Sunday, July 30, 2006

Q: Knock, knock. Who’s there?

A: Human beings as currency

[Please be advised that there a lot of dots to connect on this one. So make sure that your pencil is sharpened.]

As of late I have been reading up on the finer points of putting a database marketing program into action. One of the pieces that I read asserts that a good database marketing program will tie together the enterprise’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system with sales transactions so that the company’s customer service representative will be able to say something like, “Tell me Mrs. Brown, did your granddaughter, Jennie enjoy the purple sweater that you bought for her last month?”

[Lifetime Value = CUM-NPV/ acquired customers]

Saturday was my birthday. I am now 52. In my inbox was an email from wishing me a Happy Birthday. I don’t know anybody at, although I did sign up to the web site to get some information when I was doing some debugging on a NetBeans project about a year ago. I guess that I provided my birth date.

[Corporation: A body that is granted a charter recognizing it as a separate legal entity having its own rights, privileges, and liabilities distinct from those of its members.]

A while ago I had to add some minutes to my cell phone plan. I called up T-Mobile to make the change. I got a female voice on the phone welcoming me and asking how she could help. I told her that I wanted to add some minutes to my plan. She asked for my social security number. I provided it. Then she asked me to hold so that she could retrieve my account information. I said, “OK”.

While I was waiting I tried to make some small talk. So I started yacking away, asking her where her call center was located. The voice on the other end did not respond. I kept trying to talk to her. No response. Finally I asked, “Are you a human being?” She responded by asking me my mother’s maiden name.

[Turing Test: If it acts human, it is human.]

We’re masters of selling. Well, at the corporate level we really don’t sell, we market. And, at the core of our marketing is the Customer Relationship.

Now the funny thing is that with all of the Customer Relationships being established, there is not a lot of relating going on. Maybe it’s because that the only time that a human being is involved in the process is when there is no alternative. All other times it’s just one machine taking to another: machines making stuff, ordering stuff, processing credit card numbers, correcting our spelling, reconciling our bank statements, telling us when our box will arrive via UPS, providing our MySpace page and sending emails to email addresses wishing the happiest of birthdays while making sure that the hourly call center employee with marginal benefits and five days of accrued vacation time asks about Mrs. Brown’s granddaughter, regardless of the fact that the employee has no idea who Mrs. Brown is, human or not.

Seems that the only entity to which a relationship with Mrs. Brown has meaning is the corporation that buys the advertising to attract Mrs. Brown and owns the CRM system to retain her. And yet, with every right to not care about Mrs. Brown, her granddaughter or the purple sweater upon which the Customer Relationship is based, the employee answering the phone does, not so much because Mrs. Brown is worth caring about because all parties in the relationship live int the same city, go to the same school or attend the same church, but rather because the employee is paid to care about her.

We’re that disconnected. We’re that much for sale.

[Connect the dots.]


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