Monday, August 13, 2007

Fran Lebowitz and CRM.

Fran Lebowitz is a humorist I never found funny, though she's been called by some (probably herself) our generation's Dorothy Parker. That being said, even the least funny humorist can occasionally strike a chord or say something profound.

Lebowitz once said, "The opposite of talking isn't listening, the opposite of talking is waiting." Not laugh out-loud funny, but her observation teeters on the brink of the profound. Many so-called marketers--especially those purportedly involved in customer relationship marketing--aren't really listening, they are merely waiting so they can blast another message your way. Yogi Berra once said, "I never really said all the things I said." But marketers, in an effort to corral your responses into a "bucket" respond to the answer they wanted to hear.

I think that's why whenever you call a phone center to complain about something they resolutely refuse to fix, the rep always ends the conversation with "is there anything else I can help you with?" I always respond by saying, "You haven't helped me at all."

I guess my abstruse, obtuse and chartreuse point is this--marketers (and I include politicians under that term) don't really listen. Our onslaught of data and personalization is still dramatically short of true custom-ness. As consumers we've been told (daily and by automatonic voices) that we are important, but except to a few enlightened marketers we are something that fits in a bucket.

Once, not so long ago, I wrote a letter to president Bush who that day hailed four-hundred years of friendship with the German people (I think it was some commemoration of Frederick Muhlenberg's arrival in the US.) The thing was, Bush chose to commemorate German-American amity on Yom Kippur, the Holiest Day of the Jewish year and a day where some of God's chosen think about the six-million annihilated by Nazis, many of them German. I suggested in my letter to Bush that he could have waited a day, and thus avoided a fearful symmetry. What did I get back from the Bush Administration two months later, a document on German-American trade.

OK. Some bureaucrat checked a box and trade was the one that was closest to an answer to my plaint. That's ain't listening, it's waiting.

If businesses want to manage customer relationships, they better do it right. For too many CRM is really customer relationship manglement.


dawife said...

As our daughters learned in religious school, there is also a profound difference between hearing and listening.

tore's tour said...

i wonder what had happened if he'd chosen d-day?