Are There Beans in Your Customer Service?

Ben Consulting, CRM, Strategy, Training

A number of years ago I was called in to review a CRM system for a technology firm — actually a software company with a strong focus on databases.   Good project for me; I understood the target market, the general sales and support functions and had worked with their CRM system for a number of years.

One afternoon I was talking with the Manager of Customer Service. On the corner of her desk there was  a small decorative bowl about 1/2 full of large lima beans. Must be ‘worry beans’ I thought to myself — I could see her running the beans through her fingers to relieve the stress of having to deal with customer problems all day.

During our conversation I mentioned the ‘worry beans’ and mentioned that it did not seem like a very stressful environment.  Everyone appeared pleasant and eager to answer customer inquiries and handle support calls.

“Oh no!” she laughed — that is how we keep track of support calls.  Each time I complete a call and enter the data into the system I take a bean out of my desk drawer and drop in the bowl.  At the end of the week we all count our beans and add up the total calls for the week!

This is not an isolated situation.  I see similar scenarios on a regular basis…  Word documents, color-coded spreadsheets and whiteboards full of  ‘tic marks’ on the wall in Customer Service departments.

It sometimes seems like we are so obsessed with gathering data we totally ignore the reporting and analytics side of the equation.   If we don’t measure then why are we going through the exercise of filling our databases.  We could just as well be throwing playing cards into a hat.

CRM administrators need to do a better job of analyzing and presenting what is happening in their functional area — there is a wealth of information just waiting to be acted upon.

Back to the beans.

When I inquired why they were measuring calls by counting beans the reply was “Well, we can’t get that information from our system.”  How many times have we all heard that!

After I wiped the stunned look off my face I showed her where the ‘Call Report’ menu was located — 3 clicks away from her main CRM screen.  The training for Customer Service only included data entry, not any reporting.

This is yet another illustration of why CRM is a journey, not a destination!  CRM systems are designed to be dynamic and to move with the changes in business environments.  Regular briefings or even refresher training would have uncovered this early in the cycle.  Instead it lasted years.

Can you imagine what a couple of mice could have done to their completed call numbers?