Martha Rogers knows customer relationship management. Rogers is a judge for the Customer Service category of the Inc. Web Awards 2000, a founding partner of the Peppers and Rogers Group, and the coauthor of The One to One Manager, among other books.
When she's a customer, Rogers hates nothing more than being treated like everyone else. And that unfortunately is how most companies treat their customers -- like peas in a pod.
Ask Rogers for examples of companies that treat her differently from other customers, and she cites American Airlines, which "remembers" what she tells the airline every time she calls or logs on to its Web site. Consequently, American offers her individualized information -- not just what a flight to Reno costs this week. "They know my zip code and what school system I'm in, and as a result, they send a message that says, 'Welcome back, Martha, we'd like to offer your family a vacation package for spring break.' This is customer service on steroids," says Rogers.
How can a company that's a fraction of the size of American Airlines reach such a lofty standard? Rogers offers these pointers:
Identify your customers individually. "If I can't remember the problem you had six months ago, or I don't learn from this transaction a way that will help me consistently serve you better in the future, then it's an isolated incident," says Rogers. "That's better than nothing, but it's far from building a relationship. So the first thing I need to be able to do is identify you as you every time you come in, through any channel."
Determine the value of your customers and treat them accordingly. "This means I recognize that you are of greater value than Martha is, and therefore I'm going to make different offers to you or spend more resources on you."
Get your customers to interact with you. "If I can learn something from you, I can give you what's best for you and give your next-door neighbor what's best for your next-door neighbor."
Use that information to customize your site. "I'd like to see these sites go beyond 'Welcome back, Martha.' I'd like them to pull together an automated message that's relevant to me based on information I've given them, not based on everything that's true about my demographic group," says Rogers.