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Chronicles from a Caribbean Cubicle

5/13/2007

On Implementing Caribbean CRM

I recently attended a conference in Kingston on the topic of CRM and its implementation.

While I am no expert on the topic itself, I was asked to contribute a few words to the pre-conference newsletter. The conference was put on by a friend of mine, and included a presenter who happens to be my second cousin.

Attending the conference had me reflect on the efforts I am engaged in to use CRM for my own business, and also on some of the ways in which CRM is not practiced here in the Caribbean.

I suspect that Jamaica is representative of the region in many ways.

When I lived in the US, I, like many professionals, lived in an environment in which un-requested advertising -- junk mail and spam -- were a fact of life. Giving away contact information was always a question of how much unwanted advertising one would receive in return.

Here in Jamaica, however, just about no-one is interested in who I am, or in using targeted mail or even email.

Not that I miss being blasted with useless paper each day that only ended up in the garbage.

However, the fact that I have not even gotten advertising addressed to “Occupant” tells me something about the way in which local companies are not using even basic, bread and butter techniques. The fact that I live in a fairly affluent uptown community only adds to the mystery.

When I shop, bank or otherwise do daily business, only one or two companies have ever asked me for my email address or phone number. None of the one or two companies has effectively followed up with me after gathering the info. I can only recall a single company that did call me, and I seem to have fallen off their radar.

When the gym membership for my wife and I expired recently, we seem to have been the only ones that noticed. We received no calls, no mail, not a single email, and, it seems, no interest in continuing our infrequently used membership.

This all makes me think that the primary challenge in implementing CRM in Jamaica has nothing to do with the software or IT. Instead, it has everything to do with causing a shift away from mass-advertising to one-to-one advertising.

I recall up until a few months ago before moving, that trucks would pass by on Constant Spring Road mounted with speakers turned up to full volume – the better to be heard above the din of traffic and music.

It is classic interruption advertising conducted Jamaican style, turned up to “full hundred” levels.

Yet, the irony is that no-one really buys anything important in Jamaica without consulting the people in their network. In this small country, who you know and what they know is critical to getting things done, and the practice of asking for advice is the hallmark of the efficient professional.

Also, just about everyone in Jamaica carries a cell-phone that receives text-messages.

It seems to me that we are long overdue for a change to a form of that the uses brains as opposed to brawn, finesse as opposed to force. Since trust is the key currency of the land, and who you know is all important, companies that figure out how to gather the kind of information they need to build trust and learn who the customer trusts personally, will do very well.

They will however, have to demonstrate a key characteristic that our companies seem to lack in their marketing efforts – courage.

The first company that commits to building one-to-one relationships will probably make some very big mistakes in the beginning, and will probably face being shut down by the powers that be. However, if they persevere and are determined how to learn to do it right, I think that they would make themselves indispensable to thousands, including myself.

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