26 January 2016
Sometimes the most boring activities can bear some unexpected surprises. Like buying ink cartridges. I mean if you look at that activity through a CRM lenses. Otherwise it risks remaining boring throughout.
Most of you would probably think that I spend my time travelling around the globe and consulting companies about their loyalty programs. That is indeed an important part of my way to spend time, but I also do a lot of strategic thinking and work for our customers back in our office.
And during these times, I also put on my second hat as small business owner and get involved in completely different tasks. This stretches from fighting to understand all the dimensions of French bureaucracy to buying ink cartridges.
When I start to dedicate some time to tackle such tasks, I usually don’t expect a lot of excitement to come. So imagine my surprise the other day when I had an eye opening, revealing experience when buying ink cartridges, letting me doubt about the quality of all CRM professionals in the travel industry combined. How often do I have to talk to CRM/loyalty managers, who try to explain to me that they know and do everything about CRM…? Probably only by looking at other industries, they might wake up to reality.
But back to my purchase: Actually, I was even not buying ink cartridges. From somewhere I had a paper leaflet on my desk of a company selling ink cartridges and promising good prices. I had never heard about that company and even less done business with it, but after this leaflet had been between my papers for three months, I’ve decided to compare nevertheless its prices to those of our standard supplier.
So I went on its website – not registering or anything like that -, chose my printer model from the big list and only looked at the appropriate cartridges among the numerous remaining options, already filtered for my model. I am saying “looked” – I didn’t click on anything, just scrolled down on the page, where I found the cartridge reference I was looking for. I’ve quickly realised that prices were about 10% lower than what we usually pay. So I was kind of happy to have found a potential future, cheaper supplier, but as well that the difference was not so huge that we would have lost huge sums of money in the past by buying from somebody else, given the limited quantities we need nevertheless (yes, we are also environment friendly and don’t print each single e-mail we get!). With that (as I had no immediate need for an actual purchase to fill up our stock), my information search was finished and I’ve left the page and returned to more intellectual tasks around points and miles.
However, my regained focus didn’t last for long. Within minutes, I’ve received an e-mail. From that company. Making me a dedicated offer exactly for that cartridge at the bottom of the page I was simply looking at, without clicking on whatsoever.
First, there was a shock for a few seconds. Then plenty of questions. How do they do that? I’ve called an immediate team meeting and we were investigating the issue all together. Somewhere in the fine print, my most investigative colleague has probably discovered the secret: Based on my IP address, they link up with other, undisclosed websites, where I must have registered my e-mail address at one point, and retrieve my e-mail address from there. Of course, there can be debate whether this is morally – or even legally – correct, but leaving that aside, there is just admiration from a CRM perspective.
Now you may tell me that the ink cartridge business is somewhat simpler than the airline or hospitality industry. Fair enough. But haven’t we all logged in to our Frequent Flyer account, made a flight research and didn’t complete the purchase? And haven’t we all never heard back from that airline afterwards? And honestly, the applied technique is basically the same whether you look at ink cartridges or at a hotel – so this could even be possible without logging in to any account.
And shall I tell you what? My new ink cartridge supplier has made me such a compelling personalised offer for my potential first purchase that we do have a new supplier now. Whether they will manage to retain our business afterwards remains to be seen, but somehow I am now confident in their CRM capabilities and that they will manage to do so. That is the kind of company that will be able to predict, based on my past purchasing behaviour, that we will be running out of stock in two weeks and that I will therefore look into a new order in two days – so tomorrow I will have a timely offer in my inbox. As comparison, the fact that I am currently looking for some hotel options in early August for a family holiday shouldn’t let me make hope that I will get an offer from a hotel for the destination – and even less from what airline whatsoever to get me there -, although there would be a very high likelihood that I would accept it! You can call it missed opportunity for those 99% of hotels and airlines I will ultimately not book with.
So on a boring grey January afternoon, I’ve not only learned that CRM exists, but that CRM even works. Something I’ve been looking for in vain, at least when applying such high standards, in the travel industry in 10+ years, since the moment everybody started to claim they were doing CRM. We can all still learn. Sometimes even from no-name ink cartridge distributors.