Friday, June 27, 2008

360-Degree Customer View

I’ve been in the IT industry for over a decade now and I have sold monstrous software applications in the past from ERP to CRM to DW and BI’s. In every company and customer I have dealt with the holistic pitch is always about having a clear 360-degree view of the customer in a single database. Every competitive organization aims for this dream, which unfortunately proves to be quite elusive in reality thus the proliferation of customer management tools and applications in the market today.

There is indeed raw power when all relevant information a company needs about their customer is stored in a single database, real time and online (or at least within a 2-4 week period) – information that can be extracted anytime.

Well here is the story -- recently I had a very interesting customer experience with the giant credit card company, American Express. This financial institution is a perfect example of a very large and successful organization that failed to capture the very basic information about their customer -- They were cold calling me, a customer! They thought I was a prospect?

Over a year ago Dutchman decided to take on an additional credit card mainly for the reason that KLM has a frequent flyer partnership program with American Express.

We are far from being die hard credit card users. We rarely use the plastic card. Europe as a whole too is not a credit card continent that feeds on credit. The real payment engine here is debit. The Dutch in particular prefers to pay their purchases through debit cards (which are almost equivalent to cash) or if they buy online, they pay through IDEAL, a local payment system. Credit cards here are an expensive method of payment as many establishments, mostly the online based, charges a hefty fee.

In addition, the Dutch mentality discourages credit, which I would say is probably the main reason why credit cards will never fly off in the flatlands. Credit cards will definitely be used, but they will never become a household thing.

Financial controls and regulations too are very tightly placed in this country. The infrastructure here is not just geared for credit.

For example, no credit card company will give you a credit card if you have no job. No credit card company will give you a credit card if you are earning below the required income. The government here will never allow financial institutions to hard sell credit schemes to naive debt ridden customers. And all credit card purchases are automatically deducted from your main bank account at the end of every month. This is a standard payment condition and loaning extra credit days are based upon the discretion of the credit card company, usually looking into your income = buying power.

Anyway, to continue my story...

On top of my Mastercard, I have the American Express card as Dutchmans extended card holder. Between Dutchman and me, I am the frequent user of the card – I credit any transaction as much as possible, which includes searching for establishments accepting American Express, in order to get the points. It’s all about the air miles. The frequent flyer points!

So yes, I was surprised, having been using the Amex card a lot when American Express called me trying to sell their credit card. Can they not see me in their system that I am already their customer?

Tsk, tsk, tsk...

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