[View Point] Do you practice CRM? (whatever that means...)

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August 31, 2012
Jodi Dorsch

CRM stands for “customer relationship marketing,” which is “the art of establishing a relationship with your customers in order to gain their respect, trust, and as a result, investment in your products and services.” Sounds like common sense, huh? (See “Finding Common Ground” on page 72 of this issue.)

Your pest management firm probably practices CRM without even knowing it (at least I hope you do). CRM doesn’t Cost Ridiculous Money. It’s simply about treating customers the way they want to be treated. It’s about building a relationship with them so they continue to call you when their need for pest management services (or lawn care or handyman or whatever) arises.

Although you Can’t Really Measure CRM, it’s easy to measure its opposite — when you don’t manage the relationship and the customer stops doing business with you. How much does one lost customer cost you?

I was almost a lost customer to a service provider recently.

As with most of the country, it’s been a hot, dry summer in Ohio. And as a result, the grass outside my house is not having a great year. The silver lining, of course, is that if it’s dry, the grass is not growing, thus it doesn’t need cut as often. In fact, that’s exactly what my lawn and landscape company told me last month. “Your grass doesn’t need cut since it’s so dry, so we won’t be there on Monday,” he e-mailed me. OK by me!

But soon after, I received my monthly invoice and I was charged for four cuts, when he had only done three. So I sent him an e-mail, asking him to adjust the bill since the service wasn’t performed as stated. “Normally I do charge the same each month, because several months throughout the season have five Mondays, etc., in that month and I do not charge extra,” he wrote me back (the same day, I might add). “I also provide a free fall aeration for anyone that wants it. If I need to adjust it, we can though. I will do whatever you feel is fair. Thanks for your business!”

I thought that was a pretty good reply. He addressed my concern, explained why he did what he did, promoted a value-added service that he provides and thanked me for my business. I replied and told him that I was happy to pay him for five cuts in the months that there are five Mondays — he certainly should be paid for the work he does — but by the same token, if he doesn’t perform a service then I don’t think I should pay.

He agreed to adjust the bill and I was a happy customer (although I’m not sure his accounting department is happy with me). I paid the invoice and thought nothing more of it.

However, the day after our e-mail exchange, his company’s truck pulled up to my house. An employee got out and ran something up to my front porch. What he dropped off was of no monetary significance. It was the equivalent of when you have a fight with your spouse and the next day he or she makes you your favorite dinner. It was a “Hey, we’re OK, right?” kind of gesture. He left a couple of reusable water bottles and magnetic clips with his company’s logo on them. Easy, right? Those items didn’t Cost Ridiculous Money but the gesture showed me that to him, Customers Really Matter.

“The relationship you have with a customer on a face-to-face level can make or break your sales records,” writes Charlotte Warren of Massey Communications in this month’s CRM article. “The better the relationship you have with them (through outstanding service, understanding, personable manners and quality of service), the more likely they are to stay with you and your firm.”

That’s very much the case for me and my lawn and landscape company. I’ve quit companies for far less than overcharging me $30. But now, we have a relationship. I know that the owner of my L&L company cares about my opinion, whether he agrees with it or not. He’s not looking at the $30. He’s smartly seeing me as a potential long-term customer, with many future summers of lawn cutting, weeding and the like ahead.

I Can’t Remember Much, but every time I open my cabinet, I’ll see his company logo — and his efforts to repair a not-even-broken relationship. That I will remember.


The author is editor of PCT magazine.