Managing customer relationships

I’m currently in the middle of reviewing a book called “Herd (How to change mass behaviour by harnessing our true nature) by Mark Earls. I’m reviewing it for the CQI of all people. The CQI of all people … The reason I make that remark was because about 20 pages in I found myself asking the question “what the hell has this got to do with the classic concept of quality management?”. It is fairly and squarely a book about marketing. It’s title pretty much gives away what it is about. In a nutshell the suggestion is made that it is ineffective to try to treat customers as individuals because, frankly, they are not. And even if there are a few individuals, the real money is to be had by influencing the herd. In the words of Governer Pappy O’Daniel “mass communications not one-at-a-timies”

It’s an interesting read, but this post isn’t a review of the book. No, the theme of the book, whether or not you agree that Mark Earls is right or totally wrong in what he says, made me realise just how narrow a view of the customer realtionship typical quality frameworks tend to take. They will, for example, encourage the implementation of enquiry handling, ordering and complaints systems. They’ll encourage a systematic approach for agreeing your customer specifications and (lately) encourage you to measure your customers’ satisfaction – but that is about it. Now on one level I could accept that there is nothing actually wrong with any of that, all of those things are good to do, but I do worry about this growing trend of ISO 9001 auditors to exaggerate the scope and nature of their conformity audits. All of a sudden we have “assessors” who “assess” the “business management system”. The problem with statements like that is that firstly they are distracting and secondly, worse, they are factually incorrect. A certification audit to ISO 9001 assesses the degree to which the system conforms to the requirement of the standard – period. To suggest otherwise is just plain wrong, and the area of customer relationship management demonstrates that

Lately we’ve seen a drift towards seeing the terms “quality management system” and “business management system” as synonymous, when they plainly aren’t. If they were, as an example, the scrutiny of the effectiveness of how the business manages its customer relationships would go far beyond the current bits and bobs dotted around ISO 9001. It is a rich and complex subject, awash with strategic planning and subtle techniques executed by people who understand the subject and its underpinning psychologies

I like Seth Godin’s books for a jump start on getting your head round the cornerstones of the human dynamics. Seth writes short books that you can read front to back on a plane. More importantly (unlike Mark Earls) he only tends to tackle one or two subjects in each book. He’s accessible in that respect, even if you could argue that he doesn’t quite give the same value for money as Mark. One point he makes very well in his book “The Dip” is (to paraphrase) if it was easy we’d all be doing it. So success, while clearly possible, is no certainty, and there is real peril in oversimplifying complex concepts by boiling them down into a few mechanistic “do” and “do nots”

If only things were that simple

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