Magazine article CRM Magazine

The Complexity Chasm: As High-Tech Companies Seek New Directions, Is the Customer Experience Falling through the Gap?

Magazine article CRM Magazine

The Complexity Chasm: As High-Tech Companies Seek New Directions, Is the Customer Experience Falling through the Gap?

Article excerpt

CRM within the high-tech industry is--unsurprisingly--complex. First, customers can be anyone: an indirect partner, a product reseller, a client, or a consumer. Given the intricate nature of the technical product being sold and the multifaceted relationships required to get the product out the door, maintaining positive customer experiences requires a holistic approach.

"What I often find is that customer service [in the high-tech industry] is sort of hit-or-miss," says Kimberly Collins, a Gartner analyst specializing in CRM. She points out what many might intuitively suspect: "The more [customers] pay for solutions, the higher the expectations for customer service. "However, the relationship of cost to customer service doesn't seem to universally apply in high-tech. The problem, Collins says, is that high-tech firms often don't truly have the customer experience at heart.

Even high-tech companies with rich customer data and frequent customer touch points can still miss out on delivering positive customer experiences. Take, for example, the typical paperwork for terms and conditions: The information is presented in a minuscule typeface, and in verbose and complicated jargon. Lior Arussy, president of customer experience consultancy Strativity Group, pointed to this during a session at CRM's destinationCRM 2008 conference this past August. "It's intimidating," Arussy told the crowd. "It's not customer-centric."

A rift may exist, to a certain degree, between customers and high-tech companies, but some in the industry are recognizing that and trying to remedy the problem. For instance, credit-card powerhouse MasterCard--which provides technology solutions to its network--acknowledges that its processes, deals, and customers are diverse. According to Greg Box, the technology relationship manager for global markets with the company's St. Louis branch, there are people devoted to taking technology out of the equation and bridging the gap to address customer needs. The technical account manager's role is to work directly with customer accounts to understand each customer's particular business and the goals that customer wants to pursue. Box says the managers align the customer needs with appropriate applications that will drive the most value.

"There's an investment that needs to take place on both sides," says Mike Manchisi, chief technology officer of MasterCard's St. Louis office. The level of involvement, he adds, includes not just having a detailed understanding of MasterCard's products and services, but also reading the customer's Securities and Exchange Commission regulatory filings and knowing what each company is doing. …

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