HomeIndustry Commentary

Customer Elimination Management (first appeared in InfoWorld)

Like Tweet Pin it Share Share Email

And now, news from the trailing edge of customer service, which my father, the great guru of direct marketing, has dubbed CEM, for “Customer Elimination Management.” I won’t mention the names of the offenders — that would be crass, and besides, I doubt they’re the only companies that pull stunts like this — but there’s a chance you’ll be able to figure it out their identities from context. Just don’t ask me to confirm or deny your inference.

Item 1: A few months ago I received a telemarketing call promoting a new program from my current long-distance provider that provided far more inexpensive long-distance rates than I’d been paying, so I signed up. Something went wrong, though, and my bills continued to show the original, 400% higher fee.

When I called, the customer service associate couldn’t do anything because there was no record of the transaction. Her supervisor gave me the identical answer.

“Somewhere in your company, there’s somebody who cares that you’re about to lose my long distance business,” I said. “I’d like to talk to that person.” The supervisor promised her manager would call me within 24 hours.

The silence since then has been so profound you could hear a pin drop. I paid my bill and changed to a different long-distance provider.

Item 2: The credit card I’ve preferred for over ten years was unique, and admirable, in figuring that if I paid $500 when $25 was due, I’d prepaid the following month. So I was surprised to Discover a late fee on my bill exceeding the amount due. The customer service associate explained that the policy had changed. Oh.

Then I asked for help removing my ex-wife’s name from the account, something I’d been trying to accomplish for quite awhile. The response: It can’t be done. I’d have to close this account altogether and apply for a new one. Since no offer to help with this process was forthcoming I asked to close my account. At last! I got prompt, efficient help — losing my business forever took less than three seconds.

The theory of CRM is that customer acquisition is expensive, so companies profit by spending far less to retain the ones they have. It’s a good theory and it works. CRM software is intended to help implement this strategy consistently.

If your company, like the anonymous offenders described here, practices CEM instead, here’s some advice: Don’t bother installing CRM software. It won’t help.