Don’t Toss Your Leads and Prospects Out the CRM / Service Back Door

Take a look at this collection of “No Longer With Us” retail stores. I don’t know about you, but I found it highly fascinating.

It’s amazing how many previously successful, nationally-recognized store brands reside on this list.

I bring this up because in a time and age long past, I worked as a humble retail clerk for a major electronics and computer “Big Box” company that is now long gone. I could tell you which one, but there’s really no point; 90 percent of the electronics “Big Box” stores from the ’90s and early 2000s went the way of Britney Spears’ relevance to the music industry for exactly the same reasons.

Each of the now-defunct, “major player” Big Box Electronic stores—Circuit City, CompUSA, Computer City, Incredible Universe, Ultimate Electronic—died because they failed to recognize the reality that the rise of the Internet made customer service the only truly differentiating value that mattered in their market space.

When the Internet exploded, customers suddenly possessed an oceanic volume of alternatives to trudging downtown and buying product off a shelf. And like so many other short-sighted business institutions, the bulk of the Big Box Electronics stores failed to adapt.

Suddenly consumers could literally buy anything in the world, have it on their doorstep in 2-6 days, and do it at worst for the same price they were already paying retailers (and usually for much less). But rather than emphasizing their key benefits in the New Internet Market—giving customers the ability to physically handle merchandise, and work face-to-face with a customer service entity—Big Box Electronics remained entrenched in the same corporate customer service policies that existed prior to the New Market.

Draconian return/exchange rules. Very little ability for local managers to handle problems without going up the corporate food chain. Little to no viable performance incentives to compel employees to stay motivated, leading to 80-120% employee turnover every 18 months. Emphasis on Old Market sales and performance metrics that did nothing to promote what needed to be the newest, critical core value for their sustainability—a remarkable customer experience.

Here’s the other thing that’s sobering—every single one of the previously listed Big Box retailers had a total lifespan of 20 years or less (in the case of some of them, it was less than ten). Two decades to go from highly successful, nationally brand-recognizable names, to nothing.

Ultimately, I’m saying this because having lived through the sheer incompetence and hubris of one of these blots on corporate America’s backside, if your sales team is struggling to close sales, be doubly sure that the problem doesn’t lie at the back door of customer service. Lead management, contact management, CRM—they’re only as useful as the rest of your company’s ability to deliver products and services at the levels your clients expect and deserve.

Look at your implementation process. How can you cut down time and unneeded complexity? How can you improve your community resources, or call center tactics to enhance the customer experience? How can you improve the user interface / speed up the deliverables / fix the weakest link in your product? And do you have the sales intelligence to know?

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