Slick salesman approach to CRM doesn’t work

A while ago, I received a letter from a financial institution informing me that they “respected” my privacy and as such would, from time to time, pass my information on to “trusted” partners.

If I actually wanted to opt out of this oh-so-considerate offer to hawk my information to the highest bidder, well then, I was more than welcome to do so. There was just one catch – I had to write them a letter. They wouldn’t accept phone calls, e-mails or Internet forms – they wanted me to take a trip down to the post office. No doubt they hoped that by cutting me off from the conveniences of modern forms of communication, they’d snag themselves some business. They were wrong – kind of.

With the exception of the occasional postcard, I haven’t written a letter since I discovered e-mail. It is kind of sad that the art of letter writing has fallen by the wayside. I miss receiving letters from friends abroad. E-mails just aren’t quite the same – they more closely resemble hastily written notes than the long-detailed letters of old.

However, what I don’t miss is having to do my business dealings through the mail. It’s so much easier to pay my bills through the phone or the Internet than it is having to get out a cheque book, find an envelope, buy stamps and remember to actually drop the letter in the mail box instead of carrying it around at the bottom of my knapsack for a couple of weeks.

So when I was informed that the only way to prevent this institution from continuing to solicit me with unwelcome offers was by writing a letter, I was none too pleased.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one. When I called the financial company in question, all I received was a recorded message informing customers if they were calling in regards to the letter they had just received, they could address their concerns to the company’s ombudsperson – through a letter, of course. And no matter which number I pressed, I couldn’t connect to a live human being. Even finding the phone number took a little bit of searching online, since the number wasn’t in the letter that the company sent out. Any company that goes to such pains to avoid actually talking directly to its customers is obviously doing something wrong.

This is an approach to customer relationship management that’s not likely to win over too many fans. Pushy CRM tactics are no different and no better than other pushy sales techniques.

Whenever I encounter a pushy salesperson while shopping, I hightail it for the nearest exit. Likely, the only thing their slick approach will accomplish is my resolve to never again return to a store where I’m subjected to such badgering tactics.

Pushy sales approaches just don’t work – think back to the last time you actually listened to what a telemarketer had to say. CRM systems should take this into consideration. Bombarding customers with unwanted solicitations isn’t likely going to give you a large return and you may just end up alienating potential customers.

You shouldn’t try to trick someone into doing business with you. If customers want out of their relationship with you, making them cut through a lot of red tape won’t make them change their mind about not doing business with you any longer. In fact, they may just tell their friends about their experience and warn them off.

On the other hand, if you’re up front with customers about what you’re trying to do, they may just appreciate your honesty. Don’t force your customers to jump through hoops or read the fine print in order to opt out of your marketing schemes.

Instead, give them the courtesy of choosing whether or not they want to be contacted by you.

CRM solutions that allow customers to opt in are much more successful than those that force people to opt out.

While I admit I have yet to write that letter informing the financial institution what I think of it, you can be sure that I’ll never again accept anything that the institution or any of its partners have to offer.

Khanna is the Assistant Editor of ComputerWorld Canada in Toronto. Reach her at