When Technology is the Wrong Option

Posted: March 11, 2008 in Business Advice, customers, Marketing, Small Business, Strategy, Technology
Tags: ,

I often get clients that are in a ‘between’ situation. Where they have outgrown their current methods and systems, yet aren’t quite big enough to justify the obvious next step. This leads them to the strategic growth investment discussion, they are unsure which way to go and I am called in.

Let me give you an example:

Lets say the company has gone from start-up to a size where a ‘proper’ Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system of some kind is suggested and proposed by one of the reputable CRM vendors. The cost of implementing CRM across the organisation and by the book is daunting, (there are cunning ways to reduce the implementation risk and cost however that is another story).

The decision appears to be an either-or:

EITHER we stay in the disorganised state we are OR we bite the bullet and do this project.

Draper’s Law of technology states: “When in an uncomfortable either-or situation – both options are usually false and there are other more viable options – you need to examine the basic assumptions to uncover them”

In this case we are talking about customer interaction and the false base assumption is that the answer has to be a technological one.

Customer Facing Technology is only a substitute for People – not a replacement.

Otherwise all the high class retail stores would have installed computers years ago!

Lets say our example CRM proposal carried a price-tag of $100,000 and that it will cost at least that again in reorganising policies and procedures, cleaning accounting data, gathering segmentation data, meetings, marketing strategy sessions, training and all the other upheaval tasks a new system normally demand.

You could employ several part-time people for that price.

Imagine sending a semi-retired person out to your clients on the premise of customer care/service/whatever makes sense in your industry. They TALK to the actual users, (not the manager or the purchasing officer), they hear about problems, they gather useful information that can be brought back to base – AND they can organise technicians to call, help reorder consumables etc. in short – they are a one-on-one personal marketing machine. You cant loose.

And when the time truly comes for that flash CRM system – you will have a richstream of customer information and bedside manner procedures all set to take advantage of the applications features.

There are always other options to technology, and exploring them helps put technology in its place – as a support tool, not the be-all and end-all.

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