Home > Articles > Software Development & Management

CRM: Optimizing the Customer Experience

Every company works toward keeping customers happy in order to retain them, many going "above and beyond" to delight their customers and keep them coming back. In this article, excerpted from The CRM Handbook: A Business Guide to Customer Relationship Management, author Jill Dyche discusses making the customer relationship as optimal as possible.
This article is excerpted from The CRM Handbook: A Business Guide to Customer Relationship Management (Addison Wesley, 2001, ISBN: 0201730626).
This chapter is from the book

In his book Why We Buy, self-described retail anthropologist Paco Underhill notes that if consumers purchased only what they really needed, the economy would collapse. Indeed one could argue that the heady mixture of good times and popular fads from protein bars to same-sex fragrances to sport utility vehicles has created a veritable buying frenzy.

But consumers are fickle, and more cynical than ever before. We no longer believe what we read and see, and for large purchases we're more inclined to do our own research. Your company has just announced another strategic alliance? You've got a cool new animated logo? You're on your fourth round of venture funding? So what, so what, and so what?

Consumers are busier than ever before, and have consequently placed a premium on their leisure time. After all, why tramp through aisle upon aisle of merchandise when I can order groceries off the Web and spend more time with the kids? And pizza? And dog food? And even that sport utility vehicle?

In a recent Information Week survey 1, of the companies actively implementing CRM, 93 percent claimed that increased loyalty and customer satisfaction would justify their CRM investment. The second-highest percentage, 83 percent, stated the need to demonstrate increased revenue. The implied mandate for most of these early adopters seems to be: Customer loyalty at any cost—even if we don't see a return on investment.

It certainly doesn't take much for a consumer to turn her head to a competing product or vendor. A jazz buff has a mental list of the CDs he wants to buy. When CD Now e-mails him a discount code for the new Dave Brubeck record, he goes to the site and buys it despite his hefty "wish list" on Amazon.com.

But just as loyalty is becoming the mantra on every executive's lips, customer satisfaction rates are plummeting. It's practically routine these days for consumers to vow never to do business with a particular merchant for, regardless of their frenetic embrace of the customer, companies seem to be angering customers at a faster pace than they are serving them.

In June 2000, Fortune columnist Stewart Alsop wrote a scathing piece on Sprint PCS and its poor service. The column, titled "Dear Sprint: You Ticked Off the Wrong Guy," provoked hallelujahs from Sprint PCS customers, one of whom responded:

"I hate Sprint and spend way too much time fantasizing about its demise. I have friends who have Sprint too, and we talk to one another like members of a support group. Whenever I'm in line at Sprint stores, I feel it is my duty to reach out to and dissuade as many prospective customers as I can."

Another reader weighed in with:

"To list all my horrifying experiences would render this letter too long for publication..."

And another (with graphic metaphor):

"I'm sure you're getting a million thank-you letters from the rest of us who have been lied to, hung up on, over-billed, underserviced, and treated like cattle on the way to the slaughterhouse."

Treating customers like cattle is the antithesis of CRM, the goal of which is to recognize and treat each customer as an individual. That said, if one individual is dissatisfied, odds are she'll tell a collection of other individuals—one widely accepted marketing rule-of-thumb claims that the average unhappy customer tells eight other potential customers about his negative experience. Such spreading of consumer disapproval turns the world of viral marketing, which depends on word-of-mouth from true believers, upside down. (Viral marketing—a phenomenon in which consumer buzz trumps advertising as the means of a product's adoption—accounts for the popularity of such products as Razor scooters, The Blair Witch Project, and MAC Spice lip liner, to name a few.) Web sites such as http://www.planetfeedback.com and http://www.downside.com are expanding the reach of these "viral complainers" and even speculating on the demise of companies that proffer poor service. The influence of such groups could in fact impact whether a product, indeed an entire company, succeeds or fails.

Companies are spending millions of dollars trying to prevent acerbic customer testimonials like the ones above, and to figure out the tactics that will not only help them keep customers, but keep them coming back.

