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Interview: Paul Greenberg on why relationships matter

Bill Goodwin

Paul Greenberg has a radioactive cat. Buddy is having iodine treatment, which means Greenberg, can only cuddle him for 45 minutes a day. And it clearly bothers him.

Greenberg is best known as the author of the influential book, CRM at the speed of light. He has built a reputation as a CRM guru and has been known as the godfather of CRM (customer relationship management) and the Bob Dylan of CRM.

Why relationships matter

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Relationships, both feline and human, are important to Greenberg. He said once that business deals are a natural consequence of good relationships and good conversation. And what is true on a personal level is just as true on a corporate level.

Businesses have to get their relationships right with customers no matter what. “And that is no matter what,” he says, emphasising the point.

The most demanding generation in history 

The times truly are a-changing. The internet has seen to that. Consumers are less loyal and the next generation are the most demanding in history, he says.

They know that if they don’t like your product, they can say “screw you” and go somewhere else, he said in an interview with Computer Weekly.

It goes without saying that businesses need a CRM strategy, they need the right tools and technology and have the right workflows and business rules in place.

“It's mission-critical because significant aspects of what you are doing can’t be manual because there is too much going on,” he says.

Why you should automate most customer interactions

In practice, 99% of all transactions can be automated, Greenberg suggests. Most people, most of the time just want the right result quickly and easily, and technology can deliver that.

Forget about going the extra mile by trying to delight each and every customer.

“If you are a company like Citigroup with 250 million customers, you are not going to give every customer there individual treatment, or you would be dead,” he says.

Today, social media is an integral part of CRM software. So much so that young people going into CRM can’t imagine a time when CRM didn’t have social media capabilities, says Greenberg.

How to use social media to rethink your supply chain

Smart companies have been able to harness its capabilities to restructure the way they do business. He draws on Procter & Gamble (P&G) as an example.

Most companies adjust the prices of products to reflect the cost of the supply chain. But P&G has reversed the process, says Greenberg.

It is using social media to find out how much people are prepared to pay for a product and then re-engineering its supply chain to deliver that price.

The company has set up a social network for mothers called Vocalpoint. P&G tests product pricing ideas with the "alpha moms" on the network, who share ideas with their own personal networks.

“According to the results they get back – because it’s a pretty representative sample, - they adjust the price, then go back to re-engineer the supply chain to meet that price,” he says.

The company has been able to save hundreds of thousands a year in supply chain costs, says Greenberg and has got more than 30,000 suppliers on board on the initiative.

The big 4 CRM suppliers

When it comes to which technology to use, Greenberg is agnostic. The big four CRM suppliers – Oracle, SAP, Microsoft and Salesforce – produce capable products.

Salesforce is by far the smallest company in group in turnover but, as a relatively new entrant into CRM, is the most influential.

“They all react to Salesforce. They actually build their strategies on countering Salesforce. Don’t get me wrong they are not obsessed, but what Salesforce does is a big question every day,” he says.

Your customers are not who you think they are

More important than choosing the right technology, is choosing the right customer. And many companies don’t actually understand who their customers are, even if they think they do.

Greenberg learned that during his spell with David’s Bridal, a US retailer that specialises in wedding dresses.

“You would think that their customer is the bride, but actually its not,” he says. “If your relationship was with the bride, it would end after the wedding,”

Much better to build a relationship with mothers and their daughters. The chances are that as the girls grow up, they will  lead a wedding procession as flower girls, become bridesmaids and eventually get married themselves - and they need a dress on each occasion. 

“Its never a bad idea even if you think you know, to do a deep dive, and to take a look who your customer really is, regardless of who you think they are,” he says.

Why random acts of kindness are important 

Most of the time, its good enough for businesses to provide the service the customer wants, on time to a high standard.

You can’t delight every customer but random acts of kindness can make a big difference, he says.

He quotes the example of one a women who tweeted how wonderful a particular company’s dress was, but that sadly she could never afford it.

The company gave her the dress at a big discount, and expected nothing in return. No PR, no press releases and  crucially no self-promotion. And that’s how it should be, Greenberg argues.

 “One of the sad things about companies is that they are only as good as the last memory the customer has of them. So you have to keep meeting the expectation then occasionally delighting them,” he says.

As he leaves the interview, Greenberg eschews the normal  handshake and instead puts his arm around my shoulders. “It was great talking to you,”  he says. Relationships are important to him.


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