Know your customers

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I'm sitting at my home this past week when the phone rings around 4:30 pm. I pick up to find a representative from a company to which I pay a monthly amount in excess of $200. (Let's call him Marty from XYZ Cable here, although both are pseudonyms.)

Marty's all too happy to tell me about a brand new special that XYZ is offering its customers. (In an era of incessant social media and pervasive communications, it's oddly comforting to know that good old-fashioned cold calling still exists.)

What exactly do you buy from us again?

Astonishingly, Marty doesn't even know which products and services I currently buy from XYZ each month. Now, XYZ's billing systems seem to work; the company doesn't give me a free ride on my monthly charges. The company is very prompt about charging my credit card.

So why is Marty in the dark?

I can only conclude that XYZ management has, in its infinite wisdom, seen fit to deny Marty access to the very data that would made his job easier - and the jobs of countless other reps being forced to bother customers at home.

Contrast this type of old-school, intrusive, outbound marketing (without accurate data, to boot) with the recommendation-friendly, data-laden approach of companies like Amazon.com. As I wrote about in a recent post, there are very good reasons that most of the company's customers place a great deal of trust in it. I won't rehash them all here, but think for a minute about what Amazon doesn't do. In a nutshell, it doesn't call its customers and ask them what they've bought from the site.

Simon Says

I'm not too keen on cold calling. In fact, I'm a big believer in inbound marketing, as are many progressive organizations. If you insist on calling your current customers at random, though, at least give your employees the tools (read: the data) necessary to make the call potentially fruitful.

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About Author

Phil Simon

Author, Speaker, and Professor

Phil Simon is a keynote speaker and recognized technology expert. He is the award-winning author of eight management books, most recently Analytics: The Agile Way. He consults organizations on matters related to strategy, data, analytics, and technology. His contributions have been featured on The Harvard Business Review, CNN, Wired, The New York Times, and many other sites. In the fall of 2016, he joined the faculty at Arizona State University's W. P. Carey School of Business (Department of Information Systems).

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