Every company is working toward keeping customers happy in order to retain them, many going "above and beyond" to delight their customers, and keep them coming back. Scenarios like the one below represent how customer-focused companies like Virgin Atlantic are trying to improve the customer experience:

You've spent two grueling weeks of non-stop business in London and are ready to head home. Virgin Atlantic Airways sends a driver to fetch you at your hotel and bring you the airport. Upon arrival at Heathrow, the driver stops at an outdoor kiosk. Your window magically rolls down to reveal a uniformed Virgin associate, who politely requests your ticket. As the associate checks you in, the driver retrieves your luggage from the trunk—the "boot," in the local vernacular—tags it and deposits it on the baggage conveyor belt. The Virgin associate smiles and hands you your boarding pass.

The driver then proceeds to the terminal, pointing the way to the entrance of the Upper Class lounge which features sleek décor, laptop hookups, and a beauty salon. As you enter and stow your carry-on bag, a waiter asks for your drink order. Midway through your haircut, Peter Frampton walks by on his way to the bar and gives you a little wave. Once in-flight, you'll be offered a pair of fleece pajamas and a free massage.

Everyone's been super friendly. In fact, you've made no special requests, have barely lifted a finger, and still have the cash you left the hotel with. (Declaring this a far cry from your typical airport experience would be an understatement.) As you take the last sip of your complimentary cosmopolitan and prepare for preferred boarding, you make a mental note: You'll be flying Virgin Atlantic again.

Notice that this particular customer experience involved no Internet access. Indeed, as much as CRM technologies tend to usurp its other components, customer relationship management can be as simple as saying, "Thanks for your business." While some customers require a level of personalized service and specialized products that make them feel special, others simply appreciate good manners. And this is the crux of CRM: How to differentiate customer treatment according to individual preferences.

The Virgin Atlantic scenario exemplifies the ultimate goal of CRM. When you recall your trip home from London, your knee-jerk recollection isn't the cost of your ticket or your aisle seat. You remember the entire experience, from what the airline did (the limo, the massage), to that serendipitous extra—in this case, Peter Frampton acknowledging your existence. (Indeed, a recent Virgin advertisement wondered aloud to a fed-up traveling public: "Never hear of anyone cursing out the on-board masseuse, now do you?")

In fact, many companies have recently appended their CRM or customer care initiatives with the goal of "Owning the customer experience." The implication here is less about controlling what happens during a customer interaction than it is about the ability to influence how a customer perceives her contact with the company, be it through an advertisement, ordering a product, or calling customer support. CRM allows the company to transcend what a customer says or does to surmise a customer's unspoken needs.

Inciting a chance encounter with a 70s rock star is probably not in most companies' marketing plans. But there are subtler ways to give customers an experience they will remember and that they'll look for again.

The most visionary businesses understand that singular customer experiences will drive loyalty to levels unknown. Those who have already adopted a customer-focused culture understand that CRM done well drives customer emotion. It makes customers feel good, personally connected. It humanizes their purchase or service request or complaint. These companies define the truly loyal customer as someone who feels such good will toward the company that he "sells" its products to others, in effect acting as a voluntary (albeit unpaid) company agent. Moreover, he takes pleasure in proselytizing the company and its products, in effect repeating his own positive customer experience each time he relates his story. Harley Davidson has mastered the use of its customers as company agents.

In their book The Experience Economy: Work is Theatre & Every Business a Stage, B. Joseph Pine and James Gilmore argue that providing customers with a memorable experience, along with a useful product at a reasonable price, will become a key differentiator for companies striving to avoid the commoditization of their services. Pine and Gilmore cite NikeTown and The Hard Rock Café as two successful establishments that lure customers for reasons beyond their mere product offerings. The authors assert that the evolution from a service-based to an experience-based economy is not only natural but also inevitable. No wonder companies have embraced CRM as a strategic imperative: In serving a customers' unspoken needs, the likelihood is high that you'll be serving that customer for life.

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020