'Interesting' Times: A CRM Story

John Storts

It's always interesting when personal and professional pursuits intersect. Case in point: I recently wrote a definition document pertaining to customer relationship management methods and technology for our Knowledge Network.


Little did I know that I would soon bear witness to a perfect example of how NOT to manage a customer relationship.


In the last year (or two, if I'm being totally honest), our iBook G4 really showed its age. I decided it was time for a new home computer after reaching its limit in terms of compatible hardware and software upgrades. Believe it or not, I was able to get six years of reliable performance and functionality out of the machine, and I thought that was a pretty sound testament to Apple's manufacturing standards. But, I'd maxed out the overstuffed laptop in every possible way, and I had to finally begin the process of putting it out to pasture.


So, off I go to the nearest authorized Apple reseller (this was not an Apple retail store; I'd wanted to support a smaller, locally owned brick-and-mortar), armed with a plan for what I needed and giddy with the excitement about getting a shiny new Mac loaded with all the newest bells and whistles. I had money saved and knew exactly what I wanted. I should have been the perfect customer, and the transaction should have been short and sweet. No need to sell to me, as I was already sold.


What comes next surprised and angered me. I entered the store, walked up to the product that I figured would best meet our household computing needs and fit our budget. I played around with the computer, getting an idea of all the new features and already planning my next project. No one came up to me to ask if I needed help. After a few minutes, thinking that they were busy (although the store was nearly empty), I browsed for a few minutes and double-checked other options to make sure I was making the right choice. Still, no one came up to ask if I needed help.


After going back and standing by the product for another five minutes, I finally walked up to the nearest available guy wearing a polo shirt and lanyard around his neck and asked if he could help me. Through glassy eyes and with a mumbled "yeah," he went to the back to check on availability.


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After several more minutes, he came back and said flatly, "We're out of stock." Then, silence.


In addition to seeming to ignore me and making me wait unnecessarily, here are the next four ways he mismanaged his relationship with this customer, and he didn't need specialized CRM software or an esoteric methodology to avoid doing so:

  • His body language and tone of voice clearly indicated he didn't care whether he made a sale. He never made eye contact or smiled.
  • He didn't try to sell me an alternative product or express regret that what I wanted wasn't currently available.
  • He didn't look into when new stock would arrive until I asked.
  • He didn't ask for my name or contact info so I could be informed when new stock arrived.


So, I fumed inside at this almost comical outcome and left, wondering what Steve Jobs would think of this experience. I would have been stupid to have rewarded such behavior by spending my money there. It should have been so easy for all involved! I simply went to my local Apple Store and snagged what I wanted in 15 minutes with the help of someone more friendly and informed.


In this case, this "interesting" intersection turned out to have more of the reputed Chinese-curse meaning than the intellectually stimulating sense of the word, and this was all due to lackadaisical and indifferent treatment at the hands of the salesperson. Clearly, there was no CRM system in place at this store, whether of an organic or technological nature.


Maybe the guy's been reading Jeff Havens' "How to Get Fired!" and the satire went right over his head? To this unhelpful young man, I offer this proverb: "May you come to the attention of those in authority."

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Sep 21, 2010 6:39 PM Mark Powell Mark Powell  says:

In my experience this has been the attitude of some re-sellers, certainly in the UK going back at least a decade. I remember the drawn out agony of trying to buy an iMac DV 400 in 2000 from the best 'Authorised Reseller' in Manchester. As a last resort, I ended up going to PC World - an experience nobody relishes.

This is why the Apple Store rollout has been so successful and why Apple's market share has rocketed in recent years.

There's a saying that goes 'If you want a job done properly, do it yourself'. I think Steve knows that one.


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