From the letters page of the magazine CRM (May 09)
Unless customer care is a company’s strategic product, the layers of bureaucracy act as insulaton from the customer experience. One of the most dramatic things that Lou Gerstner did when he stepped in to lead IBM was to insist that senior executives talk to and see actual customers. I was privy to one call a regional director made to a midlevel company to say thank you for its recent purchase. The customer was absolutely stunned. –Scott Hornstein
Back in the 80’s I worked for Harris-Lanier selling dictation equipment. It was a company rule that every senior executive get out at least once a month and travel with the sales staff as we made our calls.
You can have your focus groups, your online surveys, and even participate in social media (aka “Social CRM” or “CRM 2.0) but getting out and visiting customers/constituents/clients, etc. should still play a major role.
Reading a report laden with statistics is one thing. Talking to a customer about her needs and wants is something totally different. They both have a place, but having senior executives talk to customers can overcome the layers of bureaucracy Scott mentions above. More importantly, they could create “aha!” moments for that senior executive. If the exec rides along with a frontline sales associate, it provides an opportunity to see what life is like on today’s front lines and perhaps to think of ways to make that experience more effective.