CRM Analytics Takes More Than Analytics

A few years ago, during an important business trip to Florida, I had one of the worst hotel stays of my life.

I intended to write a letter to the hotel chain -- which I won't name here, but it is a famous one -- after I returned home. But the chain beat me to the punch, emailing me a lengthy (10 pages!) customer survey.

I was excited that the chain cared about what I had to say. And I was pleased at the prospect of vindication -- that the chain, once it learned about my horrendous experience, would do something to make it all right, even if only in the form of a sincere apology from an executive.

I promptly went to work on the in-depth survey, including multiple free-response questions. I diligently and thoroughly related the details of my abysmal stay, and I submitted the survey.

After that, I never heard from the chain about it again.

To this day, I refuse to stay at that particular hotel brand, and I prefer not to book at other hotels owned by that company.

Unfortunately, this hotel chain is not an aberration. Many companies routinely ask customers for feedback -- some via extensive, in-depth surveys, as the chain did -- but never follow up with the responding customer.

The great thing about surveys is that you get to ask your customers exactly how they feel about you. Presumably, as a business, you would want to use the information you get from the responses to change the way you do business.

Logically, that starts with winning over the hearts and minds of the people who don't like you.

When a customer gets upset and lets you know about it, that isn't a problem. That's an opportunity. Most upset customers speak silently with their wallets, so making things right with them becomes an impossibility. However, if you learn about a customer's problems with your business, you have the unique chance to re-instill confidence in your ability to satisfy that customer. If you do this right, you can give the customer even more confidence in you than the customer ever had before -- by making how seriously you take satisfaction quite clear.

Let's forget data mining for a moment. The whole point of analytics is to give yourself all the data you need to make your business the best it can be. It is inexcusable for a dissatisfied customer to be left completely ignored.

It can take anywhere from five to 10 new customers to replace the cost of losing an old one. Increasing customer retention by just 5 percent can increase your profits exponentially.

Yes, you can use the data from CRM analytics to improve operations generally and keep from repeating mistakes. But the "textbook" uses of analytics should not cloud the fact that you can and should use this data to fix the mistakes you already have made -- with already dissatisfied customers. Analytics is not just about changing the future. You can use this tool to rectify the past.

There's little point in spending time, money, and resources on surveys and analytics if you're not going to use those tools to their fullest advantage. If you don't even acknowledge a customer who reports getting upset, sooner or later that customer will become an ex-customer.

Joe Stanganelli, Attorney & Marketer

Joe Stanganelli is founder and principal of Beacon Hill Law, a Boston-based general practice law firm.  His expertise on legal topics has been sought for several major publications, including U.S. News and World Report and Personal Real Estate Investor Magazine. 

Joe is also a communications consultant.  He has been working with social media for many years -- even in the days of local BBSs (one of which he served as Co-System Operator for), well before the term "social media" was invented.

From 2003 to 2005, Joe ran Grandpa George Productions, a New England entertainment and media production company. He has also worked as a professional actor, director, and producer.  Additionally, Joe is a produced playwright.

When he's not lawyering, marketing, or social-media-ing, Joe writes scripts, songs, and stories.

He also finds time to lose at bridge a couple of times a month.

Follow Joe on Twitter: @JoeStanganelli

Also, check out his blog .

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Re: One positive thing
  • 9/23/2011 3:49:37 PM

Joe, I'm mulling this over and not sure where I side. Absolutely no question about it, if you've taken the time to fill out a 10-page survey and provide thoughtful responses, then you deserve acknowledgement of your effort (and in this case especially so since your experience was so negative I would say a phone call would be appropriate). However, for more routine survey responses -- like two I filled out two nights ago (one placed on each of two laptops I was having a Comcast wireless tech help troubleshoot home networking problems) -- if I were to receive a "thanks for participating" email, I wouldn't give it too much credence or the company too much credit. It'd have been automated, and probably set up by the survey vendor not even from Comcast itself. Now, if a month from now Comcast sent me a report that said, based on our research of customer surveys, our tech support staff is horrible and here's the data to prove it and so here's how we've reorganized to help improve our helpfulness, well, that'd be another story! 



Re: One positive thing
  • 9/23/2011 2:10:51 PM

Indeed, Shawn.  Even if a customer's experience is an aberration, or even if it is something that most customers would not have a problem with (or even enjoy), some kind of response (even a basic apology) is necessitated.

Otherwise, if you ask for feedback and do nothing visible or transparent with it, you look disingenuous.  Worse, you have apparently put the dissatisfied customer through a lengthy task (not to mention the ordeal of reliving a negative experience) and offered the customer nothing in return to show for it.  It all seems for naught.

Unfortunately, people in the analytics field are often more concerned with impressing executives than with impressing customers.

One positive thing
  • 9/23/2011 2:05:48 PM

Hi Joe,

Well, at least one thing came out of this. A great blog post. But agree with your point. What you do with the data you get, no matter what this data might be, is what's important. But one more thing should be noted. Let's say you're the only one to have a bad experience. Let's say they have no intention of making the changes you suggest because you are just not in their core customer group. What's important is to let you know that the data you've provided is important...because it is! It's part of the whole that they are observing. You've helped them by providing data even if it is data they ignore. Ignoring you is the real mistake.

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