capture a massive amount of data on the customer, on your own customer-facing and dependent systems, and that of your competitors.


For instance, let's say you were managing a marriage, another kind of deep relationship. If you were managing how well the parties worked together, but didn't have insight into any distractions by other potential mates, you wouldn't really have a good picture of the relationship. A massive number of relationships are broken up not because either party did something wrong, but because one of them found someone better. In a competitive market, there is no rule against fooling around or getting hitched to another primary vendor.


If you want to either prevent or capitalize on that, you'd need to not only know what you brought to the table, but what your rival brought to the table as well.




So what Jim Bampos has created at EMC is the first big data CRM solution on the planet. Backed up by Greenplum analytics, EMC's solution has four pillars and four levels. The four processes that EMC drills down on and has instrumented are the buying process, the deployment process, the customer use process and services. Each is not only measured individually, but also in respect to those processes around it through the eyes of the customer. For instance, if the deployment process is failing, it may be because the solution was incorrectly sold, leading the buyer to think it did things well that it wasn't designed to do. If someone is having difficulty, it could be because service personnel weren't engaging correctly and had made errors or provided bad advice.


The four levels that constitute data capture include: the voice of the customer, voice of the field quantitative quality, customer metrics and financial metrics, and this data (both subjective and objective) is plugged into Greenplum for analysis.


One of the early results was the investment in a maintenance system that increasingly surrounds all of EMC's offerings, which looks at predictive elements (use, load, environment) and then proactively predicts failures so that not only do repair people show up to fix things timely, they generally show up before the failure, assuring the system doesn't fail at all.


In short, they have taken CRM and turned it into UCLA (Universal Customer Loyalty Assurance). Their program doesn't just manage orders, it assures that customers remain customers forever.




However, this year EMC is taking this one step further into managing partners to the same level. The Dell breakup hit the company pretty hard, both because Dell is a personal friend of its CEO, Joe Tucci, and because Dell has transitioned from being a powerful ally to a powerful competitor. The company felt this kind of outcome could and should be avoided. As a result, EMC has taken this same model and applied it to partnerships and has begun to fully instrument these relationships so that no other EMC partner will, due to an EMC oversight, become a competitor. In fact, with a system like this, it simply would be more cost effective to partner with EMC than to compete against it, particularly if it gave you access to its Customer and Partner Assurance systems.


Wrapping Up: So Why Is EMC Unique?


Think about it: EMC did VCE, a unique enterprise-class partnership growing in triple digits and no one has copied it. EMC did VSPLEX, a solution not built to customer specs, but built to partner specs for mid-market partners so they could build unique solutions for customers and no one copied that either. EMC's unique customer-focused, but hardly secret, weapon is creating deeper customer loyalty and incredible success, so why aren't other companies doing this? In fact, based on this recent disclosure out of the HP/Oracle case, Oracle is apparently reveling in the fact that it is tricking customers into buying hardware that "beelllooooows" (see documents at end of this piece) and that is more in line with ripping off customers than assuring their loyalty.


So my reason for why this is isn't that much different from why companies don't deploy SIEM tools. They would rather not know about their customer and partner relationships because, if they did, they might have to fix relationship problems.


Reminds me of an old friend. He had stolen his wife from another man and she was clearly becoming unhappy. He didn't want to go into therapy to get to the core of the issue and instead went on a private vacation. He returned to find that she had moved in with someone else (who pretty much locked her in the house and wouldn't let her out, which kind of works but likely wasn't ideal from her perspective, either). I think that's called a lose, lose, lose result.


In the end, that is EMC's truly secret lesson: It would rather know of problems and be able to resource fixing them rather than risk being surprised by lost customers or partners. In my book, that likely makes it the ideal vendor partner. And it also is the way CRM should, but doesn't, work.