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By heavily customizing a customer relationship management (CRM) package, Harrah's instituted a company-wide customer loyalty program that helped its stock price to triple since 1998. But that's not the usual experience so far with CRM. More common are stories like that of General Motors Acceptance Corp's commercial-mortgage operation. It found 99 percent of customer callers "zeroing out" to reach an operator when it went live with a $3 million electronic CRM system three years ago. Avoiding this type of experience requires that companies find a pressing customer concern they can help to handle, make sure the organization's structure and incentive approach match the new way of handling customers, and determine the right technology to support the new effort.
Seven-page article at http://www.contextmag.com/setFrameRedirect.asp?src=/archives/200212/Feature3MarsVenus.asp
Improve call center staff retention
Although call centers are increasingly important to U.S. businesses, their annual turnover rate has been estimated at 25-45 percent. Hiring call center workers referred by current employees can be a powerful tool for recruiting and retaining productive employees, but referral programs must be carefully managed. Companies must be careful to retain the referring workers; in many cases the new worker will move on not long after he or she sees the referring worker leave. Managers concerned that offering financial incentives to referrers might lower the quality of applicants can minimize this by spreading incentive payment to referrers over time and making the payments partially dependent on the new worker's completion of a probationary period.
Six-page article at http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/articles.cfm?articleid=742&catid=10
Service firm growth not always profitable
Many service businesses continue to cling to the manufacturing sector's tenet that profits come with growth and related economies of scale. But this does not hold true for service firms, in part because of the difficulty in standardizing customer interactions and in part because service firms have no way to inventory services but still must constantly anticipate demand. Service firms can increase sales and set themselves apart from competitors through intensive employee training in delivering consistent and effective customer interactions. Starbucks and the Disney theme parks are examples of companies that leverage their human resources and training functions to help employees deliver experiences that customers want to repeat over and over.
Six-page article at http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/articles.cfm?articleid=747&catid=4
Branches as service development labs
Because of the difficulty in testing new procedures and services in traditional bank branches, Bank of America's Innovation & Development Team in 2000 deliberately reconfigured 20 Atlanta-area branches to serve as laboratories for developing new services and processes. The team carefully assessed possible ideas for experiments and tested them in a prototype branch they created at the bank's Charlotte headquarters. This allowed them to iron out problems and make use of bank employees when specialized functions had to be performed. The use of the prototype branch also allowed the team to work out problems before it took a new concept or service live at the Atlanta branches.
More and a description of one experiment at http://hbsworkingknowledge.hbs.edu/item.jhtml?id=3459&t=marketing
Determine marketing ROI
By giving up the belief that marketing is an art that can't be measured or controlled, one media distributor managed to grow revenues 10 percent when the rest of the industry was growing 2 percent and to nearly triple operating profits. To reach this type of success, companies must develop an analytical "engine" that can help them understand incremental volume generated by different marketing "events"; develop a method for understanding incremental volume generated by marketing events, develop systems for planning marketing efforts and measuring results, coordinate marketing processes across the company and decentralize decision making.
Nine-page article at http://www.strategy-business.com/press/article/?art=29410077&pg=0